by Johnathan Irwin
previewed on PC
The Last Great War
World War II, for all its horror, was a great time of progress for humanity. As Allied and Axis powers fought for control of Europe, North Africa and Eastern Asia, economic and technological booms paved the way for much of what we know today. While nearly all nations involved in that conflict have grown from the turmoil, we cannot forget that that progress came with a hefty price. On the battlefields, in war-torn cities where life tried to carry on, in the inhuman camps built in secret. By the end of that conflict millions of lives were lost. We read about it in history books, see snippets in documentaries, see versions of this war brought to life by Hollywood and the gaming industry. But, we all know that there will never be a depiction that brings to life the pain and brotherhood humanity simultaneously inflicted on itself at that time.
While Sudden Strike 4 cannot capture those emotions, what it does do it does well. In perhaps one of the most authentic WWII real time strategy experiences I've had, players will participate in great battles and operations of the war with a sense of urgency and caution as every move can spell victory or defeat. From the rolling fields in France, to decimated urban sprawls, you serve as a commander to a force of your choice and it's your responsibility to lead them to victory. For my time previewing Sudden Strike 4, I decided to stick to my guns and jump right into the Allied Campaign, with the other two being the German and Soviet Campaigns. It was time to roll into Europe and push the Axis powers back.
Operation Overlord: A Taste of Things to Come
D-Day. One of the single most bloody days in history. A fitting beginning for the Allied campaign, the mission began first with a botched parachute infiltration deep behind enemy lines. Commanding a single officer, I had to guide him around the scattered landing zone to find the rest of his unit he jumped in with. It was tense, I didn't know if I should expect enemy patrols right away or not. Thankfully, with little trouble, I found the rest of the unit and we were rallied and ready to proceed to our first objective.
Success of the D-Day invasion on all fronts had a heavy reliance on a massive frontal assault, while cutting off supplies to the German beach defenses from behind. Leading this unit of paratroopers, our first target was a pair of bridges that served as main supply lines to the front. Moving under cover of tall grass and brush, we slowly crept upon the northern bridge. We'd encountered our first patrol, spotting them before they spotted us. It was a very quick firefight: the element of surprise made all the difference. Positioning most of the unit to provide cover fire, I sent one lone soldier out onto the bridge to set the explosives. Not a moment too soon either, as a tank rolled up on the other side. With a fiery explosion, the reinforcements were denied. Rinse and repeat for the second bridge, and I'd managed to slow down the enemy forces.
With the supply lines cut off, I then regrouped with two more units of paratroopers and prepared to take a town in the center of the map. Heavily occupied with German infantry, and reinforced with mounted gun nests, it could've turned into a bloodbath for the Allies if not handled very carefully. Noticing that the north edge of the town was essentially a blind spot, I guided them through open fields and then had all my men take up position in the houses along the northern street. Emerging from the windows, a hellatious gunfight played out as the Allies and the Axis unleashed a hail of firepower upon each other. Leaving two units in their buildings, I guided the third out for a flanking manoeuvre to clear the plaza. All in all, we only suffered a few injuries that were soon managed by our medics while the Germans suffered a total loss. The town was ours.
There was one more crucial step to deal with before the Allies made landfall on the beaches. We had to find, and eliminate, the threat of the artillery primed and ready to pound the shoreline. There were four possible areas there it could be, but what was really neat is that the game encouraged you to listen to the sounds of the shelling rather than just running for the four spots on the minimap. Coming from the south-east of the town, I first went for the closest circle. A miss, but I realised that it had to be the location one just south from there. Bingo! We found the enemy position, catching them unawares and dealt with them quickly.
Only the beginning
The operation was just beginning: now it was time to lead the forces making fall on the beaches. What was already a fun mission only increased in both fun and difficulty from there, but I feel like I'd be doing an injustice to this rather epic mission by going through it detail by bloody detail when it would be best experienced when Sudden Strike 4 drops in August. I'm hooked, and I'm happy that after so long there's a WWII RTS I can finally sink my teeth into.