Genre: First Person Shooter Developer: Tripwire Interactive Publisher: 1C Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 13th Sep 2011 Platforms:
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Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is the sequel to the 2006 game Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45. Developed by Tripwire Interactive, Ostfront 41-45 began life as an entrant into the Make Something Unreal Competition - a World War 2 based total conversion mod of Unreal Tournament 2003 and then Unreal Tournament 2004. The focus of the mod - and the first game - was on a realistic First Person Shooter, with no crosshair or ammunition count - forcing the player to rely on iron sights and memory. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad continues this tradition and adds some twists of its own.
Red Orchestra 2 - like its predecessor - is set during World War II, because not enough first person shooters have been set during World War II yet. Staged around Stalingrad (as you might expect) you fight out battles between the German forces and Russian forces. RO2 is primarily a multiplayer game, with the single player being little more than multiplayer with bots.
Single player has its own story line - basic though it is - and serves as a good introduction to the game. The tutorial missions are spaced out to give you a chance to put your new knowledge to use, although some incredibly infuriating bugs meant restarting was necessary from time to time. Doing the first single player mission is probably a good idea - even for fans of the original - as RO2 has some significant differences to RO.
Probably the most important is the cover system - not common in first person shooters - and certainly not common in multiplayer focused first person shooters. RO2 maintains first person perspective while in cover too, which adds a great deal of tension to any firefights you might be caught in. A few seconds feels like an eternity when you are huddled behind the broken remains of a wall with only a few rounds in your pistol remaining, tossing up whether you should risk running to your comrades in the nearby building.
The feeling is intensified too, thanks to the addition of a suppression system. Blind fire looks like a pointless addition when you first try it, sticking your MP40 out of cover to spray bullets at targets you canít see. It becomes a good tactic however, when you realise the effect it has on your enemies. When affected by suppressing fire, your vision blurs and shakes at a rate comparable to the amount of suppression, compelling you to make a move when your opponent reloads - or else pray for someone else to.
Breathing is also affected by suppression, bad news for anyone carrying a rifle. When aiming down your iron sights itís important to take your breathing into account - you can hold your breath to steady your shot, but you canít hold your breath forever.
With its many different focuses on realism, you probably wonít expect RO2 to move at the pace it does. While there are definitely moments of standstill as you find yourself and your opponents firing at each other from two buildings and waiting for reinforcements, if you have a capable team the game usually moves along at a very swift pace. Fans of the original game will probably find it a little alarming at first, although most others will prefer the faster gameplay - especially as it eliminates what most would consider stupid deaths caused by painfully slow reload times and the like.
What sets RO2 apart from most other FPS games however are the tanks. Playing as a driver, machine gunner or commander, you will be looking at the battlefield from inside a fully detailed tank. Youíll peer out through the periscope to get a view of the battlefield and when your tank takes damage, the location of the damage has different effects. Treads can be taken out, your engine can be taken out, or if in the wrong place, one of your crew members can die. Tanks in RO2 feel like you are playing an entirely different game.
With everything working in unison, Red Orchestra 2 is an outstanding game - even if it's not for everyone. Unfortunately, for every twenty minutes you spend playing with everything working as expected, youíll spend another forty flipping tables over in frustration. RO2 has a leveling system (like so many modern shooters these days) - I havenít mentioned it before now because itís horrifically broken. You are better off pretending there isnít anything to unlock - and when for some strange reason you are assigned an extra hundred tank kills, accept whatever extras you get as a lucky bonus until they are randomly taken away from you.
The sound dropping out is par for the course at the moment, as are the random crashes and various animation glitches which plague the game. You probably shouldnít be surprised if you are kicked for no reason either - RO2 uses VAC, Punkbuster and PBBans to keep cheaters away - and if the server youíve joined hasnít disabled at least one of them you are bound to trigger a false positive.
Some of the weapons are overpowered too - anyone with a sub machine gun (but especially the Germansí Mkb 42) has an edge over most opponents - although the fast paced nature of the game almost eliminates camping entirely.
Tripwire Interactive has always been active in the community and committed to removing bugs and adding more features - with a Pacific campaign and Vietnam campaign incoming as well as more tanks and weapons for the vanilla campaign - but the servers are starting to grow sparse due to the bugs and people not wanting to join a game just to have their ass handed to them by an enemy with an smg.
Currently, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad doesnít look like a worthwhile purchase. While its cover and suppression systems and tanks are outstanding, there are far too many bugs throughout the single and multiplayer game. While broken animation and even the bizarre leveling bugs can be ignored to an extent, the constant framerate and sound dropping - not to mention outright crashes - make RO2 too frustrating at the moment - and sadly itís only going to get worse as more people get fed up and move on to something else.