Sudden Strike was a pretty good game, not so much for graphics, in this day and age of high speed Geoforce Cards and fast chipsets - but for solid game play and fun value. I liked Sudden Strike and regardless of what most of my friends said, stuck with the game diligently. So this brings me to this year and to the release of Sudden Strike II.

Sudden Strike II boasts an impressive number of 40 missions in 5 separate campaigns, there are even separate scenarios you can play to increase the fun-factor of the game. With roughly 1,000 units per scenario things are going to get extremely hectic and the interface can be a bit fiddly at times. But you don't really care as the game plays pretty well and keep you pounding at it for more and more. You can take control of boats to help you with some of the water/river-based missions and every motorised unit has a separate crew that controls it, useful if you want to capture the unit/vehicle in question.

There are also a slew of things that can be reduced to rubble by the games heavier artillery, like houses, bridges and trees to name but a few things. They've gone to town on the vehicles in the game and it boasts an impressive array. I can't remember all the names but thankfully they did put a nice list on the back of the box.

You can expect to find and play with the Tiger,Panther, Sturmtiger, tank II/III/IV and the Koenigstiger. The T34, T-26, KV-1, SU-85, T-70, IL II...and this is just a small sample of the tanks/vehicles/planes in the game.

The graphics of this title I will admit are looking nice, if somewhat dated and fiddly on the higher resolutions. But it runs at a reasonable lick and there were no crashes to the desktop on my machine. But that's ok, because as anyone will tell you it's not really great graphics that makes a game - it's the way the game plays and the learning curve. For some people who're not all that into RTS and that kind of genre I'd predict it's not going to be the most forgiving game out there, but this is War and we didn't expect it to be nice did we?

It's a gritty and thoughtful game that has some nice missions; all the scenery is very well placed. It looks and feels pretty damn fine, the sounds are a bit lacking but there's enough of them for you to enjoy the thundering treads of a tank moving across the ground or the chaos of combat. And it is pretty chaotic at times. The individual units are nicely animated using the old rotational 2d sprites and the whole game is isometric with a fixed camera. They can run, walk, crawl and sneak around with the best of the best - there are even a few snipers to appease the sniper fans out there. Of which I have to admit, I am one.

You can command, the German, Russian, British and American forces in the game. And in SS2 they've added a new faction, the Japanese - every one of the units and the factions has different strengths and weaknesses. The campaigns are well thought out and some of them will have you pulling your hair out in frustration, but bear with them and you'll find the rewards are worth it. I particularly like the use of armoured trains and resources captured from the enemy but I'm also big into stealing things in a game like this.

The game comes with an editor that allows you to make your own maps/scenarios and multiplayer levels. This again is a bonus and I reckon most games should come with the ability to create some kind of custom content for them - it helps to keep the game fresh and alive once you've beaten it to death and all its secrets are yours for the taking.

Talking of multiplayer, the game is packed with a lot of options for lan and online games. With nice touches in the Multiplayer screen for you to input information like a clan webpage or even a clan name ect. I can see the Multi being a pretty fast and furious game on a large Lan with opposing teams slugging it out to see who can outlive the other. I didn't really have time to dive into the Multi or have access to the Lan aspect of the game so I'm not going to pass any judgement apart from the fact from what I've seen it's a perfect compliment to the Singleplayer experience.

The AI seems to be pretty good too, with the units doing what you tell them to, and if they disobey or seem to be doing the wrong might be because they're trying to complete an order that they can't do at the time. So make sure you know where they are, what they're doing. So in conclusion to the above, I'd like to say that SS2 is one of the better wargames out there and so I'm going to. The cheques in the post to CDV right now - just kidding folks.

I enjoyed playing it and it's going to remain in my collection, you might even see one or two maps from the Wolf popping up on the net but I'm not going to promise anything. You're more likely to see NWN modules or WC3/Battle Realms maps instead.

SS2 is a game that's going to take you a while to get to grips with, and to complete, some of you of course will prove me wrong and breeze through it in a matter of hours or days...losing sleep until that last tank is a smouldering wreck. When that happens you know the game will have claimed your soul.