Red Orchestra, known as a gaming series that captures the realism of historic wars, has returned to the market with a new look at a conflict that we have seen many times before. Rather than build another game with rarely played campaigns, Tripwire Interactive focused on bringing their style of gaming to the multiplayer area of the Pacific theater of World War II. Rising Storm pits the American-based allied forces against the Japanese-infused Axis powers in a biased, yet realistic approach to the first-person shooter. But is a game that has previously focused on sides of war that history glances over going to have an original take on a conflict we’ve seemingly seen all sides of?
Rising Storm throws you into World War II, but it does so in an interesting manner. First, for those that aren’t familiar with Red Orchestra, teams are set up with a sort of class system. Each class comes with a different weapon load out, and in the case of squad leaders, some special abilities. In the case of Rising Storm, rather than pitting two sides against one another with equal equipment (or in some cases the same equipment), it chooses equipment actually used by both sides. Sadly, this means that the Allies outgunned the Axis powers. By no means does that put the Axis in a losing position out of the gate, though. If anything, putting one side at a disadvantage makes the game much more fun and challenging.
To witness the difference in sides of Rising Storm in the most efficient way, jump right into the Axis side. Taking on the role of a Japanese soldier will quickly show you just how much of a disadvantage you start with on a number of levels. Firepower will definitely tell you about the surface of one side of a lopsided war. Perhaps the only thing that the Axis powers have going that the Allies don’t is the ability to set wire traps with their grenades. That is, until you see how Tripwire incorporated the fighting spirit of the Japanese.
In perhaps one of the coolest ways to tie a real-life idea into a game mechanic, Rising Storm sees the inclusion of the kamikaze. What makes an army charging with swords and bayonets an equalizer on the battlefield is that it was designed to mimic the demoralizing of opposing soldiers. Under the effects of the kamikaze, the Allies have a harder time shooting their enemies. Think of it as a way to replicate fear inside of a game. It is important to hone in on this because of the degree to which it can change the game. Recall that Red Orchestra is a game where a one-shot kill happens frequently. Getting a few squads together and charging into a base in a kamikaze swarm becomes an invaluable tactic, lest you forget that the Axis are also fighting on home turf the entire time. Even if you are on a map that favors flanking maneuvers, you’ll tend have a more defensible position.
The greatest thing that Rising Storm continues to bring to the Red Orchestra series is its perception of realism. Not being a person that has been involved in a war, I can appreciate this for three reasons. The first is that we as a gaming culture don’t need any more games that glorify violence to a degree that it is wanton and gratuitous at every turn. Those types of games have their place, but when trying to capture the true feelings of the past, there has to be some respect given to those that actually saw those days storming a beach or cutting through a jungle. Second, I’ve actually had the personal experience of firing some of the weapons that are featured in the game. A Mosin Nagant is an older weapon, but its destructive force isn’t something that simply goes away with time. It’s not a weapon that you install 20 mods onto to have it shoot 50 armor piercing rounds down field in a blink of an eye. Watching the animations of the bullet loading, the yank back of the bolt to eject a shell, and even the movement of the iron sights…even the accuracy of the clicking sound created by dry firing gets to me. For Rising Storm to capture these types of details (and keep them) speaks a lot of the mindset of the people behind the game. Lastly, Tripwire looked at the history of the Pacific side of World War II, to ensure that the atmosphere fosters a sense of urgency, critical thinking, and doing more than blindly charging in hopes to add to your kill count.
Rising Storm also carries over the best part of its predecessor as well. Teamwork is still as important as ever. It still shakes my perceptions that you can hop onto a server see a pickup team listening to orders to be able to complete an objective. In this age of internet anonymity, that is a rare site when most often you find yourself paired up with prepubescent teens trying to compensate for their lack of testosterone with insults or the never-elusive “dudebro.” Rising Storm continues to reward the community of Red Orchestra by fostering communication and collaboration in an era in gaming where it is all about personal glory. And perhaps when creating Rising Storm, this was part of the input generated by Tripwire working “in a first-of-its-kind collaboration” with modders to bring the game to market. Perhaps by having someone in the mod team point out that the single player and multiplayer experience was the same thing, developers made the choice for Rising Storm to ditch the single player experience that hindered Red Orchestra 2 with bugs. Thus, objectively thinking players were swayed to playing online.
As was stated in our previous review of Red Orchestra 2, the graphics of the game leave a little to be desired. Rising Storm simply carries that flaw forward. Characters still have the faint feeling that they are plastic army men. This time around, they feel like they have a little more of a matte coating applied to them. However, this still might be a stylistic choice to allow players some distance from the violence. The motion blurring and attempts to blur the screen because of combat triggers can be problematic as well, to the point it might make you feel ill or at the least make you turn off what you can. Not a person susceptible to motion sickness, I had to turn it off just because of the way it made my eyes feel. Textures, models, environments, and other scenery props are still top notch. Even the name plates that caused some team killing in the past have been improved, or at least made more visible.
Tripwire Interactive knows how to make a game that breaks the status quo of a shooter and make it fun to play with others. Red Orchestra 2 was an incredible fun game that suffered from some issues, but somehow with the release of Rising Storm, those problems have simply gone away. Players can simply enjoy the game for what it is: a core shooter that invokes realism and strategy more than a hail of gunfire. I implore you to give it a go, if for nothing else than to witness how a military shooter should respectfully be treated. Is it perfect? No. It has a learning curve, its graphics need some work, and it forces you to play well with others. At $20 though, the value for the fun you’ll have playing Rising Storm is well beyond the $60 you’d plop down for a triple-A title.
Game provided by developer for review.