There was a time not to long ago when the market was absolutely flooded with World War 2 shooters. This changed when Infinity Ward made the somewhat gutsy decision to move their franchise shooter Call of Duty into the current era with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. After that the copycats followed and the number of World War II shooters dropped significantly.
Indie developer Tripewire Interactive has ignored the trend towards modern combat. Heroes of Stalingrad is a realistic World War II shooter set in and around Stalingrad as the Nazi forces invade the Soviets. As with the original Red Orchestra the focus is on creating a tense and calculated multiplayer experience for hardcore shooter fans.
Game: Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Developer: Tripwire Interactive
Genre: First Person Shooter
Pros: Addictive multiplayer with unique game modes. Realistic gun mechanics. Strong post launch support.
Cons: Some stability issues. Glitches and buggy AI hamper single player .
Verdict: Great multiplayer experience for hardcore shooter fans willing to put up with some stability issues.
Acquired via Publisher
The single player campaign is little more than the muliplayer filled with bots with documentary-style videos in between. The AI has some issues, but overall it serves as a good way to get used to the basic mechanics of Red Orchestra 2 before you test your metal online. In addition to getting familiar with your weapons, single player is a good way to learn each map. Depending on the game mode a given map will have several objectives to capture and hold. Understanding these objectives is key to successful multiplayer matches.
Gunplay will be the biggest barrier to entry for most players. Running and gunning simply doesn’t work in Heroes of Stalingrad. More powerful weapons are gated so that only a few players on each time may use them, with the most common weapon a bolt action rifle. The HUD doesn’t display how much ammo you have remaining. If you lose track, then holding the reload button will let you check and get an estimate of how many shots you have left. While firing you need to account for bullet drop and breathing when making a shot, so each kill is both difficult and rewarding.
If your target is hit but not killed, they must use one of their limited number of bandages to control the bleeding or they will eventually bleed out. There is no regenerative health here. A first-person cover system will help avoid getting shot, with the ability to lean out and aim or try blind firing. Leaning is also available while away from cover, perfect for peeking around obstacles from a distance.
There are four different multiplayer game modes available at launch. Campaign splits the map into ten sections and each team must capture and defend these positions. Countdown is a single life mode where each team must capture or defend a position. If you die, you won’t respawn until the objective is completed. Firefight is similar to team deathmatch, with dead players respawning in waves after a few seconds. Finally in Territory each team will attempt to capture and hold territories until the time limit is reached, with each team getting reinforced with a wave of respawns every so often.
If being a basic infantryman isn’t enough than there are several more important roles for you to fill. tank commanders, squad leaders and commanders each have additional responsibilities. Commanders can call in artillery, call for area recon, or force a respawn of all dead players at once. Squad commanders can issue orders to their squad. Tank commanders…well, they get a tank.
The biggest issue with Red Orchestra 2 is that it has had some stability issues. The game uses VAC, Punkbuster, and PBBans anti-cheat services. Punkbuster has kicked me several times for briefly losing my connection to Steam. After this happens the server browser list is empty until I restart the game. The game also occasionally freezes, forcing me to kill the process.
For those willing to put up with the occasional instability and master the game’s complexities, Red Orchestra 2 can be quite rewarding. If you hate campers and prefer to run and gun, then this simply isn’t the game for you. It’s not the best looking or most polished experience you’ll find this holiday, but the free DLC and dedicated modding community mean that it will return the time investment it will take to master. This is the perfect hangout place for the hardcore first-person shooter fan who is tired of the noise that comes with the AAA titles.