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‘Company of Heroes 3’ deserves a spot in any war game fan’s library

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Something happened in the late 90s into the 2000s. Maybe it was the success of blockbuster movies like Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, or maybe it was just the right amount of distance away from one of the worst conflicts in history, but you couldn’t throw a rock in a video game store without hitting a new World War II-based title. The craze spawned what are now some of the industry’s most profitable franchises (remember when Call of Duty was set exclusively in WWII?), and eventually led to a certified strategy hit, Company of Heroes.

Company of Heroes 3 is the newest installment in the 17-year old series, this time set in the Mediterranean Theater. Developed by Relic Entertainment, the real-time strategy game retains most of the mechanics that fans of previous games will be familiar with: controllable and upgradeable units, destructible environments, and capture points that provide precious victory points and resources. Those resources — fuel, ammunition, and manpower — dictate the number and type of units you’re able to build.

/ Sega

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Sega

The sandbox-style, turn-based gameplay of the Italian Dynamic Campaign will be familiar to fans of grand strategy games.

A promising Italian campaign

But while Company of Heroes 3 may return to familiar mechanics, it expands its scope Italy and North Africa — theaters too often overlooked by other WWII games. I was excited to test what Relic calls the “dynamic” Italian single-player campaign, which allows you to set your own course for re-taking Italy through a zoomed-out strategic map. Fans of Star Wars: Empire at War or Total War will be familiar with that turn-based approach, where friendly territory is determined by control of several major towns and cities and battles zoom-in to the familiar tactical view.

This Italian campaign promises ultimate freedom, but delivers a restrictive early game. You’re locked into a small unit headcount at the start, which means that sometimes you’re invading a country with just one infantry unit. It wasn’t until turn 30 or so when I’d captured nearly half of Italy that the game opened up for me and I felt empowered to do what I wanted.

On the ground, the new dynamic environment shines in skirmishes like the one in Potenza, where you’re tasked with capturing several enemy strongholds sitting atop heavily guarded hills. The puzzle is how to conquer each stronghold without getting torn apart: Usually the right answer is to flank them. Once I figured this out, as well as properly used the resources provided, each following skirmish got a little more repetitive.

Each campaign mission begins with an overview. Most maps have roads that lead directly to the capture points, but players can increase their odds of success by flanking the enemy.

/ Sega

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Sega

Each campaign mission begins with an overview. Most maps have roads that lead directly to the capture points, but players can increase their odds of success by flanking the enemy.

Balance of power

But while the single-player gameplay could irritate me, Company of Heroes 3 really soars in its multiplayer. Early on, I enlisted my brother to help try the co-op mode. Neither of us are slouches when it comes to real-time strategy games, and we felt comfortable enough with the mechanics to take on two computer-controlled Wehrmacht commanders at normal difficulty. Three and a half minutes later, we were staring at a defeat screen wondering how we got steamrolled so quickly.

Multiplayer gameplay is nothing like the methodical campaign skirmishes — it’s fast, intense, and unrelenting. My first thought was that the single-player did not adequately prepare me at all. You can’t pause, and you better know how to use your faction’s tech tree, or else you’ll find yourself with your back against your command center watching the enemy’s victory points stack up.

One of the phrases Relic uses to describe the balance of victory points in Company of Heroes 3 is “tug of war.” Part of our undoing, we realized, was that we lost momentum by focusing too much on central strongholds and not enough on retaking smaller capture points. Our plan from then on was to keep mixing it up and re-strategizing after we’d failed, which was frustrating, but also fun. Eventually, we found the right balance between capturing points and upgrading our tech trees, which usually led to the fastest and cheapest way to obtain tanks possible.

Capture points are quickly won and lost in skirmishes, creating a gameplay style that developer Relic Entertainment likens to a "tug of war."

/ Sega

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Sega

Capture points are quickly won and lost in skirmishes, creating a gameplay style that developer Relic Entertainment likens to a “tug of war.”

Real-time strategy resurgent

Company of Heroes 3 is no ordinary real-time strategy game. The core mechanics are much more complicated than I expected, which is a real achievement. Another is the art direction, in both the dynamic single-player campaign and the skirmishes. The colors are bright, and everything from the overview of Italy to the tiny soldiers you send into battle have a beautiful cartoon quality to them.

