From little things big things grow, from little things big things grow… it really is a crappy song but it is pretty accurate when you are talking about Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. From its origins as a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004, the Tripwire Interactive guys have really turned into a fully formed development team and created a game that reflects that.
While most World War 2 games focus on the battles on the Western Front, Red Orchestra 2 took another approach. Leave out the US, leave out the UK and focus on the harsh, relentless battles that occurred between Germany and Russia on the Eastern Front. Living in Australia, a country that is almost never mentioned in war games I find it refreshing to play as an ally that isn’t the US or the UK. Sure, it’s no Australia, however Russia played such a huge role in the war and they are almost never mentioned.
Since the release of Red Orchestra the mod, I’ve enjoyed playing the game. It also pointed out something a little wrong with the majority of war games: Most go by the “spray and pray” method of gaming. Of course this is fun, but I always thought it lacked realism. Let’s face it, the chances of hitting someone 50 metres away while standing and running really isn’t going to happen. More likely you would stop, kneel or prone, iron sight and then shoot. This is exactly what Red Orchestra brings to the first person shooter genre. If you are up for spray and pray, you will be disappointed. But if you are like me and want the realism, Red Orchestra will bring it in droves.
[img_big]center,4706,2011-08-15/ro2_pr_screenshot_fallenfighters_battle_b.jpg,Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad[/img_big]
Although Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad has a big focus on multiplayer it also comes with a single player campaign. I have to be honest on this one, I didn’t finish it. Not because it was bad, rather because I kept getting dragged back to the multiplayer game for just one more round!
Sorry die-hards, I just didn’t enjoy the single player as much as the multiplayer. Not to say it was bad as it wasn’t by any means – it was just not as good as the stellar multiplayer. Campaign gameplay is very similar to its multiplayer counterpart. Your mission is to defend or attack parts of the map and to hold them with a majority of soldiers. The problem with this of course: It’s much more fun to do with other humans.
I do feel there were a couple of issues with the single player campaigns though, and all of them can be summed up with one word… bots. They are a continued frustration to me. While they aren’t the worst AI I’ve ever come up against (that crown still goes to Doom 3), they did keep getting in my way. I’d find a nice place to prone, so they would all gather in front of me. I’d charge, they would all run the other way. Yes, sometimes it might have been my fault, but you would think they should run towards the action, not the other way!
Personally, I would like to have seen some kind of hybrid multiplayer/single player. You are in the single player campaign, however each map loads in a multiplayer game. Campaign is yours, but instead of bots you have real players. I think this would be a awesome addition.
Meanwhile, one great reason for the single player campaign: Learning how to play. Not only does it have a great demonstration of movement and weapons, much like America’s Army, but it also later teaches you how to be a Squad Leader, order troops to position, call in air strikes etc. If anything that is enough reason to play single player.
[img_big]center,4706,2011-04-21/bayonet.jpg,Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad[/img_big]
Now that I have complained about single player it’s on to multiplayer. It is fantastic, some of the best I have played for ages. Unlike many games that score based on kills, the Red Orchestra 2 scoring system is based on how effective you are. Yes you score points for a kill, however you score more points for killing someone in a area you need to defend or attack, and even more if you successfully complete an objective. In a game where kills are generally quite low, you can have 5 kills yet have over 100 points, or at the same time have 10kills and only have 10 points. If you don’t push, you don’t get the points. This really is a great method, and one that really promotes fair teamwork.
Like most WW2 games you have different classes, from the basic assault to Tank Commander and Squad Leader, each suiting a different player. If you like to charge, you will go assault, but if you are a bit more long range like me you will go rifleman or marksman. Because the weapons are much closer to their real-world counterparts, picking the right weapon for your style of gameplay is critical. And as there are class limits, this makes it even more important.
The only negative thing about class limits is that it awards the person with the fastest PC or fastest connection. He who loads first gets the best weapon. (Mind you, if you can find a better way to do this then you are better then I, maybe something like a rank limit? People with higher rank can take weapons away from lower ranks, but of course that has its own problems…)
One thing that makes Red Orchestra 2 so good is the map design. Firstly they look great, but really I don’t care what maps look like as long as the play well, which luckily they do. Choke points at the right spots, dips , nooks, crannies, spots to snipe from, spots to creep up on, dark areas, light areas, open areas, and even flanking areas. The maps have everything. And to make it even better I really haven’t seen any balance issues. Even on the maximum size 64 player servers, you’re still given enough room to move. The method of respawning in waves of re-enforcements works well too. There is nothing worse the spawning on top of an enemy who is waiting for you with an assault rifle, (something that happens all-too-often in the single player campaign).
[img_big]center,4706,2011-04-21/sniper.jpg,Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad[/img_big]
I’ve got to say I’m a little biased toward this game, I loved the original mod, and I love Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad just as much.
I really consider this a multiplayer game. While it does have single player (and without taking credit away from the guys who designed it), buy this for the multiplayer component. It is one of the best PC first person shooters that has come out for quite some time. (It is so good, in fact, they had to put me in a café on a computer that couldn’t play it, just to write this. If they hadn’t, I’d still be finding a way to “test” it rather then to write the review!)