Publisher:- CDV Software Entertainment (Germany)
Developer:- Fireglow (Russia)
Genre:- Real Time Tactics (as opposed to Real Time Strategy, which includes resource gathering and building units and maintenance of the units/buildings thereof) RTT requires the player to command a set number of troops which may not be replenished if wasted on the battlefield.
Release date:- January 2001
Windows Compatibility:- Win XP, Win ME, Win 2000, Win 98, Win 95
Minimum Specs:- Pentium II, 64MB RAM, high video RAM is not needed, 600+ MB Hard Disk Space
Recommended:- Pentium III, 128MB RAM (battles can get pretty rough sometimes), no need extra VRAM, 800+MB Hard Disk Space for ‘Sudden Strike Forever’ Addon.
Current Availabilty:- Fireglow is due to release Sudden Strike 3. There is a boxed set which includes SS1, SS Forever, SS2 and SS Resource War in the market quite some time now, but I reckon it may last till end of next year at least.
Sudden Strike is an RTT genre. For those familiar with the RTS games like ‘Starcraft’, ‘C&C ‘ and its spin-offs ‘Red Alert’ and ‘Total Annihilation’. Sudden Strike is surely a sudden demotion to a new meaning of boredom and sedated gameplay.
Sudden Strike requires the commander; the player to achieve certain goals with only a fixed amount of troops (soldiers) available and while reinforcements are aplenty once some or part of the objectives are met, at times not much of your army can be reinforced to full strength. Hence the frustration factor. But Sudden Strike is a bold move to cater towards the serious strategist and not just a bare statement to challenge the likes of armchair strategists who have mastered whupping others in ‘Starcraft’.
While the thrill of building up a sizable combat strike force or a punitive one is indeed appealing in the RTS, Sudden Strike pays somewhat close attention to authentic World War 2 war machines and its artillery pieces and modelled real-time physics and line of sight to wage combat. There is no base of yours to strictly speak of; all commands of yours truly is directly at the battlefield and of the overseeing of the successful completion of the mission at hand.
Sudden Strike and its succesor add-on SS:Forever is set in the romantic setting of World War 2. Many gamers are bored to death with this common setting but to me, the great war has its technical advancements and the raw spirit to resist tyranny and beligerence which inspired the human race till today. Hence, I devour all WW2 memorabilia with utter relish.
It came recommended from a fellow gamer comrade who claimed it ‘different’. By ‘different’, he meant ‘unique’ and that is enough for me. Late 2000, I was getting more absorbed in the role the Soviet Union played in the WW2, its technological superiority which inspired the most awesome military equipment and the post-war effects which have shaped Eastern Europe. The film ‘Enemy at the Gates’ concerning sniper duels also added my interest in this subject matter and the Soviet Red Army’s brutal treatment of its conscripts and the battlefield human wave doctrines. More importantly, it was the Soviet will to resist the ‘Operation Barbarossa’ initiated by the Nazi German war machine which stands as testament to human endurance to adversity.
So when Sudden Strike presents the opportunity to play as the Red Army hands on and become commander of its troops, I won’t let that slip by me. For, most other RTS genre, while alluding to the Red Army (most famously, the Red Alert series by Westwood Studios) tended to be of the tongue-in-cheek variety and none of the serious efforts of the Soviet Army are given due credit. Finally, the ability to control T-34s, Klim Voroshilovs and more. And they speak authentic Russian with warlike ripostes and acknowledgements rather than eliciting humourous jibes and mockery.
You control units on the battlefield like all other RTS games. They respond to certain commands like to attack a unit within range, assault a certain area (engage all enemies they encounter enroute to the destination), search the area for land-mines, scatter troops (in the event of an enemy bombing run), seek cover and more.
The first difference with all other RTS is:- there is a line of sight present in each mission. Small obstacles like trees, houses, larger buildings, and cliffs will block the player’s line of sight and potentially give the enemy an element of surprise when assaulting your position. On the other hand, if your line of sight is the best, you can uncover wide areas of the battlefield and with the assistance of artillery and some of your tanks; take out enemy troops before they come remotely close to your vantage point. With a good line of sight, you can even destroy targets of opportunity when the chance presents itself.
The second difference here is this:- As your soldiers fight enemies, depending how many shots they fired off and how much damage they received without outright killing themselves; they garner experience. While the ‘experience’ factor has been laughably used in ‘C&C: Tiberian Sun’ but genuinely perfected in ‘C&C: Red Alert 2’, the experience counter in Sudden Strike is primarily useful in all encounters. Here’s why:
1. Experience allows the player to ‘see’ more of the battlefield. The line of sight increases with better experience and enemies can be decimated without allowing them to be too close for comfort.
