Guest Author James Brod reviews the Xbox One version of Sudden Strike: European Battlefields
Real-time strategy/Real-time tactics games have been a staple of PC gaming for years now and are one of the few genres which never successfully made the leap from PC to console. While there have been ports of popular real-time strategy games in the past, most have not been great, with a few exceptions. However, in recent years games like Halo Wars and its sequel have raised the bar on the quality expected of a console real-time strategy, although with slightly simplified controls to compensate for the smaller number of available buttons on a controller. With the release of Sudden Strike 4 on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, consoles are finally getting a fully realized real-time tactics game with all the complexities of a made-for-PC real-time tactics, while still allowing for comfortable play on a controller.
Sudden Strike 4 is this the latest release in the popular Sudden Strike series of World War II-themed real-time tactic games, with the European Battlegrounds Edition being the title of the Xbox One release of the game. It is the first game in the series developed by Kite Games, rather than series creators Fireglow. Fans of the older titles don’t need to worry about the change of hands though, because Kite Games has been faithful to the originals while also increasing the depth of the game with selectable generals and skill trees. For those of you who are new to the Sudden Strike series, or real-time tactics games in general, especially on console, this game is easy to learn, while tough to master. However, because of the limited number of buttons on your standard controller, it will be harder to master on console than on PC, if just a bit.
As for the gameplay of Sudden Strike 4, it plays similarly to your standard real-time strategy game, in that you control a large number of units of varying types, with the objective depending on the mission. It achieves this quite well on console, as controlling large numbers of units is very easy once you get the hang of it. The console controls are not perfect, however. They falter, for instance, when you try to organize your units into smaller groups. In order to select more than one unit, you have to hold down the A button and move the left stick up or down to increase and decrease the size of a circle, which auto-selects all units in that circle. By clicking in the right stick while you have all these units selected, you create a new group, which is separate from the rest of your units, and can be selected via the D-pad. Once you have consolidated your units into their own groups it becomes incredibly easy to switch from group to group, and move them as you see fit. However, if you select a unit from a group in order to move it to a place that’s more to your liking, it will be removed from the group and have to be manually added again, which can become frustrating.
Where Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields strays from the real-time strategy formula you may be familiar with is how you acquire units: instead of building bases with which to create units, you are given different amounts and types of units at the start of a mission. Additional reinforcements being provided as the mission progresses. These include infantry and ground vehicles like tanks and half-tracks. Aircraft are also available, although they are more like a consumable resource than a unit, as when you target an area for bombing the bomber will make a single bombing run and then fly off the map. You are also given several selectable doctrines, represented as different era-authentic generals, depending on the campaign and side you are playing, at the beginning of each mission. Each one confers different bonuses and abilities and is better suited for different playstyles and missions. While each campaign always gives you the option of selecting a general that represents either the Infantry, Support, or Armored Doctrine. the passive abilities granted by doctrines may change between campaigns. You can also unlock more abilities for your doctrines by earning stars from missions, which can then be spent on new abilities. The more powerful the ability, the more stars it will cost. Your choice of doctrine also affects which units you spawn with, and what reinforcements you are given.
The base game contains a tutorial level, separate from the rest of the game, and three campaigns, one for each of the three factions: the Soviets, Allies, and Germans. Each of these campaigns consists of seven levels each, with each level based on a historical World War II battle–like Operation Barbarossa, Operation Overlord, and the Battle of Stalingrad–to name a few. While the levels are named after historical battles, the fact that you can play levels through with different generals and units means there isn’t a great deal of historical accuracy, but it also allows for great replay value. As for the story, each level is self-contained–the end of one level doesn’t lead directly into the next. .
Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition is the most complete Sudden Strike 4 you can get, including all of the downloadable content, and even console exclusive multiplayer maps. You gain access to the Dunkirk and Finnish-Winter Storm expansions, which introduce new a new faction–the Finnish–as well as new generals and new units. Each expansion is split into two campaigns, with the Dunkirk expansion being split into German and Allied campaigns, and the Finnish-Winter Storm expansion being split into Soviet and Finnish-German campaigns.
If you get tired of battling against AI opponents, you can always dive into Sudden Strike 4‘s multiplayer. The mechanics of the multiplayer differ slightly from the single player in a couple of ways: when selecting a doctrine, you automatically have all abilities unlocked without needing to use stars to purchase them, and that during the length of match, you can purchase reinforcements from harbors and train stations by using points earned during the battle called Prestige points.
Overall, the Xbox One release of Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition is a solid real-time tactics game, and its release on Xbox One shows that, with enough optimization, full-fledged real-time tactic games are viable on consoles. The variety of units, along with the number of different available generals, allow for many different playstyles, and tons of replay value. This, along with the large number of missions included in the base game, and the additional levels provided with the included DLCs, means that you won’t be wanting for content with Solid Strike 4. While the controls can be a bit finicky at times, with a little practice you can overcome these small problems. Sudden Strike 4 is worth your while.
Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam.