It is without a doubt that World War II, particularly the Eastern Front, has been a popular genre for First Person Shooters within the last decade. The most notable would be Call of Duty, which pioneered a new and fresh method of telling the story of war from multiple perspectives. Recently, gamers have grown tired of World War II, and first person shooters portraying modern conflicts has become the new norm in first-person shooter gaming. Tripwire Interactive deviates from this trend by bringing players back to the ruins of Stalingrad in Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad.
The single-player in Red Orchestra 2 features two perspectives: German and Russian. Within both campaigns, players experience the epic battle for Stalingrad first hand and the up-close realities of urban warfare in the Eastern Front. Each mission involves clearing and capturing objectives as well as defending against enemy counterattacks similar to a King-of-the-Hill scenario. The single-player element of the game is more of an extended, obligatory tutorial that introduces the basics of the game. It serves as a way to familiarize players with Red Orchestra 2‘s realistic weapons handling and cover system.
RO2 also features a tactical squad element, something most gamers might not have been prepared for. The game encourages players to utilize various strategies, such as fire-and-maneuver, in order to overcome the enemy. Squads feature a realistic range of classes such as riflemen, assault, sniper, machine gunners, engineers, anti-tank, and tank crews; all of which are at the player’s disposal depending on the mission. The individual classes provide unique game play experiences as each serve a particular role with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Unfortunately, the AI is a bit of a disappointment in Red Orchestra 2. In some cases, friendly bots will crowd your cover, which defeats the purpose of concealment. They will also run into your line of sight in the middle of a firefight. In certain missions where defense is crucial, the AI sometimes refuses follow orders and won’t defend an objective. Though Red Orchestra 2 is more of a multiplayer-centric game, a more functional AI would have been appreciated in the campaigns, making the squad element more convincing.
But if you’re going to pick up and play RO2, the multiplayer is a wonderfully obligatory experience. It features several modes including the basic Firefight and the popular Territory mode, which involves capturing and defending objectives. Servers allow up to 64 players per map and players will be able to play in infantry squads as well as tanks, making this one of the most expansive online experiences of the generation. As you play, the multiplayer features an unlocking system that allows you get new weapons and upgrades. Instead of ranks, there is an honor level system. Overall, the multiplayer is chock-full of potential and will drain hours of your time.
Red Orchestra 2 has some pretty serious breakthroughs for video games. The cover system is a point of high praise. Once in cover, players will be able to either blind fire (this is a completely blind fire feature. There is general aiming area given to the player). Or the player can pop out and aim at enemies. This system also allows players to deploy weapons with bipod attachments such as light machine guns and anti-tank rifles, adding to the realism and effective use of the environment.
The combat system game brings realism to whole new level, especially while handling weapons. There is never a target reticle or user interface displaying ammo count, which screams realism and the fog of war. Instead, players will need to periodically check and guesstimate the amount of ammo left in a clip as well as utilize iron sights for aiming. Melee, however, is a little rough as it can delay in response or simply not execute, especially while reloading.
By far the best feature of the game is tank combat. Within the tank, players play as a commander, main gunner, machine gunner, and driver. This feature shines particularly in the multiplayer as you will have to work as a team to be an effective tank crew on the battlefield. As characteristic of tank warfare, players will have to find and aim at weak points in order to score kills without wasting valuable ammunition. Similar to infantry weapons, players who play as the main gunner will have to estimate target range and ballistic drop and adjust the gun accordingly to compensate.
A nice enhancement to the experience is the gory realism. Explosions from grenades and tank shells can dismember soldiers. Headshots leave large stains on the walls. Wounded soldiers cry out in agony or choke on their own blood. Depending on the severity of your wound, you can bandage it to prevent blood loss. If you fail to treat your wound, you will eventually black out and die.
The best way to characterize the overall experience of Red Orchestra 2 is Realism to the Nth degree. From the graphically detailed ruins of Stalingrad to the intricacies of weapons and tank warfare and sounds of war, the developers at Tripwire have given us a renewed appreciation of the World War II FPS genre. One can only hope that they carry this idea to cover other theaters of World War II such as the Pacific and Western Europe. Though there are minor bugs and problems with the AI—all of which may be remedied with patches—this game is potentially one of finest shooters in years.
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Name: Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
Available on: PC
Developed by: Tripwire Interactive
Published by: Tripwire Interactive
Release date: September 13, 2011
EG Score: 4 out of 5 / “Worth Buying”