While Company of Heroes 3 was released earlier this year for PC, this marks the first time the series has made it to consoles. At the same time, other real-time strategy games have attempted this before it has been met with a lot of middling success. Capturing the ability to make on the fly decisions with precision and balance, commanding your squads with attacking, defending, and capturing points is a monumental task to undertake.
The outstanding World War II Real-time strategy game tackles a first-time console release.
Back in February, when Company of Heroes 3 was released on PC Ridge Harripersad had this to say “Coming back after over a ten-year hiatus, Company of Heroes 3 revitalized the World War II strategy genre with an enormous arsenal of playstyle focuses and choices”—scoring it a 9 out of 10 for CGM.
For the most part, the package is the exact same. The voice acting remains outstanding, with the characters portrayed having a real sense of weight and emotion behind them. Set in World War II’s Italian and North African sections, one of the most notable changes to the previous entries is the visuals.
Company of Heroes focused more on France with washed-out grey pallets, and Company of Heroes 2 took place on the European front focusing more on the colder climates and frostbite being a central mechanic. There were a lot of snow-covered towns. In Company of Heroes 3, there is some real colour pop for the first time in the series, with deserts and almost oasis-like city squares being some of the more memorable locations.
The visuals have always been a standout for Company of Heroes, but yet again, Relic really pushed themselves to the next limit with the level of detail not only in the environment in the maps as I mentioned above; I swear when buildings fall, you can hear every crack and fall as you watch in awe while the building your sniper was posted in just gets absolutely demolished. This goes in hand with being able to see your soldiers, along with your vehicles, take almost real-time damage as they get into conflicts.
Sound design is one of the most impressive things in the series, and they further evolve their design with each release. When a mortar team begins raining down or tanks start to shell buildings, you can feel the minute detail in every sound. A certain level of joy comes out when you select your favourite type of unit. They proclaim their tag lines with such gusto, and when the AI just starts to crush you, they start screaming things like, “We’re dying out here!” If you call in paratroopers only to have their plane shot down, you’ll have to hear every second of it. It’s a brutal reminder that these games are set in real-world historical battles—brutal stuff.
“Company of Heroes 3 is a fantastic game and experience, with mild frustrations on PS5…”
Speaking of brutal, the AI in Company of Heroes 3 is on another level of crushingly challenging, but weirdly enough, only in the game Skirmish mode. While I have little playtime in Company of Heroes 2, I have an insane amount of hours in Company of Heroes. Whenever I dip my toes back into it, they make it easy to ramp yourself up to the more complex difficulties, with easy being just enough to poke you. At the same time, you learn your way around the UI and how everything works, leading up to hard, which is a genuine challenge without being unfair.
Unfortunately, this is where Company of Heroes 3 fails a little for me. With the lowest option being standard when you go into a skirmish, the AI is fast, and they will push almost immediately. Before starting the campaign, I jumped into a skirmish and found myself getting extremely frustrated with how the AI was pushing into my base in the first ten minutes and killing all my troops. Granted, I am not the best at RTS, but it would have been nice to have more of an on-ramping of difficulty here.
The biggest downside to this version of Company of Heroes 3 are the controls and the overall feeling of manoeuvering an RTS on a DualSense. The easiest thing to activate is the Tactical Pause, which allows you to pause the action in single-player and take time to order your troops and get some actions queued up.
When you have to manage these troops in the moment, like selecting your troops to attack, take over a point, or move in general, where things get weird, not to mention bringing up build menus or upgrade menus. It’s unfortunate that not only does it feel bad to try and keep up with the action on a controller, but the controls themselves feel like my fingers keep wanting to go to different places to execute specific commands.
Overall, Company of Heroes 3 is a fantastic game and experience, with mild frustrations on PS5, between rough controls and its skirmish mode. Things start to fall apart pretty quickly when you have to control the action on a controller. But, even with that, I genuinely had a good time throughout.