Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields is a near-perfect example of why RTS and Strategy games have a home on consoles. Though RTS juggernaut Blizzard Ent. has released genre titans StarCraft and Warcraft on console in years past to mixed reviews, they were not able to do so with the level of success that the good folks at Kalypso have managed. Though it is not a perfect title, Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields is a wonderful realtime strategy game that succeeds where others have failed, and that is largely in the use if a controller rather a keyboard and mouse, not to mention Sudden Strike 4 is an excellent World War II RTS game in its own right.
The Sudden Strike franchise has been around for nearly 20 years and, miraculously, has been able to stand toe-to-toe to more widely known cross-genre World War II series such as Call of Duty, the original Battlefield titles, Hearts of Iron, IL-2 Sturmovik, Company of Heroes and Commandos. Being included in that group of world-renowned titles is no easy feat, yet Sudden Strike rightfully owns a spot amongst them and outside of the natural excellence of a first person shooter on console, few of them have been willing to cross the border to Xbox or PlayStation. With Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields, Kalypso has helped bring it to consoles and has done a damned fine job of doing so.
Though RTS titles sit most comfortably on a computer where the ability to micro and macro manage is far easier, Sudden Strike 4, like the Halo Wars franchise seems to sit right at home on the console. Yet with clever control schemes, selecting your units is easy and intuitive so navigating the 20+ campaign missions (based on real-life battles) spread throughout the Axis, Allies, and Soviet Union parties during that gruesome time period.
Where I believe some of the success of Sudden Strike 4 on console can be attributed is in its lack of basebuilding, where precise and fast placement is key; instead Sudden Strike works more like the more recent Dawn of War titles, where the game focuses more on battles with periodic (and often crucial) reinforcement drops. In fact, Sudden Strike 4 feels more like a point-and-click action game rather than a traditional RTS title and I believe that is a large part of why it feels just so *right* on console. That “arcadey” feels a bit more visceral than the relatively detached atmosphere most RTS titles have, though in retro that may be related to the fact you need to maintain protection of your supply vehicles and support personnel.
Given the lack of basebuilding and the crucial task of protecting your lifeline, moving in a slow and tactical fashion is a necessity as mistakes can be brutal and often mission-ending. Rushing in infantry is a great way to watch your foot soldiers get turned into pink mist by a well-placed enemy artillery strike; on the flip-side rolling your armor in like it’s nobody’s business is a sure way to see the vehicles crippled and waiting for destruction. Tactics and careful planning, especially given the lack of regular reinforcement and resupply, can bring about some extremely tense situations … And that is nigh-perfect.
World War II was not a simple warmachine, birthing countless G.I.s and impenetrable Shermans or Panzers; it was a tragic, bloody, and horrific time in human history and the struggles of the men and women in combat do really come through in some of these missions. The focus on tactics and less on pumping out waves of units can contribute to a difficult learning curve, especially given the unfamiliar controls, but careful planning and moving slowly can see your ragtag platoons and battalions win the day.
As Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields provides gamers with the core game as well as the Road to Dunkirk and Finland – Winter Storm campaigns, fans of the tactical RTS genre will have plenty to keep them busy and when the campaigns have been beaten, there are plenty of maps (13) to play in the single-player Skirmish mode or various multiplayer modes to enjoy (not my personal cup of tea, but they are enjoyable to those in the mind for classic skirmish or Domination modes). The excellent focus on tactics and intelligent aggression combined with stunningly rebuilt late-1930’s to mid-1940’s battlefields, Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields should be lauded for its successful adaptation of the RTS genre on console.
Now if only others would follow suit …