Sudden Strike 3: Arms for Victory
Passed Inspection: Graphics upgrade from previous installments, really fun and engaging multiplayer
Failed Basic: Almost everything else
Sudden Strike 3: Arms for Victory is the latest in this venerable real-time strategy World War Two combat PC game from cdv Software Entertainment USA and Fireglow Games. The rust has been knocked off the surface and a liberal coat of paint and shine applied, which give the now-3D soldiers, vehicles, and maps cause to stand tall over the series’ former 2D graphics. However, while the spit and polish is evident, gamers may quickly wonder where the game’s former spirit and gusto went. Gamers have long been bemoaning the sight of one World War Two game after another on store shelves for some time now. Sudden Strike 3 just may be the signal flare that calls for a much-needed rush to aid or end this genre.
For the potentially newly volunteered players of SS3, be advised that this series may be a bit different from other RTS games you’ve experienced. First and foremost, there is no resource management, base building, or technology trees to advance along. Instead, players are given a set amount of troops and equipment at the start of each scenario, which may be reinforced from time to time while progressing through the mission. This has been so since the first Sudden Strike release back in 2000. It is one of the key elements which drew me to the game and has kept me playing through the series to now. This style of gameplay has led some to label the series real-time tactical (RTT). Given that players can’t simply build another tank when one is destroyed, much more attention and care are given to tactics and thoughtful combat operations. If your favored style of combat is the ‘zerg’, then you should stay far away from SS3, for there is no hope for your survival here.
Sudden Strike 3 makes the normal advancements we’ve come to know in series games. Premier for this iteration is the change from the 2D battlefield to a 3D one. I’ve heard some complaints around the Internet that the new 3D engine was a bit too much for some systems, but I had nary a problem on my two-year-old 2GB RAM Dell Dimension. In fact, I can’t say anything ill of the new graphics. Troops, tanks, planes, trains, and weapon systems are all detailed well enough to be distinguishable, at least when the camera is zoomed close in. Explosions are well done, though not as flashy or fantastic as cdv’s Codename: Panzers. Aircraft cast accurate and believable shadows as they pass overhead, and adequate attention was paid to the look and design of buildings and bunkers. I thought the muzzle flashes from firing weapons and the spark of contact when ammunition hits but does not penetrate tank armor were especially nice new touches. While much was done to improve the look of SS3 over its predecessors, it certainly isn’t on par with, say, Crysis, but then war is supposed to be gritty, not as beautiful as Alyssa Milano.
Aside from graphics, the game settings are the same as before, with combat operations being performed through five solid campaigns and four custom scenarios, including an all-too-short tutorial. The campaigns are all set in very familiar regions—Iwo Jima, Europe, and the Crimea. The European campaign offers players two paths, to play the Allies or the Germans, while the Iwo Jima campaign can be played through as the attacking Americans or the defending Japanese. The Crimean campaign pits the Soviets advancing on the Germans as the latter hold Kerch. Besides the tutorial, the custom scenarios include the invasion of Sicily, another called ‘Untermehmen VII ‘C’," and a third mission to assault and capture a German railway station to intercept tank reinforcements.
As before, certain points are available during the mission that will trigger reinforcements, provided the player can achieve and hold those points. Trenches and bunkers are spread across the battlefield and should be used emphatically, though sometimes the game’s AI seems to forget they exist. A couple of things that have changed for the better are larger map sizes and the ability to have many more units on screen than in the previous Sudden Strike games. While all that is well and good—and I for one am glad to see this series advance and attempt to keep up with the times—that’s about where the good things take a sudden nose dive. It seems that while the new graphics engine was being fawned over, someone forget to code in the fun aspects of the game, at least in the single player version.
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