Sudden Strike 3: Arms for Victory
As far as gaming pedigrees go, Sudden Strike’s is a good one. With two games, and two expansion packs bearing the series name already, Sudden Strike has developed a reputation for being the most realistic of real-time strategy games, with a firm emphasis on the latter.
The key here is strategy, and by that, we don’t mean like Company Of Heroes. With up to 4,000 units in any one map, the battles in Sudden Strike are anything but small scale, and require the patience, concentration and organisational skills of an out-and-out General. Retaining the series’ bent towards realistic army-wide conflict, Sudden Strike forces you to rely on your abilities controlling your army to push through enemy territory, rather than simply swamping your enemy.
The biggest change for the third instalment is by far the jump to 3D. While to fans of the series, this may seem a heresy, we were surprised that the viewpoint actually works quite well, and the ability to zoom in and out freely, or even rotate the camera to get a better view of the territory helps quite a lot in the midst of a battle.
However, the switch to a 3D camera brings with it a lot of other benefits, not all of which are cosmetic. Adding another dimension (pun intended) to the territory, the new engine allows for all sorts of sweeping hills, rather than the sharp cliffs that the earlier games had to make do with, letting you gain a height advantage over your enemy a lot easier.
While a lot of the maps in the earlier games were city based, Sudden Strike 3’s battles seem to take place in huge fields, and wide-open expanses a lot more, as this allows you to control more troops. However, this is where we have a problem. Sudden Strike, for us, has always been about a mix of combat – from telling your troops to hole up in top-floor windows, to ordering snipers to kill a soldier on the other side of a field. In the third instalment, the close-quarters/long-range combat balance doesn’t seem to work quite as well, and too many maps are far too open, which often just leads to huge melees.
With 4,000 units at your disposal, you’d be right for hoping there had be an easy selection system in place, and thankfully, selecting units is a lot easier than we imagined they might be. By pressing Caps Lock, a little icon will appear above your soldiers’ heads, letting you know exactly what each unit is, enabling you to make groups and structure your army accordingly. It’s always interesting to watch a small, but well-organised army take out an enemy who is vastly superior in numbers, and this is a large part of the appeal of Sudden Strike.
Fantastically, the AI in this game is some of the best we’ve ever seen, and far ahead of other ‘realistic’ strategy games like Combat Mission. Here, your soldiers will automatically run for cover in the nearest trenches when left alone, while your tanks will keep their strongest armour facing the biggest threat. And once, we even saw our soldiers cowering behind the burnt-out wreckage of a tank.
Let down only by a lack of variety in the missions, this is one of the best games in the series so far. Other strategy games could really learn a lot from Sudden Strike.