Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
Reviewed on the PC.
Review by Ian King
(Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KingS1X )
XBL GT: K1ngS1x STEAM ID: Beanz53
GAME NAME: Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
DEVELOPER(S): Tripwire Interactive
PUBLISHER(S): In-House/1C Company
GENRE(S): First Person Shooter
RELEASE DATE(S): 13th September 2011
DISCLAIMER: At time of writing, Red Orchestra 2 is in a highly buggy state. The majority of the features that were packaged with the release are bugged, and are not working as intended. However, they are being patched out rapidly. As the reviewer, I would recommend if you are new to the series, waiting for around 30 days for the major bugs to be removed, as this could give you a false impression of the product. More information can be found on the Tripwire Interactive forums, linked at the bottom of the page.
Round Begins in… 3… 2…1…
A battle cry rouses all around me, as khaki-uniformed men run towards the two parallel bridges that separate us from our enemy. It’s my first round playing, and I have a sneaking suspicious as to what might be around the corner. With soldiers to my left and my right, bolt action muzzles waiting to find their targets, we sprint towards the bridge. I dive to cover behind the burning carcass of a civilian car, catching my breath. It’s then that I see the brutality of war. The world desaturates around me as rapid fire whistles crack into the car. Looking around me, I notice a fellow comrade pinned behind a low wooden wall, dust flying out of woodwork as he cowers behind it. I shout to him, to run to me. This was to be the last mistake he ever made. Diving out of cover, a puff of blood erupts from his chest. As he falls to his knees, he cries to me in a strong russian accent, ‘Don’t let them take me…’ before collapsing to the ground.
Call me insensitive, but i’ve never been in a situation before where a death in an FPS has provoked an emotional response. The sounds of men dying around you may suppress your character in-game, but it also goes a long way to try and suppress the player controlling as well. Screams, explosions and the omnipresent sound of rifle fire keeps your head firmly behind the walls. Thankfully, the newly implemented cover system makes staying alive that little bit easier. What sets this cover system apart from those in other games, is that you’re firmly grounded in reality, with the perspective staying in first person. Blind fire is still possible, but you’re highly unlikely to hit anything, with your avatar only being able to looking up at their arms as they fire over the barricade.
Why waste your ammunition, if there’s an extremely low chance of hitting anything, you might ask? Well, that leads onto the suppression system that has been included. In previous RO titles, the player could quite happily run into a line of fire, and still aim straight and true, if he managed to survive. Now suppression is everything; If you’re under attack from rifles, to tanks, to artillery, your suppression will govern how well your character will be able to fire, how fast he will move when under fire etc. The colours of the world will fade to a dull grey as you take more and more fire, with your breathing becoming faster and faster, making it difficult to aim your rifle. At it’s current stage, suppression requires some more improvements, to make it even more fear inducing, however there have been many times I’ve been afraid to stick my head up for fear of having it removed. The morale system that I spoke about in the preview has since been a removed feature, and now ties into the suppression system. For example, looking at a comrade as he gets shot and killed will hit your suppression big time, as the situation becomes evermore hopeless.
So what new features are there? Well, the main inclusion is the new Single-Player Campaigns. Playing as the German Army first, and then subsequently unlocking the Red Army campaign upon completion, they tell the story of the Battle Of Stalingrad, through numerous diary extracts and footage gathered from the battle, all to a voice-over, which are shown before the battle in the form of a loading cut-scene. The game play itself is very much of the same you’ll find on-line, only with AI. This is where it starts to fall down somewhat, as the AI is never going to be as good as a human player next to you. I often found myself frustrated by the orders system when playing as the commander, watching my AI run around like headless chickens before being gunned down the enemy. Single Player comes in four different flavours of difficult, from the recruit solider, the battle hardened veteran. If you’ve never played a Red Orchestra game before, I would recommend familiarising yourself with the weapons and maps here, before moving onto multi-player. There are no original maps on single-player, as they are all just multi-player maps with AI bots, and the game modes are all just Territory. The story is the only thing that holds this part up as being different from multi-player. If you’re already a seasoned veteran of RO, finding a decent server and playing on-line would be a better choice.
