Saturday, 1 June 2013

Review: Red Orchestra 2 - Rising Storm (Steam PC)


World war II gaming is seeing something of a minor revival of late, with games like Company of heroes 2, War thunder and the newly released Rising Storm for popular hardcore shooter Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad.

Where Red Orchestra 2 was firmly set in the blasted ruins of Stalingrad circa 1942, Rising Storm takes us to the far eastern Pacific theatre of war.  Here the game is more focused on the island hopping campaigns of 1942 onward, visiting such infamous locales as Guadalcanal, Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and more.  Teams play as either the USMC or the Imperial Japanese army both of which have a very unique and rewarding structure of play.

The word asymmetrical has been thrown around a lot lately in regards to multiplayerer titles, but Rising Storm really does have this nailed down.  Both armies feel very different in the way they play and how you adapt to changing situations on the battlefield all really depends on your faction.  The United States for instance are a very technologically superior force compared to the Japanese.  They utilise numerous fully automatic weapons, have a greater rate of fire with their standard issue rifles (unless on Guadalcanal) and can use the deadly flamethrower.  On paper the American force seems to be the clear winner with such a huge advantage in weapons and firepower, but as history would tell you it was never a cakewalk for the Marines in the Pacific.

The Japanese army have relatively few automatic weapons, largely relying on bolt action rifles and light machine gun support to hold key positions.  They have no flamethrowers but they do have several unique tricks.  Any Japanese soldier can use their hand grenades as makeshift tripmines, instantly killing anyone who steps on it.  Mobile mortar fire is available with the famous Japanese knee mortar, allowing players to fire accurate and deadly explosives from almost any position on the field.  Finally the Japanese have the blood chilling banzai charge, represented in game with a few mechanics to simulate the charging soldiers fervour and disregard for personal safety.  Banzai charges are move effective as more players join, giving them higher suppression resistance, damage resistance and causing the targets suppression to jump rapidly.  Used correctly and a banzai charge can be devastating for the American team.

Of course there are the shouts of "flamethrowers are OP" or "Americans are unbalanced" but Red Orchestra has never been a game about fairness, it has been about replicating the battles fought during the war with whatever equipment and tactics both sides had at that time.  If you prefer your shooters to be balanced to a fine point then Rising Storm and Red Orchestra may not be for you.

The shooting mechanic are just as sharp as they are in Red Orchestra 2 with some really nice details on the weapons and animations.  Finally getting to use a Thompson or Arisaka rifle is satisfying and the team have done a wonderful job of accurately modelling these weapons.  The new weapons, specifically the flamethrower and knee mortar work well within the games maps, never feeling too powerful or weak, both require practise to use effectively and can swing the momentum of a match in a second.

Sadly the popular campaign mode isn't officially supported yet but it will hopefully turn up given time.  Other than that Rising Storm features the same modes as Red Orchestra 2 which is good but it would have been nice to have maybe featured a mode unique to Rising Storm.

The expansion though does seem to be lacking a few items shown in the earlier materials, namely the map 'Betio' and the ability for Japanese troops to spawn from hidden trapdoors behind American units.  The Japanese SNLF units are missing and will possibly turn up in a later update, but no official word has been given yet as to why these items missed launch.

One of the more interesting aspects of Rising Storm is the fact that owners of RO2 will actually be able to play the maps without actually purchasing the expansion.  The only downside is having to download it and being locked to the rifleman class until you to pay to unlock it.  This is so servers run both games without having to split the community between them and hopefully this will mean future expansions in a similar vein to the popular darkest hour mod will once again return.

Graphically the game isn't the bleeding edge of visuals but the amount of detail and effort put into the game is astounding.  The maps are full of little details in every area such as Guadalcanal's cans on wires early warning system.  The shattered remnants of the airfield of Peleliu, Iwo Jima's mini rail system and so much more.  Characters are modelled to be accurately uniformed and also have lots of little details depending on the map and current honor level in game.  The weapons really stand out for me as they look great and the animations are in the words of Mr.Torgue "Fucking AWESOME!".

The audio work is similarly good with some really nice voice work.  I was happy that the developers actually had the Japanese speaking Japanese rather than having ropey engrish accents that would suck some of the immersion out of the game.  There a few English lines of dialogue for winning and losing but that's it.  I would love an option in Red Orchestra 2 to have Germans and Russians speaking their native language when you play as them *EDIT* There is such an option, I = fail.  Weapons sound authentic and again very cool, there is nothing better in game than hearing the metallic ping when you get a rifle headshot.

Overall Rising Storm is a great expansion to a already great game.  Again if you are on the fence with RO2 this isn't a massive change, just more of the good gameplay already seen in RO2.  it still wears it's badge of hardcore shooter with pride and the way the team have managed to incorporate the two very different styles of play deserves recognition. 

SCORE: 8.0/10

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