There was a time when World War 2 based FPS games were everywhere, although with the emergence of the ‘modern FPS’ this time seems almost as long ago as the Normandy landings themselves. But Tripwire Interactive believe there’s still something to be explored and are bringing us the PC exclusive, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, due to release on Tuesday.
Over the past week, I’ve spent a little time with the multiplayer beta for Red Orchestra 2. My first thoughts? “Wow, I really suck!” There’s no nonsense here, and certainly no space for any shenanigans. The sense of realism will hit you in the face just as quickly as the virtual bullets hit your character in the skull. Venture into open space from the wrong angle or at the wrong time, and you’ll be awaiting a respawn — which still tries to enforce a true to life feeling by spawning players in waves, in order to simulate reinforcing units.
The maps I’ve seen so far even feel like environments that could be encountered in the real world. In many of these multiplayer games you can feel that a map’s basic layout has been designed for gameplay, spotting the areas that have been dropped in to push gameplay in a certain direction. In Red Orchestra 2, though, it’s as if the map is putting real world obstacles in front of you. One particular map entitled ‘Fallen Fighters’ sees enemies separated by almost nothing but a huge space of open land, a scenario that I’m sure was a massive part of combat during World War 2, but is rarely portrayed in games.
Tripwire’s Vice President, Alan Wilson, was keen to express this realism in our recent interview. “One bullet will kill you, a lot of the time. No magic health packs. You can stop a wound bleeding, if you are lucky, but you aren’t going to get better“, he stated. “Death is all around – and it includes YOU! When you die in the single player, you’ll swap to the body of a live squad mate – unless you’ve managed to get them all killed.”
This unrelenting approach means that you’d better start working with your team. Advance upon an enemy position without some cover fire and you’re likely not coming out a hero. Rambo would have never lived to make that terrible fourth movie if he’d seen a day’s action in this game. The addition of limited slots in a server for each class, further reinforces this aspect. When a server is filled, it generally turns out that each team has a main force of riflemen, a couple of machine gunners to lay covering fire, a marksman to pick of stragglers from a distance and a small team of SMG carriers, who’ll be vital for entering and clearing out buildings and fortifications at close range. Acting inappropriately for the weapon you’re paired with generally doesn’t work out, so you’ll often find scenarios where, for example, riflemen stake an enemy building from outside while the close quarters guys flush out the opponents.
None of this would be any good, however, if the basic shooting wasn’t up to par — but let me assure you, it feels great. Everything feels extremely responsive, with the transition from moving around to looking down the sights (and even into first-person cover) being as smooth as anything. The game runs without any troubles, and the extremely ‘laggy’ server browser I had on day one was fixed with an update in close to 24 hours. Couple that with dedicated servers, modding tools and an options menu with just about anything you could wish to change and we’ve got a game that shows what’s capable on the PC when it’s done right. There’s no doubt that even more tweaks and adjustments will have been made before this goes on sale, and I’d be confident that post-release support is going to be top notch should any issues arise.
Jumping straight into Red Orchestra’s multiplayer was tough at first, but I soon adapted to the constraints that the realism puts in place — and when you reach that point, it’s a deeply immersive experience and puts across a massive feeling of tension and need for awareness in order to stay alive. Which is half of the game, I think. Just having your team still breathing is as important as shooting the other team down.
Anybody that wants to run around with a fully automatic assault rifle, bragging about the size of their penis and kill/death ratio probably won’t find a lot of fun in Red Orchestra 2. But, if you’re looking for a highly tactical, team-based shooter on the PC, you’ll be hard pushed to match what Tripwire have come up with here. And with several mods already being developed, as well as two single player campaigns with “training missions added in that will take the player through all the core components”, I’m fairly sure you’ll get what you paid for out of this one.
Red Orchestra 2 goes on sale on sale in various physical and digital outlets Tuesday, September 13th. More info can be found at the game’s official website.