RTS games are enjoying a renaissance of sorts these days, and it’s about damn time. When Company of Heroes 3 came out on the PC a couple of months ago, I really enjoyed playing it. There were a couple of issues that I had but it was overall, a strong entry in the series and genre. You’d expect Company of Heroes 3: Console Edition to follow that right?
Mostly yes…but some no.
Wait…that’s a bit confusing now that I read it back. Never mind, just keep on reading and all will become clear!
What is Company of Heroes 3: Console Edition?
Company of Heroes 3: Console Edition is the console port of the PC’s Company of Heroes 3, an RTS set during World War II, with playable campaigns in Africa and Italy. One is the traditional mission based campaign like in past games and the other (the Italian campaign) is a dynamic map which has you taking on the role of a commander and overseeing strategy on a larger scale. Both are great fun!
Relic Entertainment and SEGA (the original developer and publisher) are still behind the ports, which are available for the Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series X|S consoles.
Our copy, like the original Company of Heroes 3, was gifted by the awesome folks at SEGA!
Since the game is pretty much a carbon copy of the game original, you can just read up on the original review to see what I thought about it. This review will just focus on the new console parts, such as the controller support, the UI and the visual modes.
Controlling a RTS game with a controller has always been an issue. There have been a ton of console RTS, but not a ton successfully managed to overcome the controller troubles. EA’s Command & Conquer games on the Xbox 360 (and Playstation 3) had pretty good controls, so did Square Enix’s Supreme Commander 2. Those were the outliers…which we can thankfully add Company of Heroes 3: Console Edition to.
Learning the roles is pretty easy, as there’s a tutorial stage that introduces the game’s mechanics AND controls so you can get the hang of things before the game proper. The tutorial will take you through handling your squad, utilizing their abilities and all that jazz. For the most part, the controls are intuitive and easy to adapt to.
Unfortunately, there are some rather weird omissions. There’s no quick way to select everything on-screen (or barring that, your whole army). You can only enlarge the cursor (by holding X), which will then select whoever is in the enlarged cursor’s vicinity. It’s much slower and inefficient and many a times I found myself cursing because I wanted to order every single unit I have in-game to a particular point but can’t do it.
It helps matters a ton that the game allows you to pause and issue orders, though it’s still tedious to manually direct your units.
There’s also the issue of accurately choosing your grouped units.
On default settings, the cursor is workable but it’s nowhere near as responsive as a mouse. While the unit icons are big enough, choosing particular units you want (when a lot of them are clustered together) can be really finicky. It makes matters worse that hitting the Circle button doesn’t cancel unit selection. You need to hit X on an empty area for that. Coincidentally, X is also the button you select units with.
You see the issue here right?
Again, the tactical pause feature of the game is a godsend. Without it, I have no doubts, playing the game would be a much, MUCH more frustrating affair.
The new console UI isn’t that good either. I’m playing on a 4K 55-inch TV, sitting about two meters away and some menu items are still too small. Resources (which are displayed in the lower right) are particularly troublesome to read because of their location AND size. Thankfully unit icons are big enough that there’s no issue.
That can’t be said for the visuals unfortunately.
There are 2 different modes you can pick, Performance (1080p, 60FPS target) or Visuals (4K, 30FPS target). You know it’s an iffy thing when people use target in the description. I got a sinking feeling immediately as I read that.
I played on Performance mode (because I always think FPS trumps visuals) to test the game out. To be fair, most of the first few introductory missions in the Italian campaign ran fine. If there were any slowdow, I didn’t notice or feel it. Sure, the game looks ugly as sin, but it felt smooth and responsive.
That was until I was swarmed in a defence mission. One minute everything was normal and smooth, the next the framerate dropped. You can literally see everything getting slower, the responses getting laggy. It’s a major disappointment considering that the visuals on Performance mode is already pretty pathetic. Surely, the PS5 has more power than this at its disposal? I’m pretty sure it does…so it must be the game that’s the issue here.
To be honest, 1080p looks horrendous on a 4K screen for the game. Performance mode sure as hell isn’t doing it any favours. The textures are blurry, the foliage is laughable (the grass is especially bad)…it’s pretty much looking like crap.
I don’t understand how then the low quality visuals can even cause slowdown, at least not on a modern machine like the PS5.
I also encountered a weird audio bug during a couple of my sessions. The voices and music would be play as normal, but no sound effects. No gunfire, no booming of artillery shells, nothing. I don’t know what triggers it but have had the same issue happen multiple times during both campaigns, and the single player Skirmish mode.
The Bottom Line:
There’s no doubt that the core gameplay parts of Company of Heroes 3 has made the console leap intact. The two campaigns are great, the strategy is fun…even the new console controls are bearable enough. I never used the tactical pause feature that much on the PC, but on a console? I do it almost every engagement. Thank god for that!
Now if only the visuals and framerate were up to snuff. Come on, 1080p and there’s still slowdown? That’s not the least bit funny. It might be excusable at 4K, but 1080p? Hell no. I honestly don’t believe it’s the hardware that’s lacking here in this case though…
Great gameplay marred by technical issues.
- Controller controls are decent.
- Great gameplay is intact.
- Dynamic Italian campaign.
- Tactical Pause is a huge blessing for consoles.
- The visuals.
- The slowdown.
- New UI could be better.