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Relic's Company of Heroes series has been doing the rounds on PC since all the way back in 2006 and, especially with regards to the first game, is still considered to be one of the premier RTS franchises out there. This is deep and addictive real-time strategy that presents its historical battlefields in luxurious detail and gives hardcore fans of the genre lots to dig into; games that are still as good to play now as they were when they first blew us away some 17 years ago.

Company Of Heroes 3 finally sees a ten year wait come to an end for those of us who've been chomping at the bit for more Relic magic and, thankfully, it hasn't let us down for the most part. We've been blasting through this one on PC since it released on that platform back in February of this year (before moving on to test out the Xbox version), and it makes for a great big meaty chunk of WW2-based strategy goodness. There's a ton of content to get stuck into here with a sprawling dynamic Italian campaign, a story mode (where you play as Rommel, which is... interesting), and co-operative and multiplayer offerings that should satiate console-based RTS fans for a good long time to come.

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Launching into the Italian campaign and you can immediately see that Relic has attempted to branch out and up the ante, taking cues from Creative Assembly's fantastic Total War series to present players with a dynamic tactical map overlay that meshes with the franchise's more traditional top-down skirmishes. The map is where you move units around, make choices in where to attack next (will you hit a port for more supplies and warship backup or continue to gain momentum by ploughing ahead?) and you can even auto-resolve battles instead of dropping down to fight through every single combat scenario.

Starting out at the bottom of Italy, you're on a mission to drive up the length of the country, pushing the Germans back, capturing their bases, taking their supplies, cutting off routes and just basically giving them a right good kicking from air, land and sea. Where Company of Heroes 3 really succeeds is in giving you this wonderfully detailed Total War-style of map and then successfully managing to merge it with the sort of meaty ground battles you'd expect to find in these games. Once you're done making choices, negotiating next moves and dealing with the demands of a host of allied commanders on the main map, you get to drop down to ground level and engage in highly-detailed encounters that feel endlessly fun to toy around with.

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There are a few issues with this mode, however. Nothing too major, but we did find that playing on the default difficulty felt strangely easy. We beat a path through Italy without too much in the way of a pushback from our enemies, and it feels as though the AI could do with being tuned to react to your decisions and movements a little better. Why am I able to capture important ports without a serious counter-attack or switch of tactics from my foe? Where's the pressure and sense of urgency? Turn the difficulty up and it matters a little less, but a more reactive adversary would make for more thrills in this regard.

Moving on to the story mode and, apart from the somewhat controversial decision to have you play as Erwin Rommel as his Afrika Korps stomp through allied forces in North Africa, this is a cracking campaign - a resolutely old-school affair in comparison to the new-fangled dynamism of the Italian portion of the game. Here it's Company of Heroes as you remember it, with a rigid set of missions that take you directly from one scrap to the next, giving you the mighty mechanized forces of the Afrika Korps to blast across some incredibly atmospheric maps with.

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This is a lovely looking game for the most part too, certainly in terms of how detailed its vehicles and villages, buildings and enormous bomb blasts are. Whilst you may find the low-resolution textures on certain sections of the ground a little off-putting (more on this in a bit) you can't help but be impressed by how your vehicles and units react; how they move and deteriorate as they take on damage, dust, dirt and so on.

With lots of cool upgrades to unlock for each of your unit types, and abilities that let you call devastating airstrikes on enemy tank convoys or parachute in special forces to help out in close encounters, these are entertainingly action-packed battles, too. Company of Heroes 3 lays off the constant grinding of new units and laborious resource management that's so prevalent in the genre, instead favouring a focus on taking small and highly manageable squads into scraps that have you concentrate on moment-to-moment movement and actual tactics in the heat of battle. You get to revel in the muck and the misery here, the ground-shaking explosions, dirt, smoke and utter destruction involved in two sides laying into each other with everything they've got.

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Destructible environments play a big part too, with great big church towers to be blown away with your tanks in order to deal with an enemy sniper who's got streets locked down, and plenty of buildings for you to house your fireteams for added cover; fortified places from which to lay down fire and let the rest of your squads push up through the ever-present fog of war. Tanks are also an important part of Rommel's campaign, with lots of big vehicle confrontations and new aspects to consider such as hitting enemy heavy metal in their soft sides and back to do damage faster. You'll also find your foot soldiers will use tanks as moving cover, and it's a great idea to keep a squad of engineers running alongside as a sort of mobile repair shop that can drops tools and engage the enemy when needed.

All in all, between both of these modes, you've got a fresh new take on Company of Heroes in that Italian campaign that proves mostly successful, sat alongside a North African story mode that gives long-term fans more of exactly what they're looking for. Combine all of this with deep Co-Op and PvP online play and you've got an absolutely enormous package, really. This is a genre that we're a little light on in the console world and so it feels great to have such a comprehensive RTS land on Xbox.

Of course, the biggest question here is whether or not Company of Heroes 3 has transitioned to console in good shape - most importantly with regards to how it controls. Thankfully, we had pretty much zero issue in switching from our usual Mouse & Keyboard setup to the Xbox controller. It definitely takes a little getting used to, but once you get a feel for it; once you get used to selecting and grouping your units through a combination of the D-pad and moving a cursor around onscreen, you should be good to go. Yes, it can look very busy at times in terms of the UI, and you'll need to take a minute with the various radial menus and figuring out how to pull up abilities from sidebars, but once you've played a few matches and had a root around, you should be all good. Is it a match for mouse & keyboard? No it's not. Is it perfectly playable with a controller? Absolutely.

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It's really in terms of performance, then, that we find our biggest issues with Company of Heroes 3 on Xbox. You've got two graphical modes to play with here, the usual quality and performance deals, and we found that quality just wasn't smooth enough to be bothered with. It makes the game look sharper, for sure, but there's a judder to camera movement that just doesn't feel worth the trade-off for 4K/30FPS as things stand. Performance, on the other hand, feels perfectly smooth all the way, but it's 1080p aiming for 60FPS, and it suffers a little with jaggies on some surfaces, a glimmering effect as you move the camera at times and those low-resolution ground surfaces in some places, as we already mentioned.

It's a tad disappointing that it's not as super sharp as when playing on a monster PC rig, for sure, but the most important details are still there, and it still looks great for the most part in our minds — especially with regards to all those lovely little details during combat — and if you can deal with 1080p (hey, some people can't these days it seems) then you're in for a big fat RTS treat. Performance issues and a few niggles with enemy AI aside - Company of Heroes 3 is another fantastic entry in the series and a very welcome addition to Xbox's relatively slim line-up of great RTS titles.


Company of Heroes 3 survives the jump to consoles pretty much intact. This epic WW2 RTS is still an absolute treat - one that plays well with a controller, and gives you a wealth of modes to dig into in solo, co-op and PvP flavours. The Italian campaign is the highlight here for sure, mixing old-school Company of Heroes with the dynamic map antics of Total War, but a super strong story mode also delivers a more traditional helping of Relic's RTS magic to boot. There are some performance issues to resolve; quality mode stutters whilst performance can look a little underwhelming in places, but overall this is a huge win for console RTS fans and another fine entry in one of our favourite strategy franchises.