2.Experience, like the Tiberian Sun doctrine, allows the units to ‘dodge enemy fire better and aim better at enemies’. But Sudden Strike also modifies something which other games probably has not done so:- reaction time and speed. Ever noticed that most other RTS units seem to respond to enemy presence so uniformly that you can barely discern the difference? In Sudden Strike, a low-experience unit respond to threats slower than their battle-hardened comrades and reload their weapons a whole lot more tardier.
3. With enough experience level of units, usually, the outcome of the battle would be decided in your favor as most of the time the accuracy of their weapons will tell the whole war story.
The last influential difference would be the different weaponry available in the game. Larger calibre weapons deal more damage than smaller ones. The emphasis is not up to whether the biggest tanks win the battle, but a deadly combination of the best of both worlds. Anti-tank cannons, for example, have different calibre sizes; 45 mm and 76 mm for the Soviet forces. The larger calibre weapon may be interpreted to be devastating to infantry as well, but that is not the case; and in which case, the smaller calibre one would be better suited to taking down infantry at all times, despite the 45mm poor performance against heavily-armored units. The 76 mm cannon has better performance at taking down enemy Tiger Panzers but certainly fared poorly against enemy snipers and general infantry units. Sudden Strike also adds a plethora of weapons at your disposal. Enemy cannons can be taken over if their crews are killed, with caution not to destroy the intended artillery piece with heavy firepower. Cannons can be towed by utility trucks to be transported elsewhere where the situation calls for it.
Some other minor tweaks to the then-haggard RTS genre:-
a. Aerial bombardment. Call in airstrikes to hit the enemy where you cannot possibly do so without incurring huge losses. But watch out for the enemy AA guns.
b. Supply. Crucial to Sudden Strike’s lasting touch is the realism present in the game. You need to adequately maintain a supply chain to your frontline troops or else they’d run out of ammo at an inopportune moment and be rendered useless in a firefight. Supply trucks perform the job in the first Sudden strike but the addon ‘SS Forever’ gives the ability to artillery crews to resupply their cannons if you place fully-stocked ammo crates near them.
c. Repair vehicles. While not a new touch to RTS back then, Supply Trucks can also perform battlefield repairs to damaged vehicles whereas mobile hospital trucks restore injured infantry to full health.
d. Build pontoon bridges and other defensive installations. Pontoon bridges can be built across vast expanses of water to get troops to a better attack-staging area. Other defensive utilties can also be built like the ‘dragon tooth’ which stops tanks from steamrolling into your position as well as barb-wire defenses which halt infantry. ‘Dragon tooth’ can also be reinforced with a serving of landmines in between so that enemy tanks can be taken out systematically.
This branch of your army can frustrate you or be your best friend. Typically, all infantry have the best line of sight, better than tanks and definitely artillery crews.
Rifleman:- The most common infantry type. Rifle fire is ideal for medium to longer range suppresive fire and a bunch of riflemen can take out other infantry if the line of sight is in your favor, but can lose out to a same number of enemy mixed group (e.g riflemen + SMGunners) if your’re blindly attacking in the dark of the fog of war. Higher experienced riflemen can see more of the battlefield, kill most other infantry in one clean shot, and dodge enemy fire better. All riflemen have the ability to lay anti-tank mines for an impending enemy armored assault. The patched version ensures that you can manually position riflemen for more effective mine placements.
Submachinegunner (SMGunner):- Quite common as well, and in some scenarios; the only infantry you’ll ever use. Short-ranged fire but has a quick rate of fire which can kill enemy infantry rather quickly. Their bonus is the ability to lob grenades at offensive armored units. I typically engage them in areas where a literal ‘blitzkrieg’ tactic is required and where I enforce the ‘human wave doctrine’ as propounded in the Soviet STAVKA High Command 60+ years ago. But I only use this tactic when I’ve so much SMGs that I can find no proper use for them other than to man captured enemy cannons. Their short-range of fire hampered their efforts.
Snipers:- Favorite unit. These units can be a commando unit, taking out unguarded enemy artillery crews, scouting an area, taking out enemy officers, clearing a house of holed-up enemy soldiers ready to ambush you in their trap. They are deadly against other infantry and kill them in one clean shot. Higher-experienced snipers reveals more fog of war and can kill enemies more accurately. Placing a sniper inside a tower is a very good tactic to employ since his broad view of the battlefield is coupled well with the long-ranged fire.
