Company of Heroes 2 has spent the last year being tweaked, balanced, and building an online community, and the latest DLC, the Western Front Armies, is a great step at advancing that success. The main game didn't do so hot with scripting and acting out a campaign storyline, so this DLC ditches that: there's no new single-player included. Instead, the focus is entirely on adding new blood to the multiplayer servers with the arrival of the German Oberkommando West and the US Army.
CoH2 was a big improvement over the first Company of Heroes in many ways, but when we changed the theater of war we left our favorite armies and playstyles behind. Bringing those legendary units and battlefields into the new graphics and physics engines of CoH2 feels better than an upgrade: playing as the Western Germans and the Americans after spending so much time with them in the CoH1 is like welcoming old friends to your fancy new house.
The German Army runs on organization. Unlike the other armies, the German Oberkommandos begin with a single headquarters building and a supply truck. In order to build more advanced units, the supply truck needs to be driven onto captured ground and converted into one of three mobile HQ buildings, one each (roughly speaking) for support, armor, and defense. Converting the truck takes some time and resources, but the end result is a network of reinforced hardpoints that invading armies will have to slowly chew through.
Playing as the Oberkommandos is an exercise in heavy, awkward hardware. The West German Army has only three infantry unit types supported by a dozen varieties of vehicles, but I noticed some repetition in the ranks. The SdKfz 251 and 251/17 half-tracks, for example, are essentially the same vehicle twice, except that the mark 17 specializes in attacking aircraft. While aircraft can be called in on bombing or strafing runs, they are so rare that I've only seen them once or twice. In an effort to make the Oberkommando a more vehicle-heavy army, Relic sacrificed some unit individuality.
If the Germans run on supply chains, the Americans run on star power. Unlike any other army in CoH2, the American base begins fully formed. American players will have to work, however, to recruit the officers needed to run these supply lines. These officers are powerful individual units that allow you to field advanced infantry support, anti-tank, and armored units.Together, the two new armies are well-realized looks at the national attitudes and circumstances that inspired them. The Americans, well-equipped but far from home, slug it out against the Germans and their world-famous infrastructure.
I particularly loved diving into the Infantry specialization with the Americans. The basic rifleman squad can get upgraded weapons and abilities until they are resourceful, mobile, and powerful. A handful of rifle squads charging in with light vehicles for support is not only effective, it feels amazing. The adaptive mobility of the American forces in general make them kings of the early game, mopping up in the space before defensive lines have been set long enough to be heavily fortified. The US infantry does have one failing, and that is its weakness against buildings. I longed for a squad of engineers with demolition charges, and their omission feels a bit like an oversight. If the Americans need to destroy a bunker, they'll have to call in armor to do it for them.
This DLC isn't just about the new armies, it's about adding a shot of new energy to the existing CoH2 multiplayer landscape. There are eight new maps set on the Western front, and I found them all to be well-balanced and varied. The heavily hedgerowed Faymonville Approach map quickly became my favorite for one-on-one comp stomps.
These armies and maps fit neatly into the overall CoH2 ecosystem while maintaining their individual personalities. No matter what army I played, I ended up rolling out my tanks or fully upgrading my infantry in about the same amount of time. The new maps and armies mesh well with the existing game, and that's no small accomplishment.
If you've been holding off on buying CoH2, you can dive straight into the multiplayer without buying the full game if you buy one of the two new DLC armies. I'd say that $13 for a single army is too much, but since a new player can get access to the online servers, all other players, and all 31 of CoH2's maps for a quarter the cost of the full game, I'm inclined to call that a bargain instead of a fleecing. For long-running COH2 fans who already have access to all of that content, though, $20 for two new armies and a handful of maps is a bit steep.
Price: $13 / £10 for one army, $20 / £15 for the full DLC
Release date: Out now
Multiplayer: Up to 4v4