Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is a shooter set during World War Two which is developed and published by Tripwire Interactive. While other shooters say that they are going for realism they are still sticking with game elements that aren’t really realistic at all. Red Orchestra removes this arcade style of shooting and goes for a much more realistic approach; most times a single shot will kill you so regenerating health is really unnecessary.
Red Orchestra really wants you to be engrossed in the action – you never get removed from your 1st person view whether you’re ducking your way around trenches, popping your head in and out of cover or sprinting across the battlefield dodging bullets as you try and reach the next objective. Weapons are deadly in all bar a scarce few occasions where you’ll have to bandage yourself up lest you bleed to death. Dodging bullets may mean that you keep on living but it doesn’t mean that you won’t be any worse for wear; a morale bar lowers as you are shot at and huge chunks of morale disappear with artillery strikes that land anywhere nearby. The lower your morale is the lower your ability to fight – you start shaking, colour drains away and need to rest up before becoming more steady and able to perform at your full capabilities. The cover system lets you hug most walls and pop out as you please but as the iron sights activate you aiming out of cover and it being a toggle, it means you may get yourself shot if you forget to toggle. Popping out of via WASD is the safest way and if you aim out of cover with a deployable weapon you will automatically start to deploy it as you leave cover.
Graphically it is a beautiful game. The environments are incredibly detailed and look great even on the lower settings. Included are 3 different post-processing setting: normal which looks reasonable, enhanced which looks incredible on the higher graphical settings and war movie which adds a grainy filter which looks incredible and is the most atmospheric of the three settings. Wood will splinter as its shot at, holes are torn through walls and the only thing that is maybe a little out of place is the dismemberment from explosions. The dismemberment sees limbs flying off of the torso and it doesn’t feel too realistic in comparison to the rest of the game. Luckily gore and dismemberment can all be turned off via the game options.
The singleplayer campaigns are both primers for multiplayer more so than anything else. The Axis Campaign is filled with tutorials in between missions and each teaches you the basics of the game or a certain element or class. The tutorials are pretty much a must for anyone not familiar with Red Orchestra and it is especially needed if you want to get to grips with the squad commands, tank controls or the Commander’s use of the radio. The missions are mainly territory based but do include defence missions and both use reinforcement waves to keep you alive. If you die you take control of another living ally but you can’t choose the ally and get stuck with whatever weapon that class has. This can be especially frustrating on the tank levels as sometimes you respawn as an infantry class which lets you take objectives much more effectively. Between levels you are given a little bit of story in the form of excerpts from diaries from various soldiers but nothing much else except the general mission tactics or briefing that links one mission to the next. The allied AI can occasionally get stuck until you respawn as them and the fact that you have no control over the ally you respawn as means that they can walk into dire situations for you to recover from once you do. Each mission lasts between 10-25 minutes on average as there isn’t any way for the enemy to push back on the territory missions. Defence missions are by far the hardest and last either the least or most time depending on how easily you defend, with a 5 minute timer for each defence. Four different difficulty levels give you a fair chance at the singleplayer with each changing the level of AI you’re against and also the number of reinforcement waves you are given for completing the level.
The Multiplayer lets you choose from various classes (unlike singleplayer where it automatically allocates you a class, with preferences to the more rare the class) which will determine what weapon you use, though the elite classes normally have the option to choose between weapons. Each class has a slot allowance so that there aren’t too many of the same class – these include some classes that only have a single slot. Your main force should be made up of standard rifleman whom most people will pick after the more elite classes are taken. Surprisingly there are few slots for the assault class which holds the machine gun. After these main grunts you get elite riflemen which give the choice of rifle, machine gunners, anti-tank, marksman, engineer and then the leader classes. There are three leader classes are the Squad Leader, Tank Commander and Commander. The Commander is a one slot class that can issue orders and bring in support via the radios that are found in the spawn zones and objective zones. Squad Leaders are found in larger quantities and are part of squads which allow squad members to spawn at their location, they have smoke grenades which are undeniably important for survival across open wastes and they can also issue orders. Tank Commanders operate tanks and can give orders to the rest of the tank crew while operating individual roles within the tank. The Tank Commander can switch between seats on the fly and go from commanding the tank and looking out through the top hatch, operating the main cannon, driving or even using the mounted machinegun port.
