Back in March, our resident RTS expert Andy Jonhson heeded the call of duty and reviewed Company of Heroes 3, which in his own words is “a brilliant, if imperfect return to the series (…) that may not single-handedly return RTS games to prominence, but it is a gripping experience and a very welcome contribution to that effort”. Now, three months later, this World War 2 RTS lands on consoles, and I was able to play it on an Xbox Series S.
With four playable factions, an engrossing campaign and a traditionally chaotic multiplayer mode, Company of Heroes 3, warts and all, is a worthy addition to the series. As a fellow but not nearly as dedicated fan of the genre, I was glad to see CoH make a welcome return to PC, but even more so, I was surprised that it would be the first in the series to make the leap to consoles.
Review code for this port arrived a couple of days before actual release, seemingly out of nowhere, and it caught me off guard to say the least. I’m no stranger to being proven wrong when it comes to (at first glance, anyway) inimaginable keyboard and mouse gaming genres making the leap to and working on a controller, against all odds.
We can even look back to StarCraft of all things playing extremely well on Nintendo 64, but most folks today probably don’t even remember that there was a StarCraft 64. It did in fact get released back in the year 2000. If an RTS worked on consoles 23 years ago, there’s no reason one could not these days.
Company of Heroes 3 on an Xbox Series S is very playable, with easy to pick up shortcuts for the admittedly limited in buttons controller, and as a slight disadvantage when compared to its PC version, it’s a tad blurry. Well, “a tad” is putting it nicely: ground textures are mere smudges in contrast to the much sharper polygonal units, structures and foliage placed on top of it.
If you can overlook that weird technical limitation, there’s plenty of tactical goodness to be found all throughout this console conversion. It takes very little time to get used to the controls, especially if you’ve experienced other recent RTS conversions like Iron Harvest. The gist is the same here, with triggers acting as prompts to pull down layers of menus that can be even quicker to navigate than even actual KB/M once you memorize where everything is.
Some elements are made even easier to pull off in this port of Company of Heroes 3 thanks to a context-sensitive feature that was added in which not only accounts for what you’re trying to select and put into action, but also remembers repeated actions. For instance, next time you input a certain combination, the game will recognize what you are trying to do and save you some time by letting you redo that action with a single push of a button.
These control shortcuts along with a more zoomed in perspective help make Company of Heroes 3 specially playable on console. It’s just a shame that I found its visuals to be selectively blurry on my Xbox Series S. Hopefully this is something that can be addressed with a patch because even though the game performs well framerate-wise and in terms of actual gameplay, this issue with the graphics can be quite distracting at times.
That problem aside, along with the ones Andy pointed out in his review, Company of Heroes 3 is an exciting comeback for one of videogame’s best RTS series, and it’s one that breaks the divide between console and PC thanks to the efforts of its developers at Relic Entertainment into making it work on both platforms, taking into account their strengths and weaknesses, delivering a satisfying time regardless of which one you happen to choose.