As a detailed RTS game, Sudden Strike 4 is not the most natural of fits for a console environment. Kite Games have done a reasonable job of keeping you in control, for sure, but the finer detailed commands are hard to issue easily or with any consistency. Battles start much like any other in the genre, with a small squad of grunts and vehicles given an objective to get to. As the missions play on, more objectives are added, though mostly only one at a time, thankfully.
Your troops listen to orders accordingly, moving through terrain and obstacles well (though they tend to get a bit lost when trying to circumvent each other, often coming to a standstill) and attacking enemies on sight if you so wish. Highlighting a target or enemy will get them to attack with whatever is best for the range or situation too, though you can be a bit more granular if you want them to attack a specific area. Beyond these basic commands things can get a bit tricky, especially under heavy assault or trying to manage multiple squads.
Pressing A on a group, for example, will allow you to move or set them attacking by selecting an area and pressing B. However, if you select a move from the Right Trigger’s radial menu, B will cancel this choice. I found myself having to look at the button prompts in the bottom right to be sure of what exactly I could do at any moment, meaning taking my eyes off the battle. Though, at least there is always an on-screen hint if you do get stuck and after a while it sort of sinks in. Still, too many times I wondered why my troops were sitting idly by an objective that was being lost due to me pressing the wrong button.
Right Trigger commands are unit-specific and can come in handy. The problem here is having different unit types selected seems to stop these from working reliably. From what I could tell, the prompts will still show, but it’s pot luck if they get registered. Selecting troops is done either via a single button press or grouping them up, allowing you to cycle through set groups easily. Again though, setting up these groups can be fiddly. Holding A enables you to move all troops within a given area, but accurately setting up groups with specific units is nigh on impossible with the tools on offer.
A keyboard and mouse user would have no issues here, no doubt, but it’s something to bear in mind. Getting into the game proper, it’s clear that it’s not only the controls that are out to get you. Even on easy, the AI is relentless, just a couple of missions in I was being dominated more readily than I’d like to admit. The aforementioned pathfinding doesn’t help here with your tanks doing a tango on the battlefield rather than fighting, but even when all is going your way, it’s easy for the tide of battle to go against you quickly.
I’ve not got the greatest military strategist mind, and to the games credit it gives you plenty of reinforcements for the most part and the clearly signposted objectives always giving you a clear point of focus. These tend to focus on the ‘get to point A, then B’ etc, but some curve-balls are thrown in there for good measure. An early example; having you defend a convoy moving from south to north and you having to move troops up and down the line to do so. Despite the difficulty, there was rarely a dull moment, every step into the fog of war providing a good amount of tension and hasty retreats.
Before starting the missions, you can also choose from 3 commanders, each with their own skill trees. These are upgraded via earning stars upon completion of each mission and add things like extra grenades or self-repair kits for tanks. These help to alleviate some of the more pressing challenges, if you can earn the stars in the first place, that is. The 3 main campaigns comprise of 7 missions a piece, and in this edition of the game a further 4 campaigns are added across 2 different scenarios. There’s a lot of gameplay here and mastering them all will be no mean feat.
Multiplayer also features, with multiple modes on offer which will extend the life of the game that much more. Visuals are unremarkable but functional, though it can be a bit difficult to keep up with where everyone is in the heat of battle. Rather oddly too, all dialogue is spoken not just in English, but with what sounded to me to be a heavy English accent, no matter what side you are on! It’s all kept brief however, and there are some unlockable footage clips detailing some of the real-life battles represented in the game.
Real-time strategy games have always struggled on console due to being restricted by the limited input method, such as the controller. Persevere here, however, and you’ll find a deep and engaging RTS with plenty of challenging content to keep you busy for hours on end. Sudden Strike 4 is far from perfect, but it is indeed competent enough to justify a recommendation.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.