For fans of real-time strategy, the console has rarely been the ideal platform. Instead, the precision and speed of computer gaming usually makes the prime place to play that of the desktop. Now though, with consoles proving far more powerful than ever before and developers spending the time and effort to bring user friendly controls to systems, strategy games are starting to become more of a popular sight. With Sudden Strike 4 also utilising the extra power of the Xbox One X, could it be the strategy game console players have been craving for so long?
For those unaware of the latest real-time strategy adventure, Sudden Strike 4 sends players into battle across missions and scenarios, all of which are based on real-life battles from World War II. There are over 20 different missions to be enjoyed throughout the base game, all of which are spread across the multiple campaign options including Allies, Germans and the Soviet Union.
With this being the European Battlefields Edition, players also have the chance to get in on both DLC campaigns, with the Road to Dunkirk Campaign and the Finland – Winter Storm Campaign included as part of the deal.
Regardless of which you choose and which faction you’re playing with, each mission generally begins the same way, with a starting brief giving a quick rundown of what’s expected from the mission ahead – usually asking players to infiltrate an area and defeat the enemy presence – before you’re whisked off to the battlefield, surrounded by the crew you’ll have to aid you in completing the mission at hand. Usually your squad consists of different groups of soldiers, with infantrymen and tank squads making up the bulk of your attack, whilst repair vehicles remain on standby for when issues begin to arise and your troops are no longer performing at their best. There are others that also make an appearance throughout though, allowing a little variation to your war fighters such as artillery and aircraft units, and it will require tactical prowess and efficiency if you hope to put them all to good use and come out with a victory at the end of the battle.
Sudden Strike 4 continues with some of the traditional trends of the strategy genre by presenting an angled top down camera view of the battlefield when in play, however, unlike many other strategy titles, there is no base building present in this WWII adventure. Instead, the only thing you’ll need to focus on besides your battle ready forces are the occasional reinforcements that come running in during certain missions when things are beginning to look a little bleak. Given the additional reinforcements are hard to come by, you’ll be glad to see them when they finally stroll into action.
The lack of any type of base is really what gives the game such a strong connection to the era it’s trying to portray. With no way of freely churning out more units, it doesn’t take long before you’re treasuring each and every one given to you at the start, ensuring you feel hesitant to send them any more than a few feet outside of your field of vision.
Unless you know exactly what you’re heading into, it can be difficult to know which troops to send in first as infantrymen can find themselves nothing more than simple cannon fodder for hidden snipers, whilst an onslaught of tanks can quickly see any vehicular presence destroyed in a few short and outnumbered moments. Of course, there is the option of simply selecting all of your available units in one go, and sending everyone forward in a ‘hope for the best’ type effort is doable, but after the first few missions it’ll require a lot more tactical effort and planning, as well as a little patience when your commands aren’t quite followed.
The majority of the gameplay in Sudden Strike 4 will see players trying to predict what to expect and arranging your units for the best possible defence should things go pear-shaped. When moving multiple units at once, players are afforded the option to move specific sets of units at a time. For example, if you wish to stick your heavy-duty units at the front in case of a surprise attack, or you want to send out the infantry first to get some scouting done before heading out, then you can do so. Unfortunately, the control system to do this will likely induce a little frustration as there are times in which pressing the B button to issue an order will see your troops do nothing. This isn’t an issue as much when you’re just preparing to head into battle, but find yourself in the middle of a firefight and you’ll quickly come to shout at your men for not following orders. Oddly this is the only issue I found with any of the controls as the rest are fluid and responsive.
One major positive for Sudden Strike 4 is just how much the terrain impacts on the battles. Should you find your units surrounded by cover, you’ll find they become more resilient to any damage, whilst being on high ground will allow your squad better opportunities for attacking the enemy. Utilising the terrain however can only be done with a good understanding of your units’ strengths and weaknesses, and getting used to them can be the make or break of your fight.
Whilst the gameplay is rather enjoyable for any fan of strategy – thanks to its focus on tactics rather than numbers – it isn’t exactly the easiest of games, and even playing on the easiest difficulty, you’ll still run into difficulty if you’re not a veteran of the genre. That said, Sudden Strike 4 is still fun to play, and with every battle turning out slightly differently, things never really feel repetitive, even if you are failing over and over.
Aside from the Campaign offerings, Sudden Strike 4 does also come complete with single player Skirmish battles for those wanting a quick no-strings-attached battle, and it brings a great opportunity to try out a few tactics before using them in a more meaningful battle online or in the campaign.
Overall there are 13 maps available to play in Skirmish, one of which offers 3v3 combat, a few covering 2v2, and the rest present for the standard 1v1 match types. Also available are two different game modes to enjoy with Domination available alongside the Classic mode. This Domination mode offers an interesting change to things and instead of players simply competing to destroy the enemy opposition, another goal is added that tasks players with taking control of the various HQs present, claiming them all to earn victory. In this mode, capturing HQs earns the prestige and this can in-turn be spent at train stations or harbours to call in some well stocked reinforcements. Classic Mode on the other hand sets a task that is more akin to the objectives seen in the campaigns on offer, as players look to eliminate all enemy units to win the game. In this mode Zeppelins of your colour can be used to call in reinforcements and staying near a Zeppelin allows control over it, with defeat coming for those who can’t maintain control of any of the Zeppelins after a set amount of time.
If you prefer a more competitive feel to each fight, then the online options are also available with Multiplayer present, both in Quickmatch or Online Games form. Quickmatch is as the mode suggests a quick way to just get thrown into a random matchup online, whilst Online Games allows players to scroll down the list of available opponents and decide who they want to play against. Unfortunately the fan base doesn’t seem the greatest with only a few games available at any time, but the option is still there should you find someone willing to engage for online bragging rights.
Sudden Strike 4 is very much a typical RTS experience in terms of gameplay, but one thing that truly stands out are the impressive visuals that are on show throughout, along with the well-crafted soundtrack that really helps set the tone of the World War II era. What helps with this is the fact that actions taken by the troops on the field, such as explosions from tanks shells and artillery, all have a lasting effect on your surroundings, meaning craters will appear, ice will fall through and the general appearance of each map will look a lot different to when you first started your battle. This is an impressive feature, especially given that most RTS titles have very minimal permanent changes besides the damage of self-built or opposition structures.
What’s more is if you’re lucky enough to be playing Sudden Strike 4 on an Xbox One X, you’ll find it comes with some rather fancy upgrades to the visuals as well, so the stunning settings standout even more.
Overall and Sudden Strike 4 is generally a rather enjoyable game that is only let down by the occasional command issue that sees units failing to move. Fix that issue though and Sudden Strike 4 is easily one of the best RTS titles we’ve seen in some time. It has content by the bucketloads, simple controls, fluid movement across the screen and can be enjoyed both for hours on end or via a cheeky half-hour session when the time allows.