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Company of Heroes 3

Company of Heroes 3 for console

Relic has set out to create a solid RTS experience on console, but has it succeeded?

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The RTS genre has never really taken hold of me; sure, I've had some good times with Command & Conquer and StarCraft, but it wasn't until Company of Heroes landed on my tired old PC in 2006 that things really took off for me and the RTS genre.

Company of Heroes 3 came to PC back at the end of February and now the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S editions have arrived. It's been 10 years since we last got a full game in the Company of Heroes series and this new game is by far the biggest one yet. It features two campaigns, the first and largest of which is set in Italy in 1943 and deals with the invasion that led to the fall of the fascists and the death of Mussolini.

It all starts in Sicily and through various major battles against the Nazis, you fight your way north towards Rome. The story is told through some static sequences and soldiers' letters to family and friends, giving an insight into how brutal the war was at the time.

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Company of Heroes 3
Company of Heroes 3Company of Heroes 3

The gameplay in Company of Heroes 3 is twofold. Part of the game is turn-based and takes place on a strategic map, where you move your units around, which can be units with tanks, units on foot, planes and ships along the coast that can bombard the coastline and cities you want to take. The port towns, villages and airfields you capture provide different options, such as sending planes out from airfields, towns with hospitals can heal your wounded soldiers and port towns provide access to more troops.

You regularly receive strategic recommendations from British General Norton, American General Buckram or Italian partisan leader Valenti. They rarely agree and depending on which recommendations you choose to follow, you'll build a relationship with the commander in question, which triggers various bonuses ranging from paratroopers and ground-to-air support to extra firepower from the sea. Once you've made your choices, you end your turn and it's your opponent's turn to move around.

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Much like a turn-based role-playing game, the game changes character when you enter battle. At this point, the game becomes a traditional RTS where you participate in a very specific battle. Here you have to establish your command center, support structures and forward bases, move companies around, give your soldiers orders to move, attack or plant mines and the like.

It's worth mentioning a very useful feature called Tactical Pause. This means that you can pause the game and while it is paused, you can issue a series of orders to your troops, which are then queued and when you resume the game, these orders are executed at the same time. So if you get a little stressed in the heat of battle, you can always use this option to calmly think of your next move, give your orders and then restart the game. For a not-so-hardcore RTS player like me, this is a pretty good option that I think hardcore RTS players won't like, but luckily you can choose not to use it.

The game's second campaign is called North African Operation and this campaign is somewhat smaller than the Italian one. There are eight missions that take you to the other side of the war as you take control of the DAK (Deutsches Afrikakorps) tank units in the African desert under the command of top strategist Rommel. This campaign feels more open, as it takes place in the desert and is not quite as tactical as moving through the narrow streets of Italian villages. But it's great to be able to control tank units through the desert.

In addition to the two campaigns, you can also play Skirmish, where you can choose either the Victory Point or Annihilation mode fighting against computer-controlled units and with different rulesets that you define yourself. Then there is competitive multiplayer and co-op for up to 8 players, where you can play as US Forces, British Forces, but also as Wehrmacht and Deutsches Afrikakorps. I think it's clear that the focus has been on the two campaigns, as neither Skirmish nor the multiplayer section offer much in the way of new features, but they both work as they should.

Games of this type work best with a keyboard and mouse, and the same is the case with Company of Heroes 3. However, the developers have created a reasonable control scheme that works okay with a controller, but it takes a bit of getting used to and in hectic situations can be a bit too fiddly to work with. But it works okay and you have to realize that the control with a controller in a game of this type will never be as good as with a mouse and keyboard.

Company of Heroes 3
Company of Heroes 3Company of Heroes 3

The graphics in Company of Heroes 3 are an odd mix. Italy is a beautiful place and the villages are filled with beautiful and detailed houses and other structures. It can all be smashed beyond recognition when, for example, a couple of enemy tanks bump into each other in the narrow streets. The strategic map, however, is somewhat simple and not very pretty. Company of Heroes 3 offers two graphics settings: Performance (1080p at 60fps) and Resolution (4K at 30fps). I'm a little surprised that a game with such relatively simple graphics isn't optimized to run in 4K at 60fps. If you go from Resolution to Performance, the graphics take a clear visual hit, so you should ask yourself if you need 60fps in a game of this type. On the other hand, the audio is quite excellent, with some heavy explosions and good voices from your units as you move them around.

With Company of Heroes 3, Relic Entertainment proves that the series is not dead yet. The two campaigns offer many hours of gameplay and they feel fresh and exciting. The mix of RTS and turn-based strategy works well and provides a nice change of pace. The controls are reasonable, but take some getting used to, while the graphics are atmospheric and detailed on the one hand, but seem strangely unoptimized on the other.

One thing is for sure, and that is that the strategy-minded gamer will find many hours of gameplay in Company of Heroes 3, and if you don't have access to a PC to play on, the console version is a fine second choice.

HQ
Company of Heroes 3
08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
Good soundtrack, Tactical Pause, two quite different campaigns, many hours of gameplay.
-
The graphics are a weird unoptimized mix, the controls are a bit knotty at times.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Marco Vrolijk

A great RTS game that improves on what already worked well, even if it does has its drawbacks.



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