Over saturation in the shooter market has always been a problem. Again and again, publishers churn out scenarios in titles that they think we want, but in reality they are mostly unwelcome rehashes of things we’ve already seen. When yet another World War II-era game was proposed to me, I couldn’t help but to roll my eyes a little. Between all the Medals of Duty, Battle of Honors and Callfields could it be that we’d be stuck with just another assault on our wallets? Could it be that a shooter was produced that would step outside of the norm, or should we prepare for another in a long line of the cliché? Tripwire looks to persuade us with their most recent offering, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad.
Red Orchestra 2 puts you on the front lines of the World War II conflict. For a change of pace, it places the player on the side not often explored by video game culture- the German/Russian conflict, actually starting you off as a German soldier. Single player doesn’t push you through thick scenarios or pivotal moments that you’d typically recognize from video game history; Red Orchestra offers a different path. It pits you at odds against the Axis or Allies forces with an end goal of taking key strategy points to the war. Moving from point to point, you push through the dredges holding out for reinforcements in the shattered remains of buildings.
At first, it is a different feeling when playing Red Orchestra and I’m not afraid to say this caught me a little by surprise. With every new shooter that comes to market, we assume that everything will be just the same: basic movements, actions, weapons and so forth. What we never seem to expect is a game that brings an ounce of realism to the table. The scenarios sometimes come to the surface for a brief moment during the campaign, but a moment is generally all we get. Instead in Red Orchestra, we’re faced with a more realistic approach to how things would have been. Instead of bursting into every room guns blazing and jumping around to avoid incoming fire, it is more prudent to pick and choose when to run and gun or when to sit back. Taking hits isn’t as simple as waiting for your shield to regenerate either. There are actual consequences to taking fire, and the adjustment as a player is infuriating sometimes to say the least.
Weaponry plays a huge aid to the realistic feel as well. Firearms don’t have unlimited clips. No round count is on the interface. You aren’t going to fire off 300 rounds a second, then immediately blast them with a phosphorus grenade as a secondary firing method. The only weapons you see are true to the period and act like they should. Being a person with a Mosin Nagant in their household, I have a profound respect for Tripwire keeping it that way. You want to check and see if you gun is still loaded? You have to actually hold your reload key to see if there are bullets in it. I can truly appreciate the thought put behind that. There were a few times because I wasn’t keeping track of what I’d fired, a perfectly lined up shot was instead met with a hollow click.
Unlike many shooters out there, you have assistance in the form of an army. It creates a different impact on the player, because it will carry on without you. If members of the squadron perish, timers start showing when reinforcements will arrive. As long as one solider remains, your army will fight on. A odd side effect comes out via this perpetual replenishment as well: it is possible to win via attrition. Not the soundest of strategies, but it does carry a weight of truth to it as befitting the setting. Both German and Russian leaders disregarded human life in the name of victory, as seen by the staggering number of casualties in the Eastern Conflict by the end of the war. I don’t know if it was intentional by the developer to capture that essence, but it plays well into the style of the game.
Not everything is fine and dandy with Red Orchestra 2. Something felt wrong moving from single player to multiplayer. I couldn’t shake the fact that both offered very similar experiences. I’ve come to expect an exhilarating, fast-paced push through the solo portion from experience playing every other franchise in this overpopulated genre. As short as these other game’s missions may have been, they were offering at least a difference to playing against others. With Red Orchestra, other gamers are taking the place of your squad members that in the single-player mode you had an opportunity to command. The overall feel doesn’t really change from single to multi. Generally speaking, the similarity isn’t a terrible thing, but it almost feels like $10 could have been knocked of the price to make it an online only title.
Move forward to catch the conclusion!