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by Strategy First

Sudden Strike is the kind of game that sounds like a great idea, and it almost fulfills that promise. The premise behind Sudden Strike runs like this: take a pretty standard real-time strategy game sans resource management and set it in World War II.  Though this has been done before at the tactical level in the Close Combat series, Sudden Strike ambitiously attempts to model larger operational-level battles. If the designers had done this with the same degree of realism and attention to detail found in the CC series, it would have had a hit on its hands. Unfortunately, Sudden Strike isn't very realistic at all. It plays a lot like Red Alert with Panthers and T-34s, right down to the killer "tank rush" strategy.  That's not to say this isn't fun; for a while, at least, it's a hoot to play. But ultimately, the game's lack of depth undoes it.

Sudden Strike allows you to play World War II in three campaigns--Allied, Russian, and German. Altogether, there are more than 50 different scenarios, and most of the game's maps are huge. Mission objectives tend to be multifaceted and interesting, though they are not always clearly explained in mission briefings. In most missions, you'll begin with a fairly large force that is reinforced throughout the mission. And here's where the game's realism factor starts to go south.   Since you never know precisely how many troops you'll ultimately have under your command, it's difficult to make the kind of strategic decisions a realistic game demands. You never know if the tank platoon (and I use that term advisedly; there's no real unit organization in the game, other than your standard CTRL+number grouping) you're sending in against those panzers is the last of your reserves, or if a huge tank column is going to suddenly appear on the east edge of the map.

Since Sudden Strike doesn't have any resource management to add depth, you'd expect that the combat system would be fairly realistic and deep. Alas, combat is especially problematic. Though the game lovingly models all manner of WWII vehicles, I'm not sure there's a lot of   difference between them so far as gameplay goes. While the game offers all sorts of gameplay options--you can set waypoints, group units, and queue units--the game moves at such a rapid pace that I rarely got around to trying much tactical sleight-of-hand, and I actually found that the most effective strategy in almost any situation was to   box-select a bunch of units and send them in en masse.

And even then, you've got to hope they find their way to the target. In Sudden Strike, pathfinding can be a nightmare. Though maps are  huge, they're covered with terrain and bottlenecks. This would seem to offer all kinds of tactical possibilities, but the game's simplistic combat system bungles that. Instead, the game's beautifully-rendered terrain just offers units the opportunity to get hung up on them.  Negotiating bottlenecks like bridges or narrow streets in huge battles is terribly frustrating.

Probably the best thing about the game is its graphics, which are stellar. You'll immediately be able to tell the difference between Panthers and Tigers, and the terrain, especially the buildings, is very well done. But there are some problems here as well. Elevation is difficult to judge, and while tanks look very distinctive, infantry is hard to tell apart and easily lost in woods.

The game's multiplayer is underdeveloped as well, consistint of a blimp-capturing game that doesn't exactly thrill. Given the relatively simple but fast-and-furious combat, this could have been a great multiplayer game, as it is, it falls short.

I've been hard on Sudden Strike in this review, but that's mostly because I had such high expectations for it. I expected a realistic operational-level RTS wargame set in World War II. I got an RTS set in World War II. If you can live with that, Sudden Strike's a decent, fast-moving game that looks really good. But if you're expecting Close Combat with hundreds of units, you'll be disappointed. 

Rick Fehrenbacher


Ups: Nice graphics. Fast and furious RTS play set in WWII.

Downs: Very unrealistic, terrible pathing, limited multiplayer

System Reqs: P200, 32 MB RAM


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