|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Fireglow Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: cdv Software Ent.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 10, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Over the years, the epic battles of World War II have been played out countless times by armchair generals pining over their PC screens and clicking their mouse buttons with furrowed brows.
There have been a handful of solid WWII real-time strategy titles released for the PC in recent years, but none capture the action of the conflict on quite as grand a scale as the Sudden Strike series. With an emphasis on war strategy and combat over resource management, the series aims to let players enjoy the fight without feeling bogged down by the gritty details. Sudden Strike 3: Arms for Victory continues to carries the torch onward to victory with an impressive new look and other improvements, even though it hasn't completely ironed out all of the issues from past entries.
Traditional RTS titles require players to balance their time between building forces, upgrading buildings, and gathering resources; Arms for Victory scoffs at such tired and tedious gameplay elements. The game completely does away with the resource gathering and management tenets typical to the genre. This lets you focus your attention on the ever-important task of commanding massive armies over land, sea, and air to crush your foes into itty bitty specks of oblivion. Fallen troops and crushed battalions are replenished through reinforcements, but such amenities occasionally come in limited supply. Capturing and holding certain positions will sometimes keep reinforcements flowing in steadily. However, often you'll have to find resourceful ways to keep your armies alive. This can be particularly tough when your troops are low on ammo, torn to shreds, and patching up vehicles on the go, but that's part of the fun.
The conflict in Arms for Victory spans across five large campaigns that cover the war from varied fronts and in different theaters. You can play as the allied forces in their European campaign assault or as the Germans in their push to repel the Allies. The Soviet campaign pits you against the Germans while moving into the Crimean Peninsula. Additionally, separate campaigns allow you to play the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of both the American and Japanese armies. Each mission unfolds on immense battlefields that are noticeably larger than what most RTS fans are likely used to. The scale of map sizes can reach up to about five miles wide by five miles in length; that's one big playground of destruction. It also takes an inordinately long amount of time to complete some missions. Be prepared for hours and hours (and hours) of WWII combat; even completing a full mission in one sitting is something to be proud about.
One thing that can certainly be said about the Sudden Strike series is it raises the bar substantially when it comes to the sheer scale of each mission. Massive is a term that only begins to describe the scope of the battles you'll encounter here. Where many RTS games cap out at a few hundred units, Arms for Victory lets you control literally thousands of troops at a time. When you've got five or six full battalions organized and ready to deploy, one's sense of military might tends to balloon to lofty heights. Keeping track of all those units in the heat of battle is no easy burden, and illusions of grandeur will quickly deflate after a few attempts at blindly throwing troops into a well fortified enemy position.
The utter size of the forces at your disposal can make diving in to the game mildly intimidating for new players. For example, the first mission of the first campaign dumps your relatively huge starting forces along the vast shoreline of Normandy on D-Day, and you immediately come under fire from enemy mortars, artillery, and infantry. It's a mess that will leave you frantically trying to group forces into manageable chunks so you can organize an attack as you work your way up the beach and beyond. Fortunately, after the initial chaotic confusion fades, the updated control interface makes it easier to manage your armies. Selected units can be assigned aggressive, cautious, and defensive behaviors on the fly which will dictate how they'll react when they meet enemies while advancing forward. Since it's damn near impossible to tell one infantry type from the next from the birds-eye-view, hovering the mouse over a unit will make an identifying symbol appear. Picking out a single medic or other important unit out of the throng to utilize in the midst of combat is a different story completely. It's still remains an issue.