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Sudden Strike

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: CDV
Media: CD/2
Players: 1 - 12
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

The engine in Sudden Strike is surprisingly nice. Even though it's a two-dimensional tile-based engine, it scales beautifully to higher resolutions. The environments are generally quite lush and busy, with buildings and trees and all the things that you'd expect to see in a game set during World War II. And the best part? You can blow it all up. Watching entire cities get decimated as you carpet bomb the enemy (or get carpet bombed yourself) is impressive, and it certainly lends something to the solidarity of the game.

The sound, on the other hand, is a rather mixed bag. All of the weapons fire is nice, but the voice acting is frighteningly spotty -- watch out for changing accents -- and the music, when it's there, is rather unimpressive. It's not necessarily annoying, but you certainly won't be impressed by the sounds in Sudden Strike.

And a warning -- beware the MTV-style intro movie.


Gameplay:

Sudden Strike tries to, er, strike a balance between recreating the way battles went in World War II and actual gameplay. The end result, unfortunately, is basically a standard real-time strategy game with lots and lots (and lots) of units. While mildly entertaining, it's nothing that hasn't been pretty much done before.

In Sudden Strike's campaign games, you'll find yourself picking one of three sides -- the Allies, the Germans, and the Russians. Each side has different units, of course, although there is certainly quite a bit of duplication of types. Prepare to be overwhelmed the first time you herd your troops; the number of different infantry alone is boggling. It's quite cool to be able to control that many different types of units, and adds to the 'historical quality' of the game.

Unfortunately, the gameplay itself is strictly real-time strategy fare. Yes, the maps are really big. Yes, the units are based on history. But in the end, the game is nothing more than most other RTS games wrapped up in a World War II shell. Why can I take tanks out with a small group of infantry? That's a real-time strategy convention, not something that happens in this world. Things like this start to pull you out of the experience, as you watch your battalions get decimated by troops that should have absolutely no chance against you.

The game isn't helped by a few niggling problems. At its default speed, the game plays very slowly, and even at its maximum speed, the game feels sluggish. This may be historically accurate, but it makes for some of the world's most boring unit rushes. And since you don't actually produce units in the game -- it's strictly strategic warfare, a la Ground Control -- you'll be doing a lot of rushes. For all of the unit complexity in the game, and all the micromanagement possible, some of the oldest strategies still seem to work the best.

The game also supports multiplayer. You can use raw TCP/IP, or play over Gamespy Arcade (which is included with the game). There are usually quite a few multiplayer games going on at one time, and jumping into one is usually quite fulfilling. Prepare to get your butt kicked the first few times, though -- those across the Pond have been practicing with this game for a while, and it shows.


Difficulty:

Part of the difficulty of Sudden Strike comes from the ambiguous mission goals that you're given. It's often not entirely clear just what you have to do in a given scenario, which makes for some frustrating experiences. Another issue arises with the unit pathfinding algorithm, which will drive you up the wall until you get used to the methods that it uses. In multiplayer, of course, the difficulty of the game entirely depends on the ability of your opponents.

Game Mechanics:

The controls in Sudden Strike are pretty much the same controls we've been using for ages in real time strategy games. Left-click to select, right-click to execute an order. It's nothing you won't pick up almost immediately. The game mechanics are solidly real-time strategy, often eschewing large amounts of realism to keep the core mechanics simple. While this is understandable, it's often difficult to swallow in a game like this that is set in a historical timeframe. I completely understand the need to not be perfectly historically accurate, but a somewhat more realistic portrayal of unit-to-unit combat would be nice.

It's not that Sudden Strike is a bad game -- it's not. There's plenty to do, and the bonus disc with added missions is quite nice. But the game fails to really do anything that we haven't seen somewhere before. The massive numbers of units that can be in a battle are nice, but the way that those battles are executed is strictly standard. If you're hankering for a new RTS with some World War II trappings, then Sudden Strike may be for you, but the plodding pace and often uninspired gameplay may turn off all but the hardcore.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



200MHz Pentium, 32MB RAM, Win9x/2K/Me, 6x CD-ROM, Mouse, Keyboard, SVGA Video
 

Test System:



Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Starfleet Command: Orion Pirates Windows Sudden Strike: Forever

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated