Honestly, it’s more of a gradual shove.
World War II is a common era for Video Games. It was, after all, a horrific war, which makes for a great setting in fiction. Stories from this era are typically told in the fashion of an FPS. However, Sudden Strike 4 tells the tale of WW2 as an RTS.
As someone who enjoys RTS games (And by enjoys RTS I mean I’ve put more hours into Starcraft and Age of Empires than any one man should), I was looking forward to playing this on a console. To me, that meant I would get a unique experience using a controller, rather than my typical mouse and keyboard. However, the awful truth is this; RTS with a controller is simply clunky. While this team clearly tried their best, not being able to click around the map or even pinpoint small groups of soldiers is frustrating. This is especially evident when you realize there is no slider available to speed up how fast the cursor goes across the map.
Controlling your forces
Unlike other modern RTS games, Sudden Strike 4 discards the usual base building and resource managing mechanics in lieu of utilizing personal abilities and treating your army with care. This comes in the form of terrain bonuses and cover bonuses, as well as limited ammunition for units. However, the game doesn’t actually do this particularly well. Upon entering my first mission in the game, I realized that without the base building mechanics, that meant that the game would never toss me any challenges I couldn’t complete with the units at hand (because that would be terrible game design). This ultimately led to what is my single biggest complaint; for the vast majority of Sudden Strike 4, there wasn’t a single mission that I couldn’t beat by simply gathering my army in place, and then sweeping them across the objectives systematically. I hardly even touched the personal abilities of my units, because it was unnecessary.
There was one mission in particular where my typical approach of grabbing all my units and moving them forward didn’t work. The map had a heavily urban structure with small streets, and I ended up losing one of my tanks in the middle of said street. My tank now acting as a barrier, I ended up splitting my team into separate groups to flank the enemy while repairing my downed tank. In this moment, despite clunky console controls, I was reminded why I loved RTS games.
War is hell…hell that could use a cup of coffee.
The game itself also runs a bit slower of a pace. I found myself actually putting the controller down as I waited for a supply drop or units to get to where I need them to be. Even during firefights, I did the same after I tossed down a smoke grenade or two, and just let the battle play out for a couple of minutes. Annoyingly enough, sometimes this combat is broken up by the constant tutorials reminding the player that units can do things, even late into the campaigns.
The story mode covers three different campaigns: German, Soviet, and Allied forces. Each campaign has seven missions to it, focusing on historically-accurate battles that took place during World War II. Before each mission, you get to choose a general to go into battle with. Each general offers different perks such as extra armor on your tanks, or extra smoke grenades. Each general also gets an extending skill tree that you can upgrade through, though it’s nothing terribly deep. An extra grenade here, more defense here, etc.
The voice acting in Sudden Strike 4 is actually quite good, with units shouting in their native tongue. The ending of each mission is followed by a journal entry of a soldier, and from my limited knowledge of German and Russian, the accent sounds authentic. The journal entries are really interesting as well, and give insight into the minds of generals and soldiers during various key battles of the war.
There is an online multiplayer mode, and it’s…something. Sudden Strike 4 doesn’t actually give you a tutorial for how this mode works, and admittedly, because I played this game before it’s actual release, it just paired me against a bunch of computers, so there are some nuances I haven’t quite figured out. It creates a 4v4 scenario, with field posts that you must capture from the enemy to win. Whoever takes them all over or destroys the enemy wins. Like the story mode, they give you your army in the beginning. You can drop paratroopers, but besides that there are no reinforcements, so once your army is dead it’s pretty much dead. Again, like the story mode, there wasn’t a problem I could’ve solve by just marching my army towards one the field post and keeping it there.
Ultimately, Sudden Strike 4 has some really cool moments and mechanics to it that are bogged down by a system that tries too hard to be easily accessible, and ultimately runs a little too slow. However, in the sea of games based during World War II, it is a welcome change from the usual shooter.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Playstation 4 (reviewed), PC ; Publisher: Kalypso Media ; Developer: Kite Games ; Players: 1-2 ; Released: August 11, 2017 ; ESRB: T ; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Sudden Strike 4 given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher.