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Company of Heroes 3, PS5 review

PC Real Time Strategy (RTS) games live and die by their control system when ported to Console. Company of Heroes 3 (CoH3) has had the gamepad or controller conversion treatment, and pleasingly I can report the experience on PS5 is excellent. Surprisingly though, it’s actually some of Relic’s single-player design choices that has caused me concern. 

I played “A LOT” of Company of Heroes 1 on PC. I sank hundreds of hours into it. What I love is that CoH had this unique space in the RTS world. Where the scale is more intimate, than the sweeping, nation conflict found the Total Wars or Command and Conquers of this world. CoH is focused on a single battle-scape, with deep WWII realism. I loved this design scope. I love the accuracy afforded to real world “force-multipliers” and their effect on the immediate battlefield. Not to mention the sheer attention to detail, made the CoH series a total winner in my books. New to the series is a much heavier weight on what a tactical advantage verticality offers, using the high ground is crucial when planning.

Read the Company of Heroes battleground, play the advantages.

With CoH3, the core gameplay from the previous games remains largely unchanged. This time, focusing on the Italian theatre of war, where hills and mountains where a huge part of the battlefield. Attack or defend a location, create a base of operations, move units to control resource points and win the battle. As mentioned, force multipliers like artillery, snipers and armour has a real effect on the battle-scape. This is what I enjoy. I know that if I put a machine gun crew overlooking a capture point, they will be able to keep that locked down… unless the Germans throw a Panzer or something at them.

There is no need to read in-game ‘codex’ to know what a Zurg does, or how many Sqwanch Blings and Snothscor Unit costs. CoH is all based in reality, and anyone with a passing understanding of WWII knows what units, do what. So, the core game is smooth, tactical and intuitive to play. But the same can’t be said for the new Macro Campaign map, where the idea is between battles, to have a zoomed out appreciation for the wider theatre of war. Being one of the Generals, moving units and making decisions on what to attack and where supply lines need to run. Boooorrrring.

The main game does what it says on the tin, the Campaign Map however…

I hated this ‘intermission’ macro turn-based experience. It felt like a poor man’s version of Total War and was just clunky to play. The objectives were unclear, the controls unituative and frankly,  I got to the point where I just hit whatever buttons would make the mode finish. So I could go back to the proper CoH experience I was looking for. Unfortunately the very good single player campaign, is seriously damaged by this overworld macro campaign map. Relic just needs to patch in a ‘auto decision’ skip option…. I don’t know what they were thinking!

Thankfully though, the traditional RTS campaign is still fun, and the A.I or online MP skirmish modes are even better. These modes are the CoH of old, still tuned for tactical fun and explosions! Tanks roll through buildings, artillery lays waste to cover and the battlefield is alive with action. Thankfully amidst all this chaos, there is a full ‘Tactical Pause’ option. So us console gamers can take a moment to plan and orient, even with our big slow thumbs and sticks. Aside from my much maligned views on the macro turn-based tactical campaign bits, the only other real gripe is the painful choice between Quality and Performance modes, in the graphics. It baffles me that I can’t have good graphics AND 60fps on a PS5.  

Company of Heroes once again nails the “Street Level Strategy” it’s famous for. So, take a break from mindless running and gunning gamers….get tactical.