STAFF REVIEW of Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition (Xbox One)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018.
by Brent Roberts

Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition Box art Tactics, strategy and thinking about the future engagements, these are the main qualities you need to play a proper RTS. These types of games are a visual chess game combined with resource monitoring, and for quite a while, there hasn't been too many that have been good, until now.

Developed by Kite Games, and coming in just over half off retail price ($39.99), Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition takes aim at delivering an incredibly in-depth RTS military experience that is based off real historical World War II encounters. I have to admit right off the bat that I'm very particular when it comes to RTS games, because developing a game that is more about tactics than just mindless shooting is incredibly challenging.

Sudden Strike 4 begins by almost overwhelming you with so much content at your fingertips. Don't worry too much about configuring the settings because the menu system is fairly sparse compared to the in-game ones. Placing a big importance on the "value per dollar of entertainment provided", it's clear that Kite Games starts off with a massive boom. Broken into not just the regular campaign missions, but also the expansion packs and the multiplayer options are truly remarkable. $39.99 does buy you an incredible amount of content, but you know what they say, "quality over quantity". I mean, what good is the amount of content if you don't want to play any of it?

The main campaign is broken up into numerous real life campaigns that occurred in World War II, from the Germans, Russians, to even the Allies. The map you will explore has the various missions, spanning from Russia all the way to France, and everything in between. While it may be tempting to just jump right in and start destroying the countryside, I cannot stress enough how important it is to go through the tutorial.

Sudden Strike 4 has some issues that plague its own game mechanics and that should automatically start to send up some red flags. For starters, you can press 'A' on a unit you wish to control, or you can hold 'A' down and use your Right Stick to control a circle radius that will expand and contract down to pre-determined sizes. Sounds nice right? Especially if there are large numbers of different units you wish to control at once. There are a few problems here though.

For starters, the circle expands in almost a blink of an eye, so trying to fine tune what you do, and do not want to select, is literally one of the most annoying things possible in any game I've ever played. I'm having to select individual units and place them in other spots on the map ust so I can try grouping them together without selecting 10 other troops. While we are on the topic of troops, you will learn (as you progress through the campaign) the various benefits and drawbacks of each different unit. Infantry have the ability to arm anti-tank and aircraft weaponry, take and hold various checkpoints by being placed within buildings and sneak up on enemies by going through woods and grassy fields. The downside? They are like tissue paper to any tank round, so unless you somehow manage to withstand a 120mm tank shell being fired from less than 20 yards away, you're going to be heading the clouds.

Your tanks, or heavy armored divisions, are powerful machines of war that can level buildings and become a front-line weapon of mass destruction. These weapons have an incredibly long range when the hatch is open (but you risk losing your tank commander if he's shot) and can decimate almost anything in their path. The downside to them? If your enemy gets behind them and shoots, they won't stand for very long, worse yet, if you are dealt critical damage you'll be prevented them from moving at all. To get these behemoths to move again, you'll need to use a repair vehicle to get the tank back on track (see what I did there?). Should your repair vehicle get destroyed however, you're on your own now. While you're working on getting your ground game secured, you'll also have to think about your air game as well.

Regrettably, your air support isn't as big of an option as the ground game and you are limited to military air bases that will be located off screen. This is a tremendous disappointment because of the versatility and importance that the planes provided in World War II. Yes, I realize that you can literally do bombing runs and eliminate anything on the ground, but then again, the enemy will have flak guns that will ground you permanently unless you destroy them on the land. Each one of these units becomes dependent on one another and here is where another fault resides.

Each unit has multiple actions which can be selected by pressing the Right Trigger to bring up the ability wheel. Here you can order specific commands that are tailored to the individual unit. The problem here though is that if you select a large group of varied units, like I stated earlier, then you will lose the ability to utilize the unit's particular ability until you individually select a unit.

While I understand it would be hard for a computer to remember the pre-loaded abilities of the varying units and have them all for you at your fingertips, I understand that it's possible for that to actually happen, therefore I see no need for this problem, but yet it exists. It's not Sudden Strike 4's fault though. The issue with creating a good, strategic RTS game is that it's difficult to implement the control scheme which is naturally beneficial towards keyboard and mouse users. Trying to find ways to integrate varying menus and commands with far limited numbers of input is, I believe, one of single greatest challenges with creating a game like this on a console. Very few have constructed something of quality, and sadly Sudden Strike 4 isn't one of them.

This is thanks to the mechanics of the troops themselves. Let me give you an example. I was trying to take over an enemy supply outpost as the German army, but there seemed to be a lot of houses in the center. I had my entire army selected and was rolling across the field in a certain formation. I got to the outskirts of the town and sent in my troops very slowly, only exposing a little bit at a time. The tanks hit the walls of the city and bust right through with the stealth of a subway train derailment at top speed.

Now, to place your units in a formation, you have to hold down the 'B' button (which is the button you use to confirm actions, not the 'A' button like is found almost everywhere else, but I digress) and press the Right Stick in any direction to direct your troops to line up in formation and face the designated direction.

It was very hard to know when you have to get behind tanks to go after weak points or flank anti-tank weaponry. The problem, however, is if you press and hold down the 'B' button within a confined space like a town or any inhabited areas, your vehicles can suffer brain damage and start running into each other, and even trying to form simple formations can seem like a herculean task of which no solution is present. Along with the 2 IQ point AI, comes the issue with the actual tutorial.

Going through the tutorial will not prepare you for everything you are about to face, and thankfully to compensate for this the game itself will occasionally pop up helpful displays that will show you information that will help you on your way, but only partially, because the rest you will have to figure out on your own. The lack of hand holding is fine, but get ready to repeat missions over and over again. But that's not really a bad thing when you look this good.

Sudden Strike 4 looks good, and I mean really, really good for an RTS game. The varying mission layouts are stunning compared to other games in the genre. While the infantry personnel are beyond generic (almost to the point where they are cartoons), the vehicles are remarkably detailed, the lighting effects are brilliantly done and the effects themselves are stunning. No matter the mission, it's going to look incredible.

However, the same can't be said for the voice over talent. To say it's an overacting festival is an understatement, but sadly it's outshined by, in my opinion, a tremendous soundtrack and very nice audio effects (explosions, gunfire, planes, etc.). This part of the audio makes going through all the different campaigns to experience the story from every standpoint, a somewhat enjoyable experience.

On top of all of the numerous campaigns, Sudden Strike 4 also delivers bonus content such as the Dunkirk missions, and it even provides historical videos that you can watch. While Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition does suffer from some some drawbacks, the overall foundation is very strong and is wrapped up in a gorgeous visual wrapper. For $39.99, if you enjoy RTS genre games, then Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition has to be on your radar as a game you have to take a look at.

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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