Overall, Company of Heroes 3 deserves a spot in any WWII buff or real-time strategy aficionado’s game library. Multiplayer games are as sharp, intense, and addicting as ever, while the new sandbox mechanics of the dynamic single-player campaign give players a fresh (if sometimes frustrating) experience.

James Perkins Mastromarino contributed to this story. contributed to this story

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New photos reveal more details about Google’s Pixel 9 Pro Fold

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Google’s secret new line of Pixel 9 phones isn’t that big of a secret anymore. Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) released new photos of the phones including the Pixel 9 Pro Fold from almost every conceivable angle.

Android Authority found the photos in the NCC archives and uploaded galleries of each of the four phones including the Pixel 9, 9 Pro, 9 Pro XL and 9 Pro Fold. They reveal some interesting details about the new Pixel phones.

The charging rates will be a little faster than the last generation of Pixel phones: Taiwanese authorities measured 24.12W for the base model, 25.20W for the Pro and 32.67W for the 9 Pro XL. The Pixel 9 Pro Fold, however, was the slowest of all of them at 20.25W. These numbers don’t often match up perfectly with the advertised ratings, so expect Google to be promoting higher numbers at its event.

Speaking of chargers, it looks like Google needed a bigger charger to power its new phones. Photos included in the NCC leak show each phone will come with a wall charger that’s around 45W depending on which model you purchase. The charger’s plug moved from the middle to the top of the brick.

The Google Pixel 9 Pro Fold can fully unfold.
NCC/Android Authority

The latest photo dump also shows the 9 Pro Fold unfolded for the first time. Google has moved the selfie camera to the inside screen for a wider field of view. The 9 Pro Fold also has a slimmer top and bottom, a reduced fold crease on the display and a full 180 degree unfolding angle to make a screen that’s just over 250mm or just under 10 inches.

These photos are the latest in a very long list of leaks of Google Pixel 9 photos. The last Pixel 9 leak came down yesterday showing two prototype models of the base and XL models. Google might look into buying a new combination lock for the high school locker where they apparently keep all their unreleased gear.

 

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Apple Wallet now supports Canada’s Presto card, with Express Transit

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Apple Wallet now supports the Presto transit card used in Ontario, Canada. The card can be used for travel in Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa.

The digital version of the card includes the Express Transit Pass feature, meaning that you can tap in and out without having to authenticate …

 

Ontario’s Presto card

The Presto contactless smart card system was first trialled back in 2007, and started the full rollout in 2009. The card can be used across 11 different transit systems in the areas covered.

Apple Wallet support was first promised many years ago, but things went quiet until a “coming soon” announcement back in May of this year.

Although the contactless terminals allow the use of credit and debit cards for regular fares, a Presto card is needed for monthly passes and discounted travel.

Apple Wallet support now available

The company made the announcement today.

Tap to ride with PRESTO on iPhone and Apple Watch.

Traveling around town just got easy with your PRESTO in Apple Wallet. With Express Mode, you don’t need to wake or unlock your iPhone or Apple Watch or open any apps to use PRESTO in Apple Wallet. Just hold your device near the reader to pay and go.

Ride, even when your iPhone needs a charge

If your iPhone needs a charge, PRESTO Card in Apple Wallet will still work. Power Reserve provides up to five hours of support, so you can still ride.

Reload on the go. 

With your PRESTO card on your iPhone and Apple Watch, you can easily load funds, right from Apple Wallet or PRESTO App. No need to visit a customer service outlet.

Extra security. Built right in 

PRESTO in Apple Wallet can take full advantage of the privacy and security features built into iPhone and Apple Watch. Your PRESTO card is stored on the device, which means Apple does not see when you use it—helping keep your data private and secure.

If you lose your iPhone or Apple Watch, you can use the Find My app to lock and help locate the device and suspend your PRESTO card or remotely erase the device and its cards.

Mobile Syrup reports that you can choose between adding your existing card to your Wallet, or creating a new one.

There are two ways to add a Presto card to Apple Wallet. You can either buy a new card or move your old one over using the Presto app.

