All right, soldiers! It’s time to get back to the battlefield! It’s time for war! And this isn’t just like any other conflict. There are no crosshairs, ammo counters or health packs! If you are shot in the foot, you wrap a bandage around it and you walk it off! This is real! This is Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad.
What Is It?
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is the second title in the franchise of World War II-themed first person shooters developed by Tripwire Interactive. The series in general is well known for its emphasis on realism while enacting in specific battles during World War II. This particular title focuses on the conflict surrounding the invasion of the German army on Russia’s city of Stalingrad and is the first of its genre to portray the 2nd World War from the perspective of the German army.
Much like many first person shooters, multiplayer seems to be the bread and butter for Red Orchestra 2. However, there is a single player dual-campaign mode for those who are new to the title. First, you fight as the German army, working from mission to mission to invade and capture the enemy’s most industrious city. The majority of missions involve attacking and capturing different locations as the army moves through Stalingrad. Upon completion of the first campaign, a second campaign is unlocked, which places the player in the shoes of the Russians who struggle to defend and maintain control in their important metropolis. As can be expected, there are significantly more defense missions in this campaign than the Axis campaign.
Aside from fighting as an infantry, the player will step inside a fully detailed tank for each side. Tripwire emphasizes how important the visual realism is in their title and describes how they devoted 3 months to each tank for research and appearance matching. Thanks to their hard work, you can look around the inside of each tank and really feel like you’re there.
Not only are the visuals of the tanks very realistic, but the mechanics for controlling it will require a great deal of strategy if you want to be successful in the mission. When you first begin the task, there are men at each station and with the push of a button, you’ll instantly switch from person to person to drive, command and attack. However, as your vehicle takes damage, the men in the corresponding locations will be killed. This means that you’ll no longer quickly switch places, but will have to physically make your character move to the selected position, leaving your tank at risk for further attacks. Another method introduced to the battlefield involves consulting a local map and calling in an aerial recon to identify groups of enemies. Once the player designates an ideal target, they can then call in an artillery strike, mortar or other aerial attack methods. This provides extra firepower when your squad is advancing on open ground and can’t find adequate cover.
As for multiplayer, gamers can step onto the battlefield with up to a total of 64 other human players to fight in a number of different modes of play. As you fight and excel in online play, the server will monitor your statistics and award you special weapons and items for your hard work. The final goal for multiplayer ranking is to be awarded a true “hero”, which carries benefits for both leadership of allies and encounters with enemies. As was mentioned earlier, multiplayer is where the game shines. If you’ve had no experience with the franchise, single player merely prepares you for the onslaught of online play.
Why Should I Care?
The realism this title is known for is in how the game looks, sounds, feels and is experienced. First, there is no HUD at all while playing. You have the option of pressing a button to see one, but be prepared to fight while holding down that button if you want to see it always. The screen is free of distractions save for a small overhead map to keep you oriented towards the goal.
There aren’t even any simple designations to differentiate between enemies and allies. As you can see on the banner image, uniforms and general appearance of all soldiers are very similar. Once you’ve played through one campaign and have fine-tuned your senses to quickly discern the enemy from the group, you’ll find that once you start the second campaign in the perspective of the opposing army, you’ll mistakenly fire at your allies because they were once your enemies. This means you’ll have to forget all your previous identification training and relearn by attacking what were previously your allies. The music behind the game is composed by Sam Hulick, who composed the score for the Mass Effect series. As the battle develops, the music will adapt to fit each scenario as it happens. As for sound effects, gamers will feel as if they are in the soldier’s boots as gunfire, explosions and Russian/German exclamations are rained down throughout gameplay. This adds to the environment Tripwire was working towards in this title’s creation.
The overall handling of your character during gameplay as well as the mechanics and physics of the weaponry also complement the importance of bringing the gamer into the game’s environment. Red Orchestra 2 introduces a first person cover system that allows the player to take cover and either fire blindly over the object or strategically peer from behind to make calculated shots.
Also, though your character may be in a position of protection, you have to consider what is ideal to guarantee that safety. Objects could be too small to offer full coverage or be composed of a weak material that allows bullets access to your fragile form. There are no health packs or injury regeneration of any kind in this title, much like real life. So long as you haven’t been shot in the head or torso, which often would result in instant death, a first person collision detection system will flash an image of a body and indicate where you were hit, much like in the Fallout series.
To avoid bleeding out and dying quickly, the player is required to quickly bandage the injured area and keep fighting. The controls required to maneuver your character throughout the game will adapt to a given situation. For example, you would press “Left Ctrl” while standing over a dead soldier to pick up any dropped weapons or ammo. However, when standing near a cover area, pressing the same button will move your character into position. If you’re nowhere near a cover area or a dead soldier, that button is used for applying a bandage to your oozing injuries when shot. As can be expected, this multitasking of controls can be quite frustrating when encountering a dead soldier near a cover area after you’ve been shot and need to bandage the wound.
Not only will the weapons look authentic, the method for firing and handling them will also be more real than fantasy. The guns used are, of course, those used in the real battle and as the player will notice, the Russians received the short end of the stick when it came to the more effective guns.
There are no crosshairs to aid the player in lining up a shot; they will be required to use either the iron sights or the scope, if accessible. Some guns even have an adjustable range to compensate for further targets, and you may have to compensate for bullet drop, spin and gun recoil. Though these bare-bone features may seem frustrating, think of it as a method of improving your first person shooter skills. Anyone can shoot a target with a virtual gun aided by brightly colored cross hairs, but it takes a real pro to use virtual iron sights to make that same shot. As for the Red Army’s lack of adequate weaponry; you can thank history for that. It turns out that due to conflicts elsewhere, depots and manufacturing bases were cut off from Stalingrad and so soldiers were required to make do with what they could find or go without arms.
As for replay value, Tripwire has an answer for that too. A third campaign consisting of multi-player maps used in a campaign setting will be one of many features to come in the near future. Players can look forward to a co-op mode where they can play with their friends through the new campaign or other game play modes. For those who like to play solo, there will also be a number of offline challenges such as practicing at the shooting range or performing assault courses to refine your skills. Scores for these challenges will be posted and ranked within the online community as a method to motivate players to keep improving their abilities.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
In terms of realism, this title is the king. The lack of HUD makes it possible to really feel like you’re on the battlefield. You don’t have to worry about running out of ammo or health if it’s not constantly reminding you on the screen. The gun physics can make general shooting a challenge, but that emphasizes the importance of improving your skills with each weapon. When you are constantly surrounded by the cries of pain and death, you’ll find yourself trying to work more as a team with your allies so you don’t lose anyone.
Remember when I mentioned how long it takes the Tripwire team to fully research and develop a model for the tanks? There will also be new vehicles in the forms of tanks and even armored transports. The best thing about the future of Red Orchestra 2 is that Tripwire will release these DLCs for free to anyone who already owns the full game.
What makes this game worth it is that the realism included in every aspect of the title can actually bring you into the boots of a soldier during the bloodiest battle of World War II. The story of the Battle of Stalingrad is played out before you, not just in game play, but also in the short clips between missions that describe the conflict as you experience it. For anyone who hasn’t seen or read about this particular event, this title gives them an idea of how it progressed. These elements of realism can allow the player to truly appreciate the story and history behind the subject matter. By taking away the very aspects of what would make this a game, Tripwire has made it into a real experience that leaves the player determined to reach their goal.