Personally, I have been waiting with bated breath for Sudden Strike II from FireGlow. Ever since I was able to preview the first installment of the Sudden Strike series, I was captivated by the little soldiers battling it out, and when I finally got a hold of the full version, I was in Real Time Strategy heaven for weeks on end. To top if off, CDV released Sudden Strike Forever, a mission add-on, several months ago. At that time, Sudden Strike II was already under development so my social life wasn't going to get any better (and it cant get much worse ;P). Now CDV served us with the Sudden Strike II demo so I rushed to check it out.
The demo offers a full mission – it would be sad to play half a mission wouldn't it ? ;) – with you as the commander of the Japanese troops. Your mission is to rescue Japanese pilots captured by the British army. It's WAR TIME!
The mission briefing does not seem to have changed too much from the original Sudden Strike. You get an overview of the map, and your mission is explained via text and speech (the German demo had speech, the English version didn't) with accompanying schematics and arrows showing you where to go and what to do. At first glance, the main difference seems to be the fact that you can "replay" the submissions (there are 4 in this demo) individually and as many times as you want. This is an excellent addition: in the previous Sudden Strike, you had to restart the entire briefing in case you wanted to hear it again, or if you missed something.
Now on to the game!
As mentioned earlier, the mission has to be completed in 4 steps, starting with the beach landing.
- You disembark from your landing ships while British planes fly overhead on some bombing run, not really a big deal and quite easy to accomplish.
- Make your way to the middle of the map and actually rescue the pilots who are being held in the prison camp ... this is where the real action starts!
- Once you've conquered the prison camp and rescued the pilots, you need to make your way to the East and South-Eastern corners of the map and clean out the villages of any enemy forces. That South-Eastern village has an airfield where, once you have secured it, the reinforcement planes will land using the landing strip.
- Lastly, use those transport planes, fill them up with your remaining troops – hopefully there's a lot of them! – and send them off as paratroopers to the North-East corner of the map, strap on their parachutes and kick them out of the airplanes, to wipe out any remaining British troops.
This may all sound pretty easy but it sure isn't! I just don't want to spoil the fun and give more specifics ... Yes, I know. I'm a tease.
What I noticed right away is that initially, you need to use the Sniper and Japanese Officer because they are the only ones with binoculars, which allow you to see beyond the "fog of war". If you just get out there and rush, you will get slaughtered (I can vouch for that because it took me a while to figure out why I was getting shot although I did not see any enemy forces at all). Of course, to use the binoculars they need to have a pretty straight line of view, and once you have detected the enemy, you can blow them to pieces with your mortars. There are also watch towers strategically placed on the map (usually surrounding a village) which give your troops the higher ground, both figuratively and literally, and your viewing area becomes larger.
Once you've captured some cannons (try not to totally destroy them, just kill the operators), the prison camp with the pilots is not all that difficult to take over, as long as you approach with caution. Once inside the British prison camp, you will have to use your regular "crewmen" to man tanks and trucks. In case you run short on troops, keep in mind that when disembarking your boats, 2 crewmen stay on board, but you can force them out. Also keep in mind that you need 1 crewman to get a truck fully operational, but 3 crewmen, or 2 crewmen and an Officer, to get your tanks fully operational. If you decrease the men in the tank, you will only be able to maneuver the tank around, but not shoot. There are 2 different types of trucks available in the demo, a small Bedford truck and a Mac big rig, with which you can pick up ammo to supply troops and tanks, transport troops, or tow cannons (helps facilitate the repositioning of cannons). You can capture and control 2 types of tanks, the M26 Pershing and the M18 Hellcat. Each have their own characteristics and differ in firepower, speed and their engines sound marvellous. You can also use the tanks to transport extra people, and it is fun to watch your tanks get to their destination with troops sitting on the back. Just like the movies, baby!
From there on, you need to take over the next 2 villages, and once you have secured the South-Eastern town, the transport planes will approach and make attempts to land. In the battle for the village, it may be that the runway has been damaged by shells so you will need to equip the quadrad's with 2 crewmen and send them out to repair the landing strip (the quadrad also repair tanks and trucks). Once that is all fixed the 2 C-47 transports will land and park at the end of the runway. Make sure that none of your soldiers are wandering around on the runway because they will get slashed to pieces by the propellers of the planes. You load up the 2 C-47's with a bunch of your soldiers and send the planes on their way to the last British stronghold in the North East part of the map, drop your paratroopers, and that's the end of it.
I enjoyed this demo a great deal but I have a few remarks:
- Once you rescued the Japanese pilots, it doesn't seem to matter what happens to them next, whether they get shot or remain unharmed, it doesn't affect the game. It makes you wonder why you had to go rescue them in the first place. The entire game, or at the very least, the mission, should end if they all die, but alas, no such consideration.
- Another annoying part is the constant Japanese rambling while you have no idea what it is being said (and I'm not talking about now and then, but every few seconds).
- I also noticed that the trajectory your vehicles take to get to distant points seems to not work very well, often opting to take the longest possible route instead of the shortest, so the AI could certainly stand some improvement.
- When you select a vehicle with troops in it (like the landing boats or trucks), you get a summary on top of the screen what type of troops are all included, but when you click and drag in order to select a bunch of random troops, it does not show you those statistics. It would be a useful feature so you won't have to scan every single soldier to see wether it's a crewman, rifleman etc....
The multi-player portion looked interesting, but I did not find any active servers to play on (and unlike previously-mentioned, you can only play as the Germans or the Japanese because the other nations aren't available selections). I hope the full game also lets you choose in single player mode which "side" you want to be on.
Overall, this demo gives a good idea and feel of what the game will be about. I am certainly looking forward to getting my hands on the real deal and waging some war!