Sudden Strike 4 ReviewPunishing, tactical, methodical — welcome to war
It’s been a fair while since we’ve had a solid World War II-based real time strategy title, and Kite Games are aiming to scratch that itch with the newest installment in the acclaimed Sudden Strike series.
War and Order
Focusing on the European theatre Sudden Strike 4 offers a triad of campaigns to tackle, following the war efforts of Germany, Russia, and the Allies in turn. Each mission appears based upon or at least inspired by real events in the war, including major turning points such as the siege of Leningrad or the Battle of the Bulge.
Unlike a lot of RTS titles I’ve played, however, Sudden Strike 4 felt like a completely different beast — pace is more methodical, with strategy being more valuable, and nigh essential later on. Where other games let you churn out an endless supply of cannon fodder to throw at enemy forces, Strike forces you to complete each misson with precisely what you’re given. No base building, and reinforcements are sparse.
Indeed, the game aims to be quite a devious challenge to take on. I’m all too used to going down the “throw all the tanks at the problem” route, which is punished harshly in the more realistic world of Sudden Strike. You’ll need to analyse situations and problems and plan accordingly, such as using your heavy vehicles to draw enemy fire while you manuever your infantry into flanking positions in order to wipe out their anti-armor before your tanks become scrap.
Enemies are pretty smart, and will fire flares off to signal reinforcements or adapt their assault strategy if things aren’t going their way. The odds are usually stacked against you, too; oftentimes you’ll need multiple attempts on a mission to learn where pockets of enemy resistance are and how to best assault or defend objectives without being mercilessly crushed.
That’s no mild statement, by the way: even on normal difficulty the game ramps up fairly quickly, pushing you to think on your feet to handle problems that you probably aren’t prepared for. The video above shows us flailing on just the second mission, where you need to figure out for yourself that in order to take down a heavy tank you’ll need the mortar team tucked away in one of your transport trucks, a squadron you’re not clearly notified about. Multiple times during each campaign you’ll need micromanagement skills to check exactly what’s available to you in order to pass blockades or stop overwhelming assaults on your position.
While the difficulty may be off-putting for more casual RTS players, those who like to command every direction of battle and direct units precisely will enjoy the small touches available in Sudden Strike 4. Infantry can drop to the ground to help avoid incoming flak, tank crews can pop their hatches for a better view of their surroundings (but at risk of being shot at), and armored vehicles have separate plating on each side which can be played with or abused. Mechanics not common in other games too crop up in Strike, such as needing to refuel your vehicles or resupply to keep troops ready to fire.
A common scenario is fortified defenses wrecking your approaching troops — Strike lets you approach this situation in plenty of different ways, appealing to differing playstyles. One course of action would be to send a single tank up as a sacrificial lamb; even once destroyed, its steel plating serves as a solid defense for infantry to flank up and toss grenades over.
Further acounting for differences in playstyle, Strike lets you pick from three different commander bonuses before each mission, each one bolstering infantry, tanks and armor, or artillery and support units respectively. Stars earned during campaigns can be spent upgrading your favored commander, unlocking additional perks such as equipping anti-armor rounds, increased sight range or better defenses.
Beyond the campaign there are a number of skirmish maps to play and practice on, before diving into multiplayer. While we didn’t get to play much multiplayer, it essentially boils down to a capture-them-all mode with the objective being to capture and hold all field headquarters to claim victory. There are two teams, and up to four players can be on each, allowing a range of multiplayer games from 1v1 to 4v4 match-ups.
While there’s still no base building in multiplayer skirmishes, resupplying becomes possible by way of capturing railway stations and harbors, which call in reinforcements. Being smart about capturing these is essential to win these matches, as every troop lost is a permanent setback which becomes progressively tougher to win with.
If you’re looking for a solid, more methodical real-time tactical warfare game where every choice matters, Sudden Strike 4 is definitely worth a look.