Truth be told, I’ve not played any of the games in the Sudden Strike series until now. Having now played Sudden Strike 4, I’m wondering just what I missed! Releasing simultaneously on PlayStation 4 and PC, Sudden Strike 4 is a real time strategy game in the vein of Company of Heroes and Dawn of War. The setting is the most (in)famous of any point in military history — the European theater of World War II.
There are three individual campaigns on offer in Sudden Strike 4 – German, Soviet, and Allied, each with seven missions apiece. These missions also have an easy and normal difficulty setting, with a special “Challenge” mode unlocked should you manage to hit a three star rating on a previous attempt. These challenges layer on additional difficulty like limited ammunition, or even bumping all enemy vehicles to elite status, as examples.
For the first time in the series, in addition to multiple campaigns, there are also three real world Generals (including the likes of George Patton and Bernard Montgomery) for each faction. Each General has a bit of history, as well as differing powers and upgrade trees that can provide additional repairs, equip soldiers with landmines and grenades, or grant additional accuracy for their artillery pieces, as just a few examples. Completing story missions provides points that you can allocate to unlock these advantages, allowing you to choose a variety of less expensive powers, or put all of them into more powerful skills. The selections aren’t permanent, nor is the General selection, allowing players to pick the right tools and leaders for the job.
Sudden Strike 4 is a real time strategy game, and either that excites you or it doesn’t. If it’s not a game type you actively seek, Sudden Strike 4 is not going to hold your hand while you figure it out. Other than the brief tutorial, there’s little instruction for the vast majority of vehicles, other than the inevitable school of hard knocks. You’ll probably figure out that a British T34 has nearly impenetrable front armor plates as your rounds bounce off at right angles, but you probably won’t figure out that mortars or artillery pieces will make light work of that tank until you stumble upon that knowledge. There are over 100 unique units in the game and most of the discovery of how to use them effectively falls to you. This is a high barrier to entry for someone new to the series or the genre in general.
As the game is not a “dirt-farming” type of RTS, there are no harvesters, depots to capture for additional resources, or any way to resupply other than when your General announces that supplies have just mysteriously shown up. This means that after the second mission you’ll likely need to tackle an objective several times from scratch before you figure out the correct approach. There is no turtling, there is no economy amassing – Sudden Strike 4 is pure strategy and tactics. If that’s what you are looking for, few games do it this well. If you are looking for more “Command & Conquer” or “Company of Heroes” style, know that isn’t what’s on offer here.
Unlike many RTS titles, Sudden Strike 4 also supports a “pause and play” mode. Allowing players to halt the action, issue a new set of orders, and then unpause the game grants some additional layers of tactics, slowing the sometimes-frenetic gameplay down to allow for deeper strategies.
Sudden Strike 4 may have the most depressing set of extras ever devised. Completion of a mission unlocks historical footage and overviews of that particular battle. As you can see in the video below, these aren’t as much exciting to unlock as they are a sobering reminder of one of humanity’s darkest moments in history.
If there’s one thing that breaks immersion in Sudden Strike 4, it’s the voice acting. The individual units speak their native tongue, issuing a snappy “jawohl mein kommandant!” to the gritty generic American General voice handing down orders. It’s a little jarring every time it happens, and a bit surprising given that developer Kite Games is based in Budapest, Hungary. Certainly they can find some Europeans in that part of Europe, right?
I did run into some pathing and AI issues in Sudden Strike 4. In a few instances my medics would ignore the litany of dying soldiers around them, letting them perish from their wounds. Also, occasionally my tanks would circle one another trying to jockey for position in tight spaces. Given that each vehicle uses fuel when they are in motion, this is not only aggravating, it’s also a wasteful expenditure of a finite fuel resource. You can see a small example of this below:
As this is the first release on consoles, I also put the PlayStation 4 version through its paces. There’s no substitute for a mouse, but with only a little bit of difficulty it’s possible to play an RTS with a controller. Sudden Strike 4 does this fairly well, though, as you’ll see in this video of the tutorial on the PlayStation 4, there’s a bit of a learning curve.
Graphically, and as you might expect, the PlayStation 4 version lags behind the PC version in terms of sharpness. The generic looking text boxes are a bit hard to read at a distance on a larger screen, but it’s a direct translation of the PC version. Some minor adjustments, such as a larger font, would go a long way for the console version. Still, it’s great to report that the framerate is consistently solid, and the game is very well detailed.
The true strength of any RTS is multiplayer, even when you factor in the strong singleplayer component, here. In the box are four maps – countryside, beach, siege, and frozen river. These four maps support up to eight players, mixing and matching AI or humans as you see fit. In the singleplayer section is a skirmish mode where another map (Kursk) is located if you pre-ordered the game. In skirmish and multiplayer, your objective is to capture all of the field HQs to win. As the game is not a ‘dirt farming’ RTS, you’ll use captured train stations and harbors to call in reinforcements using points you earn through survival and engagement of the enemy. As all nine Generals are available, along with the full compliment of their powers, selection of the right leader, and balancing it against the strengths and weakness of the other leaders, is crucial to success.
Sudden Strike 4
Sudden Strike 4 is a great example of a challenging real time strategy game without all of the ‘dirt farming’ aspects of other titles. It requires real thought instead of simply pouring all units into the path of the enemy. There are a few hiccups in terms of pathing and AI, as well as a baffling choice for voicework, but the game has more high points than low. It would also be nice if there was just a little more handholding to bring in new players, but overall Sudden Strike 4 is a welcome addition to the genre.