The Company of Heroes (CoH) series is arguably one of the best RTS franchises in existence. Developers Relic Entertainment has a deep seeded passion for historical accuracy, and this shines through in all of their CoH games. The latest entry in the series is Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies. As the name suggests, the focus is on the western front during World War 2, and the clash between the German Oberkommando Forces and the U.S American Forces. We have seen these sides do battle in the original Company of Heroes, but this time Relic is calling in a barrage of improvements.
The first thing you should know is that Company of Heroes 2: The Western Fronts is a standalone expansion pack for Company of Heroes 2. That is good news if this will be your first entry into the series, but die hard fans might feel slightly short changed. The reason for this is that if you already own Company of Heroes 2, all you are getting for the R200 asking price are the two new factions and nine new maps. The real victors here are the newcomers to the series, who will be getting the new maps plus a host of old Company of Heroes 2 maps included, and let’s not forget about the user-created maps. Western Front Armies is a multiplayer only expansion with no single player campaign. The only way you can play offline is in a custom game against AI. That’s not to say this expansion is not worth your hard earned money if you own the core title already. And that’s because Relic have made some really worthwhile improvements.
The first thing I noticed about CoH2: The Western Front Armies is that the game feels much more optimized. Company of Heroes 2 looked fantastic, but was also very demanding on your system. This expansion not only looks better, thanks to the new effects, such as the great smoke effects, but it seems to run much smoother too. Even with a couple of M7 Priest’s raining down artillery on your foes things were stable and smooth. The next big improvement is the audio. Especially when it comes to the vehicle sound effects. Relic captured brand new vehicle audio from the games real-life counterparts, and the difference is instantly noticeable. The sound of a King Tiger Tank rolling onto your screen from left field will send shivers down your spine. Overall the new sound just adds to the already impressive audio package. Luckily the same care and attention to detail has also been put into the brand new maps.
The new maps are designed around slightly more intense match ups, and games feel marginally quicker. There is also less snow-focused map’s and more farmlands and forest to tear up in your tanks wake. The two new forces feel pretty well balanced with the US having the edge in mobility and air superiority, with the Germans having thick armored vehicles and strong gun emplacements. Apparently Relic added this Lattack and defense design angle to more accurately recreate the final push by the allies towards the end of 1944. Like I said the team is passionate about the source material.
There is also a new progression system called the ‘Spoils of War’ system which works in the same way as say Call of Duty’s multiplayer. You unlock new commanders and vehicle skins with every victory achieved. There have also been improvements to the matchmaking system, to couple players of similar level together which helps avoid those landslide defeats that leave your keyboard slightly broken.
There are rumors of Relic Entertainment opening up the game to the modding community, like they did with the original Company of Heroes. If it happens you can expect plenty of great user-created content, such as the Modern Combat mod for the original CoH. Company of Heroes 2: The Western Front Armies is excellent bang for your buck if you are new to the series. As for veterans of the series, the new maps, visual effects and better optimization are well worth the asking price. If Relic Entertainment can continue releasing this level of quality in future expansion packs, I will gladly put my wallet on the front line any day.