Sunday, March 18, 2012

Red Orchestra 2 Review

For quite some time World War II shooters were all over the gaming world and even now they are still pretty popular, but certainly starting to lose their appeal. The original Red Orchestra was a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 that people enjoyed so much that they turned it into a small retail game for PC. It was based on WWII, but they chose to focus on Russians versus Germans, instead of the more common American versus Germans. It was fully multiplayer and it had mechanized, vehicles and infantry, combat on huge maps. The game also leaned more towards realism than many other first person shooters. The original came out in 2006, while Red Orchestra 2 came out in 2011. The break in years there was likely because Tripwire Interactive created Killing Floor during the gap, another fairly popular fps. Fans of Red Orchestra were still common and by the time Red Orchestra 2 came out people were quite excited.

Tripwire followed the same ideas as the original game, but used a superior graphical engine that made their maps, models and effects quite appealing. Tripwire also had some new additions that looked to improve the game, like a cover system and a soldier unlock/customization system, but somewhere along the way Red Orchestra 2 faltered and didn't manage to deliver a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable experience. There is still plenty that feels good about the game, but I will show you what did and didn't work as I work through gameplay, sound, visuals and presentation.

One of the first things you would notice upon playing Red Orchestra 2 is the graphics, they are impressive. The models, animations, explosions, smoke, lighting, everything, it all looks good and makes this game one of the most visually attractive WWII games in existence. There are plenty of little details to appreciate as well, like the fully open buildings that have numerous rooms all created in detail. Everything isn't splendid though, animations are a mixed bag. While reloading your weapon or peering out of the commanders cockpit looks spot on, there are other animations that are awkward. Many movement related animations look out of place amidst an otherwise smooth experience, like people going prone, taking cover or jumping over objects from cover. These aren't major blemishes, merely minor ones, but they are one of the few things that detract from the otherwise stellar graphics. 


I was hoping to hear the kind of sound quality that I've come to expect from modern day FPS in Red Orchestra 2, but it just wasn't quite to that level. The sound quality isn't awful, but they don't particularly nail any aspect of it. While explosions do look great, they don't sound great, instead you are met with explosions that don't convey the potency of the action of an explosion. Gunfire on the other hand is harder to criticize and you can thoroughly hear the battle around you, but once again the quality of those sounds are not what I would expect out of something that costs $40 or $50. My best way to explain this would be how the sniper rifle sounds when it is shot. Have you ever played the original Call of Duty or Battlefield? In those games when someone shot at you with a sniper rifle you would hear it ring out, loud and clear, sure you wouldn't know where it would come from but you could distinctly hear that it was a sniper rifle and it wasn't close by. In RO2 the sniper rifle does have a unique sound, but it doesn't ring out or resonate the way one would hope. To contrast that the MG42, a light mountable machine gun, sounds better and you can immediately hear the weight of those quick moving bullets flying near you. Overall the sound quality is mixed bag, but its one of the many little things that lessen the overall feel of the game. 

Gameplay is a hefty beast to discuss, like many multiplayer orientated games many of the MP problems people tend to pick on are prevalent in most first person shooters, but unfortunately there are plenty of legitimate problems to focus on that are specific to RO2. The first thing one is likely to notice is the new cover system. It allows you take cover behind nearly anything and it is a splendid idea, but it actually ends up hindering the player and not helping. When you take cover you can only aim in a very limited range when you pop out of cover. So in theory the cover system is great, but in reality it limits the player instead of assists them. A majority of the players just crouch, or go prone, behind cover instead of actually using the cover system. Sure cover lets you see over it, which is one of it's positives, and view your surroundings it does still limit your peripherals quite a bit on top of limiting your aim.

The second major problem with gameplay has to do with aiming again. Every single gun in the game has excellent aim, meaning you can pretty much snipe with the light machine guns or the German mp-40s, submachine guns. Everyone is overly accurate and as a result tactical maneuvers like suppression are often pointless. It doesn't void everything, you can still use smoke to help soldiers move through open ground, but it creates many problems, especially with the rank system. As you fight your way through matches you will earn experience for your overall rank and for each individual weapon. When weapons rank up it gives you increased accuracy, ammo or reload speed. Increase accuracy for anything is redundant and people generally die so quickly, because of everyone having super accuracy, that you would never need more ammo for most weapons.

The third last major problem with gameplay, sprinting. The problem with sprinting isn't directly about sprinting, instead it's about accuracy after sprinting. While this may at first look like a minor gripe it unfortunately is very detrimental to gameplay. Any game that doesn't balance speed and accuracy is making a a mistake and RO2 made a huge mistake in this. You can run across the map and then immediately pull up your iron sights, or scope, and shoot someone with near perfect accuracy. There is incredibly tiny penalty for running and then performing any action, whether that's aiming or crouching or going prone. It takes away from the realism and makes the game feel more like Call of Duty than the original Red Orchestra.

I'm sure you are tired of hearing me nitpick at RO2 and I'm afraid I'm not doing so yet. The last problem comes in the form of interface. In the game you can be a squad leader and a commander or just a normal solider, the squad leaders and commanders have unique interface that let's you make many tactical choices like artillery strikes, attack markers, recon and more. The interface they made for this is clunky and is not smooth at all, especially when you are calling in artillery or recon. When you call in artillery and it doesn't go where you are trying to make it go it's very frustrating, especially when a solider had to designate a spot for artillery and now that is wasted. The other menu's and interface options are a bit better, but they could have been improved quite a bit.

 Despite the many things wrong with gameplay there are some things that Red Orchestra 2 does right. Tank combat is back and it is still quite enjoyable, but unlike Red Orchestra 1 vehicular battles are much less common and the game focuses more on infantry. Mounting machine guns works quite well, except for the whole accuracy thing, but they managed to get it working on near any surface and the developers should be commended for that difficult task. The gameplay modes in RO2 also work quite well, specifically realism, territory and countdown. Lastly, the way in which they did wounding is well done and makes wounds serious, but not instantly deadly.  Check out this gameplay trailer to see how the game looks in action.

Last Comments
Red Orchestra 2 is not a bad game, it has plenty to like and should be enjoyable for anyone who is a fan of WWII shooters, but there is a lot that holds back the game and makes the player suffer to the point that eventually they will not want to play all that often. Being a fan of the original I thought they could do no wrong, but the original delivered a more thorough and diverse experience for a much cheaper price. $40 is a lot to ask for something that often felt broken and for something that is tough to play to without a friend to play alongside with. Graphically the game excels, but everything else is unfortunately a bit crippled. I can only recommend it to a select few, but for most I say stay away or at least wait until it's on sale. Although, I do have high hopes for their upcoming Pacific themed expansion, Rising Storm.

Violent Score: 7 (out of 10)

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-Written by Sean Cargle


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