The maps in the game are just huge, even sprinting from one side of the map to the other will take a few minutes. Being this size, games can hold up to 64 players as they battle it out on the landscape. It has a truly epic sense of scale as the Commander on the battlefield orders in artillery and mortar strikes or even recon planes which leave the enemy positions on the map. These maps are perfect for the game types on offer. Fire fight is the most similar to a team Deathmatch, while territories and countdown bring attack and defend objectives into the gameplay. Territories see both teams attacking and defending objectives with the game ending on either the time limit running out or one sides reinforcements diminishing completely. Countdown is a single life attack or defend mode where one team holds out against attackers while the defenders have to keep the objective from being taken at all costs. If an objective is taken then all players respawn and the attackers continue forwards.
Audio is both realistic and atmospheric with the music bringing very cold war themes which sets the grim atmosphere of the battlefields and sounds being authentic to the weaponry used. The way the morale affects the rest of the game really increases the impact that the whistle of bullets or pounding of the artillery has on you. Being inside of a tank you will be barely be able to hear much else over the roar of the engines and getting hit by something while in a tank is quite an experience, even more so if you are outside of the top hatch.
Game of the year content – Written by Laurence Stark
Red Orchestra 2’s Game of the Year edition seems solely dedicated to opening the niche hit up to a wider range of players – an admirable move for a WWII shooter that prides itself on accuracy and realism.
The most notable GOTY addition is ‘Action Mode’, which is essentially intended to make the game more in line with other titles of the genre, adding a crosshair and reducing the amount of damage taken. This puts a great deal of distance between the heavy feel of the original and the game of year edition, but is suggested as a sort of ‘introduction’ to the game – imagine it as a pair of training wheels stuck on the side of a Panzer.
The only real flaw with the tweaked gameplay is that it leaves RO2 in a weird middle ground between the arcade feel of hyper unreal Call of Duty shooters and the unforgiving nature of games like Arma II, which are popular with realism enthusiasts. It may have enough appeal to bring in more players but at times it runs the dangerous risk of being too authentic for the COD crowd and too trigger happy for the Arma crowd. The game still forces you to make tactical decisions before leaping head first into the fray but the recovering health meter and dumbed down enemies make your anxious first steps into the atmospheric Red Orchestra world a bit more forgiving. It’s good training for the equally punishing but rewarding online play, which should be considered the main appeal of Red Orchestra 2.
The GOTY edition makes Red Orchestra 2 a much more fleshed out title and adds more appeal to the thin single player campaign. A game for those who like to think first and shoot later, and a tense, exhilarating experience in a niche it created, and continues to fill it alone. If you’re looking for a complete, authentic WWII game that isn’t brutally unforgiving, the game of the year edition of Red Orchestra 2 promotes it to that rank.
Presentation and Audio
Both the presentation and audio set the atmosphere incredibly well, the audio is filled with sombre war themes and accurate sounds for the weaponry. Graphically the levels are amazing to look at especially with the post processing on war movie.
The singleplayer is a must to get to grips with and the 4 difficulty levels ensure that you will make it through at a fair pace. Multiplayer is where you will spend most of your time and all the different gameplay elements really come together for an uncompromising experience that is like no other WW2 game out there.
The attention to detail is astounding with little options to have manual reloading, manual bolting, sight ranges, dual sights on scoped rifles, etc. The game is quite hard-core and leaves little room for error in a single life but having reinforcement’s means that you can more often than not learn from your mistakes. It is incredibly fun for anyone who wants a more realistic experience and should grab the attention of more run-and-gun shooters because of its atmosphere and skill based nature.
The game can feel really unforgiving if you burst straight into the multiplayer like I did with the beta. Heading into the Axis Campaign is a must for the tutorials and they are needed if you want to do anything more advanced in the game. The multiplayer is where the really bulk of the game is and it is solid in the smaller games but the 64 man games seem to have a few lag issues atm. Games tend to last quite a while and sometimes one side will get dominated but no more so than any other game out there. I think that cover system and realism in the weapons and damage make the game what it is and the one death where you are slowly bleeding but can still hip fire is a really nice touch.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.