When we reviewed the base game of Sudden Strike 4 back in August of 2018, it was favourably received, gathering up high praise indeed. Everything that made the base game great, back in 2018, is still present and correct here with the Complete Collection. But the difference this time around is that the standard game, and all the DLC that has been released since, is now available in one handy package.
As you would expect to hear from that, there are a wealth of missions included, taking in multiple theatres of World War 2, ranging from the fields of France to the Pacific Theatre, via Finland and more, all providing the opportunity for you to grab a commander and win the war. Choosing the correct commander, with their own perks that can affect the course of battles, is key to your success. Yet it’s a little jarring – at least for someone coming from a Command & Conquer background – that you can’t build more units when you want to. To be fair, as Sudden Strike is more on the realistic end of whatever spectrum Real Time Strategy games sit on, the thought of having a factory in a field churning out four tanks a minute does seem a little far fetched.
And so, in this game, what you are given is what you have, and if all your units are destroyed, it’s game over. If you’re lucky though, then you’ll discover reinforcements arriving as the levels go on, but ultimately taking cover and cleverly placing your units makes a huge difference to your chances of success. So, with all that said, how does the DLC add to the base game and is the Sudden Strike 4 – Complete Collection worth your cash? I present to you a breakdown of each DLC package that is included.
Road to Dunkirk
Dunkirk is still, to this day, one of the most famous parts of the whole of World War 2. The rescue of the British Expeditionary Force from the beach at Dunkirk, using a flotilla of small boats that set out from England to bring the boys home, is the stuff of legends. With the Road to Dunkirk expansion, the battles that lead up to the great escape in 1940 can now be replayed, either from the British side, as they try to escape, or the Germans as they try to prevent it.
The expansion brings two new commanders, who have their strengths and weaknesses as do all the rest. It also introduces ten all-new units to get to grips with, along with new buildings and ships.
This sees the inclusion of Charles de Gaulle on the French side, as well as Harold Alexander, the commander of the Expeditionary Force. With new tanks and artillery, such as the British A10 Cruiser and the French Char B1, there’s a good amount of new stuff to get used to.The actual campaign missions are a little underwhelming though and sadly only provide two missions on either side to take part in. As the Germans, you must take action in The Battle of Lille, capture Dunkirk itself and then destroy a British destroyer, while as the Allies you have to launch a counter offensive in the Battle of Ypres-Comines, and then finally escape with as many soldiers as possible in Operation Dynamo, the climax of the mini-campaign.
The maps themselves, while they are reasonably large, are not as expansive as some of those found in the main campaign, and so this does feel like the least of the expansions included in the collection.
Finland – Winter Storm
With the next expansion, the developers have gone back to the very beginning of the war; the events of the Winter War, when Russia invaded Finland.
This is a slightly bigger expansion than the Dunkirk one, with three new commanders, 19 new vehicles and 6 missions to get to grips with.
Winter Storm revolves around Finland’s Vilho Petter Nenone, an artillery expert, Finnish tank general Ruben Lagus and General Karl Lennert Oesch. My personal favourite here has to be Lagus, mainly because of the powerful tanks at his disposal.
Speaking of tanks, the Russian KV-1, a massive main battle tank, the German Stug IIIG and a host of new vehicles, including rescue vehicles to keep your armour moving, all provide new challenges and opportunities for mayhem. The design of the levels this time around feels like it has had a bit more attention paid to it too, with large, multi-stage battles being the norm.
The first mission of the Finnish campaign is the one that has stayed with me, tasking us with capturing the village of Suomussalmi, turfing the Russians out and taking up position to defend it. This is memorable as when the Russians try to bring the tanks to attack across a frozen lake, we are directed to send for the Heavy Bombers, smashing the ice and sending the tanks to the bottom of the river. This is a great deal of fun, and with reconnaissance flights available to help dispel some of the Fog of War that makes the levels dark, it really is intriguing to play.
