Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad PC Game Review
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is the sequel to Tripwire Interactive’s break-out game, Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45. For those who missed the first installment, Red Orchestra was developed as a mod using the Unreal Engine on Unreal Tournament 2004 and won first prize in the Make Something Unreal competition sponsored by NVIDIA. Red Orchestra 2 gives gamers a chance to look at WWII from a fresh perspective. Rather than coming in as the heroic troops and storming the beach on D-Day, this first person shooter takes players to the front lines in the German-Russian clash at Stalingrad.
Red Orchestra 2 can be played in either single-player story mode or as a massively multiplayer online combat experience. In story mode, you begin as a German soldier fighting for the Axis powers (the Russian story-mode is locked until you finish the German campaign). After basic training, you are put on the front lines, fighting the Bolsheviks, and trying to cut them off from Stalingrad in order to gain tactical advantage for the Fatherland. Each mission begins with a briefing by a higher-up, telling you what your objectives are and giving you an overview of the map where you will engage the enemy. You get a list of target buildings to either capture or defend. Most of the missions put you in the shoes of a foot solider, but every so often you get to drive and command a panzer. The multiplayer version of RO2 really is massive, supporting games of up to 64 players. There are 4 game types online, and you can choose to play infantry only, mixed games and tank games.
Gameplay in Red Orchestra 2 is intense, complex and substantial. It’s clear that Tripwire’s goals are to bring players detailed and varied maps, weapons that behave true to life, and offer enough variety to keep the game interesting for a long, long time. In this FPS, you have to be aware of real physics, such as bullet spin, bullet drop, and weapon kickback. You also have to be aware of human pitfalls, such as breathing affecting your sight and aim, and the fact that dying can be a slow process. Road rage is also an issue as driving and firing from a tank is bulky and slow because, let’s face it, tanks are bulky and slow. Once you gain control of the epic number of commands, the game really opens up. RO2 gives players pretty substantial freedom in determining how to complete each mission; from the charge/surprise to the sneak/snipe, the game can be played to suit any number of play-styles.
The pros of Red Orchestra 2 are many. The guys responsible for the map environments really deserve a gold star. I’ve been watching my husband play Call of Duty: Black Ops for forever (or so it seems) and the maps look like child’s play compared to those in RO2. The maps each cover a large territory, feel very realistic, particularly in the buildings that have been recently bombed, and possess a high level of detail. Even when you’re playing in a game with 63 other players, you can find yourself completely alone in the third floor bathroom or sniping from a fifth floor fire escape. Earlier I mentioned that dying can take time, which is actually an awesome game effect; as you slip into the twilight, you can still shoot anyone who happens to stumble across your path. The game also shines because it is playable for any skill level, allowing new players a chance to succeed while posing real challenges to FPS veterans.
I’m not going to lie; I’m Jewish and being forced to play through Red Orchestra 2 as a Nazi before I could play as a Russian felt pretty traitorous. It got worse when, between mission chapters, I had to watch happy pictures and clips from propaganda in support of the Nazi party and the Führer. I’m also going to have to say that the number of commands and certain non-intuitive programming is often more of a stumbling block than a success for the game. For example, if you crouch, you’re stuck until you un-crouch, even if, say, you jump up and over a wall. The same bombardment of options is also frustrating for missions which require you to command a tank. The realism of the tank design is great, but there are simply too many positions available within the tank and too many commands for each position to make it fun.
Overall, I see Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad being the go-to FPS for the more methodical and strategy oriented gamers with patience and a penchant for history. I think that for gamers who are used to the modern combat, cross-hairs on your screen, high action set-up, this would be interesting for the sake of comparison, but it won’t have the longevity of Counterstrike or Call of Duty.