Anti-tank unit:- The most controversial unit in most major game reviews. Often misinterpreted or misrepresented as the ordinary riflemen which led to the erroneous assumption that riflemen can destroy tanks when they actually are the anti-tank troops since they look rather similar. Riflemen can actually take out lighter-armored tanks en masse but certainly not medium classed tanks nor heavy ones. And the Soviet anti-tank PTRD unit can take out enemy infantry with their calibre tank rifle. To which I call upon the Gamespot reviewer of Sudden Strike to reassess his own biased observation and poor judgment. The developers intended it to be such. It’s no business of yours to decide whether what units can destroy what. If you wanna call the shots, make your own game and quit the whining.
Commando units:- NKVD troops (Soviet) and German SS Waffen (Storm Troopers). They don’t have much difference from the regular SMG unit but I reckon that their firepower is marginally better than the SMG counterparts but I can’t confirm this. I typically use them in the same manner as the SMG units but since their presence is quite rare, such practice is doctrinal.
Tanks, armored vehicles, service vehicles:-
What is an RTS w/o tanks? Fighting vehicles are major stuff in Sudden Strike and the Soviet Red Army is a personal favorite.
Tanks deal lifelike damage. They cannot shoot around trees and other obstacles and must maneuver to a certain spot do so, possibly exposing themselves to danger and more.
Although little more than an armored box with a cannon, tanks serve multiple purposes.
1. Recon unit. They can take damage depending on their class levels but more importantly, they can also engage enemy armored units if need be.
2. Support unit. Nothing like a couple of Panther Panzers to back up a squad of riflemen and an officer at its helm. They can destroy enemy armored troops or other vehicles quicker than your regular army.
3. Mobile reserve. Send them to the frontline to reinforce a newly acquired area or guard against a potential counterattack by the enemies.
4. And lastly; attack. Their range is useful, although inferior to artillery pieces, but their firepower can quickly take down enemy-occupied houses and storm enemy poorly-defended pockets.
Medium tanks are the workhorse of the army, although I think that a combo of all types are useful. In fact, the earlier tanks, when used in conjunction with infantry can take out scores of enemy infantry with your men providing much-needed reconaissance. Soviet tanks tend to be more balanced; German armored units are more on the firepower side but are awfully slow whereas the Allied units are so damn light that they serve a marginal purpose, if at all.
Armored cars – BA64 scout unit. The one which Commissar Danilov drove in the ‘Enemy at the Gates’ film after the Stalin square massacre. Armed with machineguns to keep infantry at bay but is rather useless against scores of them. The German counterparts, the Kubelwagen is not that much better and suffers from the same poor weaponry. The ‘Puma’ Armored transport has a 50mm cannon complement and is better suited to armored skirmishes rather than large-scaled ones.
Crucial to winning a mission is the succesful use of artillery. Artillery types are clearly and concisely divided into :-
1. anti-tank – as its name implies, for general use against enemy tanks and sometimes, infantry where no other alternatives are present.
2. AA gun – anti-aircraft gun, for destroying enemy aircraft before they wreak havoc with their paratrooper drops/ or bombing runs. Destroyed enemy aircraft can be a bane as well. They will act as Japan kamikaze units and try to destroy your columns. AA guns can also be used to engage enemy vehicles and infantry too and do both these tasks well. Famous examples are the Soviet 85mm AA gun, the German Krupp 88 mm AA cannon and the American AA gun carriage.
3. Heavy artillery – In SS 1, these types cannot engage in first-strike attacks and can only fire upon command. They cannot fire in short-range but their extremely long range means that faraway troops are under close scrutiny. Enemy troops are also granted use of these howitzers and tend to have more than you do and are more strategically placed to deal with your attacks or blunt them. Howitzers are also somewhat inaccurate with crews of less experience and shots tend to be wayward and plain horrendous. But use them wisely, and they can soften large forces over a period of time. They also consume a lot of supplies, so don’t fire off barrages like the end of the world. SS:Forever heavy howitzers can fire at close range but their role is better served as a long-range fire unit for distant targets. Plus, SS:Forever introduced the BR-5 grenade launcher for the Soviets which is the heaviest artillery unit in the game and can deal the most of punishments. The Germans have the slightly longer ranged ‘Lefeld’ field gun with an impressive 150mm calibre and the medium ranged 105 mm light howitzer. The Allied howitzers have the ‘Long Tom’ artillery with the best 200mm calibre but their use is primarily in the scenario editor and is not readily available in ordinary maps.
