Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefield Edition literally exploded onto the console scene from a successful PC real-time strategy series. A combined offering, the European Battlefield Edition brings all of the downloadable content from the PC in addition to three new maps for the Xbox One. Considering there's 31 total missions, online gameplay, and the ability to skirmish against AI opponents and you've got a pretty rounded out package.
Historically, most RTS titles tend to struggle on consoles mostly from a control (and ultimately gameplay) standpoint. It can be tough to command armies, manage bases, and generally succeed without the added hotkeys and shortcuts from a keyboard and mouse. As Halo Wars already proved on the platform, strategy games need to be modified for gamepad use. In fact, the experience here is efficiently streamlined and very easy to get into once you've completed the tutorial. While there are definitely some confusing aspects (mostly at first), these tend to clear up the longer you play the game.
To get a good understanding of the control mechanics, I do think it is a good idea to briefly go over how the developers have mapped a PC experience on the Xbox One controller. Holding A and moving the left thumbstick out creates a circular area tool to select units. At varying degrees of tilt, the circle gets wider or smaller. It can still be a bit of a pain in choosing specific units, but it's at least quick and intuitive. Issuing commands such as attack or move are done with B, while Y will tell your units to attack. Merely pressing X will cancel any current commands. Holding down the combination of B and Y lets you arrange your units based on the tilt of the left thumbstick, so you can line them up in a firing line or group them together for a bit more cover support. Holding down the left trigger will spring up the minimap and also allow you to move around the map with the left thumbstick quickly. The right trigger is more context sensitive and depending on what units you have (or don't have) selected; bringing up a wheel of special commands such as placing TNT or abandoning buildings. Lastly, snapping the right thumbstick around will quickly pick the next unit, and clicking the stick will group chosen units. Grouped units can quickly be selected with left and right on the D-Pad, making it easy to quickly switch between your units on the battlefield and keep your forces engaged.
While there's seemingly a lot to learn, it's incredibly well-contained within a controller setup for a console RTS game. It took me a couple of maps to get the hang of switching around and moving efficiently, but I felt at ease within a relatively short time. While I'll never be quite as good as I could be on a keyboard and mouse setup, I was impressed by the way Sudden Strike 4 handled on the Xbox One. My only real concern would be the random slowness I experienced at times while selected units or pushing orders - the game seemed to stutter. I'm playing on an Xbox One X, and this did cause the game to struggle a bit, especially in larger scenarios where I had multiple fronts active simultaneously.
Aside from the control concerns I initially had, I found myself quickly enjoying the game even with the added challenge of getting around. The primary campaigns themselves are split over a variety of fronts and parts of the European theater of World War II, and you get to see multiple aspects. Historical battles, like Dunkirk, Kharkov, and the Mannerheim Line are all present. While some of the missions can feel too quick, you still get to accomplish quite a bit in a short time. Before starting a mission as well, you get the option of picking a specific general with their own abilities that can help bolster your forces. Over time, stars are earned from missions that are used to purchase added skills that are even better than the first ones available. The generals themselves are all famous historical figures with their own specialized type of warfare (armored, support, infantry) that can effectively change your tactics and how you play.
Missions, online, and skirmishes play out much as you'd expect from a real-time strategy game: take your limited units and do your best to wear down the enemy through strategic maneuvering and clever thinking. You'll have the ability to call in things like airstrikes, commandeer enemy vehicles and artillery, and position your units in ways that give you the best advantage. There are heavy foliage areas that can provide your infantry better cover as well, offering you a stealthy option at ambushing enemies. Smart planning that doesn't involve getting all of your units killed is a surefire way to get a victory on any given map.
What truly helps Sudden Strike 4 succeed on a console is that it follows many newer RTS mechanics. While some missions (and skirmish/online) offer the ability to call in new units and more, the game itself eschews the traditional RTS mechanic of base building. While I am a fan of base building and managing my resources, the lack of it in this definitely fits within the console framework. It's just too bad since it does feel like a significant piece of the RTS structure is missing. There are buildings to "capture" that generate resource points to call new units in, but beyond that there just isn't much.
Fans of real-time strategy games have a great console game to experience, even if it is a more streamlined approach to the genre. While I will admit that this may be a turn-off for some hardcore fans, I did enjoy my time with the game. With that said, I miss out of earning three stars on some missions due to the game slowing down when moving around some of the larger maps.Note: Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition was reviewed on Xbox One. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.