Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad Preview
When it comes to nailing the gritty side of war, there is nothing like Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad on the market right now. It's realistic depiction of war-torn Russia is a mile apart from similar games such as Medal of Honour or the original Call of Duty titles, and with its realism approach to gameplay it creates an unique experience.
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RO 2 pits two teams against each other in a number of game modes set against the backdrop of what is arguably the bloodiest campaign during World War II. One team will fill the role of the Russian allies and the other stand in the boots of the dreaded Axis forces. Each team has been retrofitted with localised sayings, thick accents and appropriate weaponry which give a nice touch of authenticity.
If you haven't played Red Orchestra before you are in for a rude awakening - this isn't your run of the mill shooter comrades, the emphasis on realism is immediately apparent when you are greeted with no HUD, no crosshair and minimal information. If that wasn't enough to sell the point that RO 2 is all about realism, surely after realising that one bullet can end your life you'll start to get the picture. The gameplay is just as brutal as the setting, and that is one of the reasons that RO2 works so well.
It treads the fine line of arcade shooters (see: CoD or Battlefield) and the ultra realism titles (ARMA, Operation Flashpoint) to create a point of difference that separates it from the pack. It's realistic to a point that it's still playable regardless of skill level, allowing the player to develop a taste for the action and slowly build their mindset and skill levels.
No crosshairs means you'll be relying on your iron sights quite often which work superbly. Landing a headshot from your rifle at a cool 129 metres is an indescribable feeling, a sense of accomplishment comes with every kill.
War is brutal
The game also features some hardcore principles when it comes to injury and suffering under fire. When taking cover behind an object, if the enemy fires at you persistently your vision will become blurred as your soldier becomes disorientated. This adds a whole new element to the gameplay, and providing covering fire for a flanking team actually holds some worth. Injuries are quite severe also - a scrape from a bullet may cause you to slowly bleed out and die so make sure you use your bandages whenever possible. However keep in mind you can only patch yourself up twice during any one life.
The maps provided in the RO 2 beta are fantastic; they offer a wide range of gameplay options to any situation. You'll be making your way through the crumbling apartments in one level, and finding refuge in an abandoned fountain in the snow on another. The maps are well designed and feature various choke points along with vantage points for snipers to provide a rather dynamic feel to the battle.
Tactical options are also part of the gameplay on offer in RO 2 as squad commanders can dish out vital information to their teams via the in-game map. Here they can announce which point their team should be capturing, mark the location of tanks and other enemies, and various items of useful information.
The battles are rather epic when you find yourself in a 64 slot server - grenades will be flying, tanks will be shooting and no doubt limbs will be landing in every corner. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but that is exactly what you want. RO 2 is powerful, and as a result it keeps you on the edge of your seat from the minute you login.
Tanks create utter chaos on the battlefield
There are also a number of unlocks available for each individual class based upon your weapon XP and honour levels. A handful of new weapons will be available depending on your weapon skill, but you will also be able to boost you stamina and other attributes to make you a better soldier. It's a nice touch that adds more depth to the gameplay experience without the need to offer a new weapon or mod every three seconds.
Graphically RO 2 pushes the boundaries of the Unreal 3 engine to create some truly inspiring set pieces. The character models are expertly animated, so much so that you will often find yourself truly enjoying the battles unfold in spectator mode while waiting to respawn. Whether it be the subtle effects of the muzzle flash or the wafting smoke from a burned out tank, every second your eyes are treated to a visual treat. Screenshots simply do not do the game justice, RO 2 needs to be seen in motion to truly appreciate its graphical prowess.
The fantastic graphics are backed up by great sound - whether it be the banter of soldiers on the battlefield or the outstanding echoes of a sniper rifle shot in a hollowed out building, you'll be treated to some great audio production.
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is more than a shooter, it's a triumph in a genre that has fallen victim to the modern warfare complex. Creating a dark and gritty gameplay experience that is fuelled by its tenacious grip on realism, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad has cemented Tripwire Interactive's place as one of the best PC developers in the industry today.
By Stephen Heller