4. Mortar and grenade launchers – Stationary mortar units have good range and firepower but their inaccuracy is rather telling as they cannot hit a moving target until it is recessed. Mortars can destroy enemy soldiers quickly but can also be defenseless when they come too close.
5. Mobile rocket launchers – Rocket platforms like the BM13- Katyusha delivers volleys of 16 rockets which spread over a wide area, destroying anything caught within the rocket explosions. The shorter-ranged Panzerpahwagen of the Germans deal no less damage and is more accurate over a wide spread. The Allied unit ‘Calliope’ is not that useful even with its 60 rocket payload as each rocket sends out loveletters by the dozens and deal minimum damage.
1. Always ‘train’ an officer to maximum experience by ordering the unit to fire into any armored unit (pistol shots won’t even dent tanks’ armor) and have a supply truck on hand to resupply as needed. When the officer experience has reached the 1000 mark, his line of sight would have improved dramatically. Riflemen can also be trained in the same manner but their slow rate of fire means that their experience goes up very slowly. I prefer to order a friendly fire live fire exercise on them, where I order a fellow riflemen of same experience level to fire on them, inflicting wounds and then order the injured unit into a mobile hospital nearby. The rate of experience increase is dramatic and can be used on all types of infantry. Sniper units tend to rise up the ranks faster than regular ones.
2. Occupy empty houses before your other adversaries do. To maintain an element of surprise, have them shut their auto fire (hold fire) and lay in wait. In addition to providing much-needed reconaissance, they can also take out lone wolves or strayed units who happens to be left behind, and don’t know what hit them.
3. Always take higher-elevations, in particular, cliffs. Higher ground means that the enemy cannot likely see you due to the change in elevation and the first-strike capability is in your hands. Make sure to deal with wide units (ie units which have strayed from the main formation and is casually strolling up a cliffside pass) before they come face to face with you.
4. Position artillery in the frontline in an orderly fashion. Reasons are twofold:- uniformed artillery maintain a proper firing range without fear of any enemy troops taking advantage of the gaps in the lineup. The next is the most important:- Supply trucks won’t have to get out of the relative safety cover of the artillery range and expose themselves to an enemy assault with mixed units. An exposed supply truck is a dead supply truck due to the amount of explosives onboard and its paper-thin armor.
5. Position infantry one block away from your artillery. They can provide recon and act as cannon fodder, allowing your cannons to take the offensive out.
6. When in attacking phase, always choose an area with less buildings and not so much trees. Buildings are a problem. When they’re destroyed totally, their foundation still prevents troop movements across it and may block any form of cannon fire, although the enemy can be seen. While trees can also be hacked down by continuous fire, it’s a sad waste of ammo and supplies. Besides, enemy troops may already be enroute while you’re still busy destroying timber. Trees in Sudden strike can conceal enemy units well, and the untrained Sudden Strike campaigner could do well to elimate all flora if possible.
7. Conserve troops where you feel that a planned assault may be fruitless and may work against you. There is always a tendency to go all gung ho and order all your troops to storm the enemy positions for a quick result. One rule of thumb is this:- In Sudden Strike, as is all other games, the enemy is always in a better situation than you are, with better armored units, more infantry entrenched in defence, better artillery fire with strategic positions; you get the idea. Of course, when the mission suddenly hands you control of so much infantry than you thought possible, the subtle hint is to encourage you to go all gung-ho and launch an attack right away.
Sudden Strike is one game most gamers love to hate and for one good reason:- its slow action and deliberate mission planning. Some gamers and reviewers also moan non-stop about the higher resolution setting precluding any possibilty of telling the difference between one infantry unit from the other is pure rubbish while one reviewer even went as far as to proclaim that Sudden Strike is nothing more than a game of toy soldiers and models. Okay, I value opinions, so it’s ok. Sudden Strike has its own legions of fans though, and AVault has given it a good rating, which I think is fair and impartial.
Sudden Strike also suffers from some poor waypointing of which the enraged reviewer has pointed out and has a valid point, and marshalling your forces suddenly becomes a chore rather than a duty. The landscape can also get pretty boring after a while as interaction with the surroundings are near existent other than the line of sight factor. Regarding the view that some gamers cannot differentiate between the power of one cannon from another, look no further than the information panel at the bottom of the screen. If the ordnance is above 50mm in calibre, it’s likely to deal decent damage. Anything above it is a bonus against heavier armored enemies but lesser ordnance is also helpful rather than plain useless.
If you love being the strategist and planner, you’ll love this game. If fast-paced action RTS rocks your boat, you might hate it. Sudden Strike can add a nice touch of deviation from standard fare.