Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad Review
For the burned cities and villages; for the deaths of our children and our mothers; for the torture and humiliation of our people; I swear revenge upon the enemy… I swear that I would rather die in battle with the enemy then surrender myself my people and my country to the Fascist invaders. Blood for blood! Death for death! - Russian War Cry
That may seem like a dark and grim way to start a game review, but these true words of the Russian army truly sum up the feeling that Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad instills upon the player throughout the war torn environments of the motherland. Rather than providing a standard online shooter, Tripwire Interactive have expertly crafted an emotional experience like no other, that firmly creates a sense of terror and dread during every minute of combat.
What Red Orchestra 2 Got Right
Tension - RO2 excels at providing a sense of tension and terror that is unparalleled in other online shooters. One bullet will almost always end your life so as you traverse the broken and shattered environments you will always be on the look out for the next opportunity to take cover, wile being on the lookout for a carefully hidden soldier on the battlefield who is eying you off. From the minute you spawn until the minute you inevitably die, RO2 will have you on the edge of your seat, something that most other online shooters simply cannot replicate.
Realistic without frustration - RO2 treads the fine line between realism and simulator perfectly to create an experience that is just shy of being ultra-realistic and doesn't cause the player to feel frustrated. While there is an intense learning curve for someone who hasn't played the previous title, most will soon grasp the mechanics that are at play and learn to read the battlefield. Once things start to make sense you'll realise that Red Orchestra 2 is one an extremely deep shooter that will challenge you beyond end.
Deep mechanics - Red Orchestra 2 has a lot of offer, and it will take you hours upon hours to become proficient at each class which is half of the appeal. This isn't a game you can conquer in just a few hours and with a series of classes available, several game modes and even tanks at your disposal there is always going to be something new to experience, learn and master. You don't just play RO2 you dedicate you time to become a better soldier.
Graphical prowess - It may be based on the Unreal 3 engine but RO2 looks absolutely stunning when played with graphical options cranked and the War Movie filter turned on. The filter provides a slight film grain effect, and when you have such expertly modelled soldiers on the battlefield, with falling oordinance from an artillery strike and dirt spraying up in the air we'd like to challenge you to find a better looking game this year. The environments are stunning and really capture the mood of the source material, and some of the lighting effects are jaw dropping, especially at night.
Emotional experience - Most online shooters are a simple shot of adrenalin; you log in, get a load of frags to boost your ego and then you log out. Red Orchestra 2 on the other hand provides a harrowing experience that seems to transcend the satisfaction of an online game into something a little more. As you move throughout the battle you'll have some fantastic mmusical moments spurring you on, but when taking cover from an enemy machine-gun placement your soldier will mutter something completely and utterly hopeless that will have your heart sink. It captures the feeling of war unlike any other game we've seen before, and that's reason enough to learn the mechanics behind the game.
What Red Orchestra 2 Got Wrong
Hopeless single-player - RO2 does include a single-player experience but rather than capitalising on what could have been a very memorable campaign through one of World War II's bloodiest battles we are served up a glorified bot match tied together with some basic cutscenes. The AI is borderline useless for the most part, and there is no reason to even take a look at the campaign unless you are new to the series and you need to get a grip of the game mechanics before heading online. It's a missed opportunity, and we wanted to see a lot more from the game mode.
Bugs - Some people have reported graphical issues with certain card setups and others have been experiencing sound issues. While our graphical issues have been intermittent since the game release, we've experienced the sound issue on two separate rigs multiple times. To Tripwire's credit they have been extremely quick at dispatching bug fixes, so we have every confidence that these will be fixed post haste.
Overwhelming to newcomers - If you haven't played Red Orchestra before then you're going to be in for a culture shock. There are so many mechanics, all deeply layered to work together in a realistic experience that it can be extremely overwhelming to newcomers jumping online for the first time. It's a double edged sword considering these mechanics are also what makes the game so great.
The Final Verdict
Red Orchestra 2 is by far the deepest and most compelling online shooter gamers are likely to find on the market today. Combining a series of expertly crafted game mechanics with fantastic graphics and an emotional experience that captures the essence of war, Tripwire Interactive have cemented themselves as an unstoppable force that keep improving with each release. It's not for the faint of heart, but if you want a challenge then Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad will be right up your alley.
By Stephen Heller
Capturing the feeling of tension, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is a mature look at the brutality of war.