That being said, for simplicity’s sake, unless you have a discounted Presto agreement like a student or senior plan, I think most riders will be happy just making a new card in Apple Wallet and loading funds from that app.

As with any digital card or pass, you can use either your iPhone or Apple Watch, but because each generates a unique virtual card number, you need to use the same device at both ends of your journey.

Express Transit feature

To minimize delays, Presto offers Express Transit support. This means that you don’t need to authenticate using Face ID or Touch ID on your iPhone, and you don’t need to double-tap the side button on your Apple Watch. Simply hold your device close to the pad and you’re good (a number of clues are used to detect fraudulent use).

Express Transit also has the advantage that it continues to work in Low Power mode, so you’ll still be able to complete your journey even if your phone or Watch is almost dead.

Image: Presto

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The OnePlus Pad 2 Wants to Be the iPad Air of Android Tablets

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The original OnePlus Pad was a decent all-around Android tablet, but it was not amazing in any one area. Now, OnePlus is back with a new tablet device that packs more power, has a better screen, more speakers, and a higher starting price. OnePlus offers an Android tablet alternative that costs less than the latest iPad Airs, though it seems like it’s hewing very close to the rendition from 2023. 

The OnePlus Pad 2 is a one-size-fits-all 12.1-inch 3K tablet. At $550 for 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, it’s $70 more than the first OnePlus Pad, though it starts with more memory and twice as much internal storage as the first go around’s paltry 128 GB. It’s bigger than the 11.6 LCD on last year’s Pad, though now it’s beefed its resolution to 3K (3000 x 2120) with a stated 600 nits typical and 900 nits peak brightness. It has a variable refresh rate between 30 and 144 Hz, though it’s still an LCD screen, the same as the 2023 OnePlus Pad.

Just like last year’s version, the new Pad supports Dolby Atmos, but it boasts a six-stereo speaker configuration on either side of the device. It may not be as specifically sound-tailored as the Lenovo Tab Plus, but what’s promised is a solid middle ground. 

Last year’s tablet used MediaTek Dimensity 9000 CPU, which was good enough for most applications but not exactly top of its class. The Pad 2 is now powered with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 mobile chip. Gizmodo has already experienced some of the chip’s capabilities in Samsung’s latest foldables, and already it’s very promising. We haven’t yet had the chance to compare a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 tablet to Apple’s latest iPad Air with M2, though on the whole, M2 usually performs better than Qualcomm’s mobile chips in bare benchmark tests. How much that matters depends on what programs you expect to use on your tablet. 

Image: OnePlus

Every device maker thinks they need AI to compete, and OnePlus isn’t an outlier here. There are promised “AI Toolbox” features like AI text-to-speech and recording summaries. The AI Eraser 2.0 will also work like Google’s Magic Eraser to remove unwanted photo elements. 

There’s a new $99 OnePlus Stylo 2 and a $150 Oneplus Smart Keyboard to accompany the new tablet. Despite the size and price difference, there will be many similarities between last year’s and the 2024 model. The Pad 2 has the same 9,510 mAh battery as last year’s, plus the 67W “SUPERVOOC” fast charging. It promises 43 days of standby time, though in our experience, the first Pad’s lifespan and promised “one-month standby life” was far more modest in practice, lasting most of the day before needing a recharge. 

With a bigger screen, the upcoming Pad 2 is slightly heavier than last year’s rendition. It weighs about 1.3 pounds, so it’s exactly between the 11- and 13-inch iPad Airs or slightly more than the base 11-inch Galaxy Tab S9 (and far less than the humongous Tab S9 Ultra). It will be relatively thin at 6.49 mm, but it’s not beating the iPad Air’s 6.1 mm or the iPad Pro 13-inch’s holy grail 5.1 mm.

The first OnePlus Pad didn’t exactly break new ground in any one category, though it did show Android tablets had legs. We’ve seen attempts from Goole and its Pixel Tablet, though that, too, wasn’t the pioneer of Android tablets. A better chip and more speakers do seem promising, though, in its effort to be everything to everyone, we’ll need to see if it manages to stand out in any area.

The OnePlus Pad 2 is now available for preorder. It should be available on the OnePlus website starting July 30 and on Amazon starting August.

 

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