It is here where you’ll also capture enemy tanks and reuse them to defend the village, allowing for new tactics to be tested. The rest of the missions are also very good, with the last mission being an almost superhuman feat of endurance, with a good 45 minutes of action… if everything goes your way!
This expansion really does add to the base game, and is well worth playing through.
Africa – Desert War
Going from the snows of Finland to the burning sand of the African campaign is a bit of a switch, and as such this expansion does have a very different feel; one that is much more impressive and filled with features.
The most famous of the commanders to be added is the Desert Fox himself, Erwin Rommel, one of the most notorious generals of the war and the direct opposition to Montgomery on the British side. Other commanders included are three Italians, including Field Marshal Giovanni Messe, while on the Allied side we have the armoured General Sir Richard O’Connor. And when I say armoured general, obviously I mean he is a tank-oriented character.
With more than 30 new vehicles added this time around, ranging from Medical trucks, through the Marder Tank Destroyer and the Bishop Self Propelled Gun, to the Italian Semovente da 105/25 Assault gun, again the range of units at your disposal has increased, as have the range of tactics to use them in.
Mission-wise, it’s bigger again than the Finland expansion, with three missions for both the Axis powers and for the Allies. As the baddies, you are tasked with capturing the Egyptian town of Sidi Barrani, before moving onto Tobruk, where some of the bloodiest battles of the African campaign was fought, before breaking through the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Meanwhile, the flipside sees you again tasked with sorting out the town of Sidi Barrani, before replaying one of the most famous engagements of the African war, at El Alamein, and then kicking the Germans out of the town of Marreth.
The setting is so different from the rest of Sudden Strike 4, and the graphics bring it all to life brilliantly – the sand dunes are truly amazing, with tank tracks leaving imprints in the surface. Sandstorms can and do blow up too, cutting visibility to a minimum, and trying to manoeuvre with no real idea where the enemy units are adds a little bit of spice to the proceedings.
The missions are still fun, but whether this is more enjoyable to play through then the Finland expansion will be a hugely personal matter. For me, it’s a close run thing.
The Pacific War
Playing through the expansions found in the Sudden Strike 4 – Complete Collection, in order, gives the feeling that everything has been building up to this point. With the release of The Pacific War, the largest of the Sudden Strike 4 expansions, the development team have decided to throw everything at it – and they’ve certainly succeeded in delivering a stunning experience.
With the largest number of new campaign missions to go at, there’s no shortage of content here, including some of the most famous flashpoints of the Pacific war, such as Guadalcanal, the landings on Iwo Jima and, for the first time, the naval battles of Santa Cruz. There are over 50 new units to command, from small fry-like flamethrower units right up to mighty aircraft carriers such as the USS Enterprise (no, not that one).
Throw in new tactics to learn, including controlling amphibious assault forces and advanced air to air combat, and this truly is an expansion that is worthy of the name. And that’s without mentioning the six new commanders to play as, including America’s Douglas McArthur: all of this sets the scene for one hell of a showdown.
Some of the new features are more successful than others, though. For instance, I found the landing craft a real faff to use, as just getting the soldiers out of them and onto the beach was a lot more difficult than it needs to be. But by contrast the new ship-based combat works extremely well, and seeing your fighters beat off waves of Japanese aircraft is a real highlight. Going from naval warfare to fighting in the close confines of the jungle, often in the same mission, The Pacific War is the standout DLC of this package, and I have no hesitation in saying that this is as good as Sudden Strike 4 gets.
So, having played through each of the new theatres of war, and experienced everything from the snows of Finland to the burning sand of Africa, via France and the wide open seas of the Pacific, I have no hesitation in keeping with the same recommendations for the Complete Collection as was found suitable for the base game. With more of the same gameplay, expanded in subtle ways like the early expansions, to game changers like naval warfare in The Pacific War, Sudden Strike 4: Complete Collection on Xbox One remains the premier Real Time Strategy game available for this platform.
The inclusion of historical footage to look at certainly puts the game into context, but with a wealth of missions and some well populated multiplayer options, this is the complete package and the new baseline for this genre of games.