Through the wonders of the silver screen and specifically works like Saving Private Ryan and more recently, Dunkirk, World War II as a theatre of war to the popcorn munching onlooker has always seemed epic, expansive and all-encompassing. Pretty much the opposite of this, Sudden Strike 4, a WWII themed RTS effort which originally began life on PC back in the year 2000, has now made the leap to PS4 and instead depicts the conflict as a series of largely drily presented, isolated scenarios which take place across a number of relatively diminutive maps.
An easy to grasp but limited RTS
Spread across a trio of very different campaigns which take in the Allied Powers, the Russians and finally the Germans, Sudden Strike 4 lets the player relive a number of key engagements from World War II, spanning such scenarios as the Battle of the Bulge and the Normandy beach landings to name just two.
Sadly the flair-free presentation, with its dull text walls and uninspiring voice overs robs Sudden Strike 4 of the gravitas needed for it to properly underscore the significance of the historical context against which its campaign battles unfold. As such, the campaign missions in Sudden Strike 4 can feel drily isolated, rather than part of a larger, grander undertaking as was the case all those years ago.
Unlike Command & Conquer and other RTS titles of a similar ilk, Sudden Strike 4 doesn’t allow its armchair generals to wallow in the business of base building and dealing with the sometimes tedious micromanagement of harvesting and distributing resources. Instead, each and every mission provides you with the units you need (with occasional reinforcements given out whenever key objectives have been completed), and then you’re forced to deal with the cards that you’ve been dealt.
As such, there are no real surprises here in so far as how the various units do in battle against one another. Infantry obviously fares well against fellow infantry, while heavier vehicles such as tanks and artillery fare better against entrenched structures such as trenches and bunkers, while shell and rocket-based attacks against armoured vehicles are better served when carried out against either the side or the rear where the armour plating is thinnest. It’s pretty much military rock, paper, and scissors in this regard.
Once you’ve chosen the campaign that you wish to embark on, Sudden Strike 4 lets you to pick one from three different generals to lead your forces, each of which provides their own unique buff to your units depending on their specialized talents; one might give an armour bonus to tanks, another to rifleman range and so on. Another nice little touch is that each mission has up to a three star rating depending on how well you do, which while not massively significant in itself, is tied into the trophy system of Sudden Strike 4 and thusly provides ample incentive to replay should you decide to go hunting for those particular shiny things.
A common concern whenever typically PC titles end up getting ported to console, is how the UI is altered to fit the impatient and sweaty palms of pad-toting gamers who don’t have access to a standard keyboard and mouse solution. Thankfully, in the case of Sudden Strike 4 the developer has done a respectable job in squeezing the many commands and functions into a number of radial style menus which are easily accessible by a quick press of a shoulder button.
Likewise, the UI itself is pleasantly uncluttered too; with a resizable mini-map lurking at the corner of the screen just below a non-intrusive objective list sits at the top and then finally, a neat row of selected unit types run along the bottom of the display. Where things do come unstuck a bit, is when you attempt to move large clumps of vehicles and personnel around the place. Because the developers don’t (quite rightly) allow players to mimic a drag and click motion, you are instead required to hold down a button to create a highlighting circle and then use one of the analogue sticks to increase or decrease the size of the circle depending on how many units you want to select.
While this method of selecting multiple units tends to work fine for the most part there are some occasions where, well, it just goes a bit crazy. Just say for example, you want to group up five tanks and send them forward on a patrol, it will work the first time you group them up, but the next time you try and do it, it might only attach one of the tanks, leaving the other four behind. Throughout my time with the game, this sort of thing has happened frequently and often, and while it has never adversely affected the outcome of any given encounter, it still remains immensely frustrating all the same. As such, hopefully this is something which can be resolved by a future patch.
Beyond the trappings of Sudden Strike 4’s single-player campaign, players can also engage in freeform challenge based skirmishes against the AI, or, take part in some multiplayer battles. In fairness, while both modes undeniably add a dollop of longevity to the package as a whole neither feels especially innovative, nor essential, seeming more like a token set of modes rather than something more substantial.
With its snappy missions, easy to understand tactical gameplay and additional challenges, there is without a doubt a workmanlike charm to Sudden Strike 4, and in particular less tactically savvy players will find much to get their teeth into.
Peer beyond that however and Sudden Strike 4’s shortcomings manifest themselves brazenly as an uninspiringly presented campaign, relatively basic tactical gameplay and a handful of technical issues all conspire to make Sudden Strike 4 feel pleasantly acceptable, rather than anything greater than that.