Friday, 17 May 2013

Red Orchestra 2 - Rising Storm impressions


Although the conflict in eastern Europe during the second world war was brutal beyond belief, the fighting in the pacific between the United States, Britain & Commonwealth forces and Imperial Japan was an altogether different war.

Germany invaded Russia for numerous reasons and the war there became a war of ideologies, Fascism against Communism, Aryan versus Slav, The motherland and the fatherland.  Both sides fought for much more than the usual border adjustment and resources, this was a war of annihilation and this is why the eastern front is such a fascinating subject of the conflict.  A lot of it is dominated by the characters of the war, Stalin, Hitler, Zhukov, Paulus and many more.  But there are literally millions of stories to be told about a single battle alone in Stalingrad let alone the rest of the Soviet front. 

It's pretty obvious as to why this front is so popular for shooters and wargamers alike.  The sheer scale of the conflict is mind boggling and the battles to play out are on a massive scale with thousands of individual soldiers, tanks and aircraft to play around with.  RO2 does a very impressive job of capturing some of this conflict in it's maps and large scale infantry combat.  It's isn't battlefield but then it was never meant to be.  The game has it's own niche it works very well in and has built up quite the fanbase over the years.

But the conflict in the Pacific is something entirely different from the frozen fields and ruined cities of Russia.  Here Japan fought a war with a very different mindset, one that allowed them to commit atrocities without batting an eyelid.  Here the average Japanese soldier believe in either victory or a honourable death.  Winning was a duty not a simple objective, to die in service of the emperor was a noble and sometimes expected outcome for the infantry of Japan.  Many games focus on the naval conflict of this theatre which isn't surprising when you note that a majority of all naval combat of the war occurred in this sector.  Here great fleets of aircraft carriers, destroyers, battleships and cruisers fought a war that was soon to be replaced by the dominance of air power in coming decades.

The ground war or 'island hopping' campaign of the pacific was a very dirty war.  Japan wasn't keen on taking prisoners and the tactics used here are somewhat different when compared to the conflict in Africa and Europe.  This kind of war is what Rising Storm focuses on, with two very different nations with different playstyles that make for a very interesting and fun game in and of itself.  The United States Marine Corps replaces the Russians here (obviously) and have a heavy focus on sustained fire and close coordination between fireteams and assault teams.  Fireteams will lay on suppressive fire using M1 Garand's, BAR's and M1903 Springfield rifles while the assault team consisting of M1 Thompson sub machine guns, flamethrowers and Garand's would hit the suppressed enemy hard to knock them out.

As such the USMC seem to have a decidedly large advantage over their Japanese opponents.  They can fire more rapidly, have support from fully automatic weapons and kill multiple foes with a single burst from flamethrowers.  The Japanese however play differently with a much more defensively oriented weapon set.  Bolt action rifles such as the Arisaka make up a majority of the Japanese forces weaponry.  Type 99 LMG's and a few Sub machine guns make up for the lack of automatic fire but the disparity is still massive.  The Japanese however have a few bonuses unique to them.  Knee mortars can give the Japanese forces a mobile artillery base to dislodge stubborn defenders or clear a machine gun nest.  Any Japanese soldier can plant hand grenades as makeshift trip mines to defend key positions and then there is the infamous Banzai charge.

Banzai charges are usually looked upon as a standard tactic of the imperial forces but was only really seen in the later years when things started to become desperate for units fighting on the isolated islands or to attempt to overrun a position.  Many banzai charges failed and only really succeeded in killing a few American or British soldiers before being cut down by concentrated fire.  In Rising Storm the banzai is a tactic used in a similar fashion.  Any Japanese player can initiate a charge but a well coordinated one can be devastating as the charge gives a huge resistance to suppression and a minor damage reduction.  When used by several players in close proximity to each other the effect can pretty much allow a group to charge unhindered into the enemy lines and engage in melee combat.  The added bonus here is the fact that American troops will be suppressed by the charging Japanese.

The maps run the gamut of locations from Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Tarawa and more.  The attention to detail here is impressive and each map is instantly memorable showing just how much care and attention was put into these maps.  The asymmetric play is also a great nod to the fact that not all games based on historic conflict have to have perfect balancing to be fun.  In fact Rising Storm revels in this as the tougher and yet more rewarding experience comes from playing as the Japanese who have technically inferior equipment.  The balance here is minimal but the unique approaches to both armies remains true to the conflict that Rising Storm is portraying, war isn't fair and neither should games based on these conflicts.

Rising Storm will feature all of the same progression and unlocks as Red orchestra 2 so the more you play the better your class becomes.  Unlocks are small obviously but it's still fun to work toward getting that new sight or bayonet simply to show that you have put in the time to gain these benefits.  Although a definite release date has yet to be set outside of summer 2013, the game is available for pre-purchase now on steam and grants immediate access to the beta.  Those who already own RO2 will be granted a 40% reduction in cost, so get it now before the end of may.  http://store.steampowered.com/app/234510/

I look forward to seeing you on the battlefield and thanks for reading.

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