Sound is an extremely important part of the Red Orchestra experience, with the footsteps and voices of your enemies being a dead-give away of their position, which could mean the difference between life and death. Explosions are truly frightening; watching an artillery strike destroy a house close to your position is something to behold. The voice acting is excellent, but unfortunately the languages are not native to the factions, but in English with an accent accordingly. This is both a positive and negative feature, making it easier for players to work out when grenades are abound etc. but jars the experience somewhat by removing authenticity. You will here some German and Russian profanity thrown around, but it goes a long way to make itself different from the previous title, which was 99% in the native languages of the belligerents.
The locales that are included with release are one of the shining stars of this game. Ranging from the bombed out town of Spartanovka, to the icy conflict point of Commisar’s House, RO2 goes out of it’s way to give players a varied experience, with fighting happening on all types of terrain. Tank battles are fought on long open plains, with maps such as Gumrak showing off the true armoured might of the War Machines. If sniper battles are what you’re looking for, maps such as Fallen Fighters and Red October Factory are there to accommodate your desire to be the next Vasily Zaitsev.
Weapons have changed slightly since Red Orchestra: Ost Front 41-45, with the standard bolt action rifles being rinsed down to just one type of the K98k and Mosin Nagant rifle included on release; these however, are still some of the most effective long distance weapons in-game. Due to it’s early release, there are still some balancing issues with some weapons, with the German MP-40 being a head-and-shoulders above it’s Russian Rival, the PPSH-41. Weapon unlocks have been implemented into the game, giving the player an incentive to use their favourite weapon, and reap rewards from being a skilled user. Some of these unlocks however, have a level of historical inaccuracy that has riled the Red Orchestra community, but for those who are looking for a decent WWII shooter, it will make little difference. Weapons sounds are fantastic, improving on the previous titles greatly, which make the machine guns sound properly heavy, rifles feeling extremely powerful and SMG’s giving violent bursts of aggression.
At current release, there are only two usable vehicles in-game; the German Panzer IV tank, and the Russian T-34. Tank battles can be extremely heated, with rounds being exchanged on a full server at an alarming rate. The interior of vehicles has had an extreme overhaul since the last game, giving a realistic and divine looking cockpit. Your crewman are now fully visible inside the vehicle, all doing their necessary tasks, that makes it feel as if you are actually inside the vehicle for real. Crewmen can be killed individually inside the vehicle, with bloodied corpses staying in their position until you are destroyed (this tends to happen a lot!). It is expected that more vehicles will be added in the content updates over the coming months.
If you are looking for a decent WWII shooter, I would whole heartedly recommend this Red Orchestra 2. Playing as the Red Army is a welcome change to what has become a ho-hum setting for FPS games, with many gamers often finding themselves in the boots of a US Army G.I, or a British Tommy. With an impressive combat system, top-notch sound effects and voice work, this is the closest you can get to filling the boots of a Red army or Wehrmact trooper, in one of the bloodiest battles in history!
A fantastic looking shooter, capturing the visuals of an Eastern Front battlefield perfectly. Kills are decidedly gory, weapons are masterfully recreated from their real-life counterparts, and battlefields are gritty, dark and atmospheric. Only niggle is the animations could be better.
The sounds of the battlefield can be truly terrifying at times. Blood curdling screams of pain from soliders falling around you, the distant thunder of an artillery strike falling in the distance, machine guns throwing rounds past your head. Tripwire have gone a long way to make you feel under pressure in battle. Unfortunately, the music can be repetitive and irritating.
Everything that made the previous Red Orchestra games sublime has returned, with a clean up of some of the niggles players had before. Combat is gritty, maps are varied and exciting, with brutal sound encompassing a true, WWII experience.
Two relatively short Single-Player campaigns (Around 3-4 hours each) set the scene for the Battles of Stalingrad, but the real action will always be found online. Servers are quick connecting, menus have been sharpened, but in-game menus can take some time to get used to. Statistics and persistent unlocks give a level of depth to the multi-player, that will keep players coming back, even if these features sometimes mar the historically accurate experience.
Despite a heavily broken release, Red Orchestra 2 is a return to form for Tripwire, giving the authentic and exciting World War 2 shooter a much needed upgrade, focussing on the accessibility of play. With big name shooters on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how the player base takes to the new game once they are released, but I would go as far as to say this is a decent contender for PC game of the year!
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