Forget Battlefield 3, this is the only FPS you need to worry about.
Published on Sep 28, 2011
At what point do we forgive a shonky single-player in favour of excellent multiplayer? It was a trait popular at the turn of the millennium after all, where we saw a rise of the multiplayer FPS games that offered the thrills of online combat alongside a very basic offline campaign mode.
Battlefield, Unreal Tournament, Quake: all names known for their multiplayer, not for the single-player content. In a way, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes Of Stalingrad follows this pattern. Which is hardly surprising for a series that began life as an Unreal Tournament 2004 mod.
Tripwire Interactive – the modder-cum-developer behind Killing Floor – has returned to its popular mod, this time with a fully fledged title that revisits the harsh realism of World War II combat.
While the single-player mode isn't exactly as 'shonky' as previously suggested, it is as basic as they come – especially in the face of epic campaigns we'll likely be playing when Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 are released.
Using the multiplayer mode as its basis, single-player follows a series of objectives throughout Red Orchestra 2's varied maps. Once each objective is captured the next is unlocked until the final base is secured and the mission is won.
This pattern is followed throughout each of the single-player missions, but as detailed and diverse each map is the feeling of repetition quickly begins to set in.
This isn't helped by the decidedly stupid AI, which can often be spotted getting itself into all sorts of sticky situations thanks in part – it seems - to conflicting AI routines. On more than one occasion a team-mate hopped in and out of the same window, clearly struggling to decide what plan of action was most important.
Reinforcements are limited and will refill each map after a short timer has finished counting. Should you die, however, rather than respawn you'll fill the boots of one of the remaining soldiers on the battlefield – often leaving you out in the open or in the midst of gunfire.
But single-player is mostly a taster – perhaps even a tutorial – of the mechanics that drive the game; a safe playing ground to learn about bullet-drop, class-specific tools and the complex tools available in a World War II tank.
The lighting throughout Red Orchestra 2 is outstanding.
Armed with the knowledge and practice earned from single-player, it's in the multiplayer where Red Orchestra 2: Heroes Of Stalingrad really stands out. These same mechanics rule the multiplayer: and you'll need to pay attention if you hope to survive.
Gun control is Red Orchestra 2's most impressive feature. A lot of attention has been put into crafting believable weapon fire, from the spray and pray assault rifles to the long-range sniper fights.
There's a solid weight to each rifle as the momentum swings across the screen to take aim, while actions like reloading heavy weaponry, scoping in on an enemy and even vaulting a short wall are all detailed and keenly animated.
Meanwhile, even a couple of bullets from the weakest pistols are enough to kill. This is a deadly game, and without sensible navigation of the map – that means no charging across open terrain – you probably won't survive for very long.
This harbours a sense of team work unlike any other. There's strength in numbers, and in Red Orchestra 2 that's never been more apparent. A good sniper can take out any lone soldier, but if there's a whole team of counter-snipers, support classes and even tanks backing you then you're going to feel a whole lot safer.
The class system is varied enough that there's always a role to fill, though a cap on the number of class-types in a game means you need to be quick if you want to select the soldier of your choice. Of course, this ensures the game doesn't devolve into two armies of scoped snipers taking aim at each other and ignoring the objectives.
The same objective system in the single-player is at play here too, though this time the opposing force will be able to capture your bases. Red Orchestra 2 is a continuous tug of war, requiring teamwork to successfully attack and defend the necessary bases simultaneously.
Not only that, but there's a tier structure of player importance – not unlike Battlefield 2's commander system – with squad leaders and commanders able to lead the charge into battle.
Animations are smooth and well implemented.
Squad leaders simply offer a consistent spawn point to get into the fight quicker after death. Commanders, however, can access many of each map's radios to open up a map overview and call in various assistance for your team: from forced respawns, recon planes and artillery strikes.
Despite the scale of Red Orchestra 2's expansive maps, Tripwire Interactive has gone to great lengths to craft believable locations; myriad designs means each map feels unique, while attention to detail makes each new ruined segment of Stalingrad look and feel like the war it's replicating.
To fill these maps Red Orchesta 2 supports 64 players, and considering how huge each level is it's one of few multiplayer games that can successfully manage such a large number of players without feeling crowded or degrading into a fragfest.
Then, of course, there are the tanks. With five possible roles within the vehicles, real teamwork is needed to successful steer these beasts to whichever location they're needed at.
This is detrimental to tank combat, however, since so few are willing to stay shackled to its upkeep once out on the battlefield – something that must be noted by the busy fanbase, who have already set up many infantry only servers.
Nonetheless, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes Of Stalingrad is an impressive multiplayer game that really works at keeping team play at the heart of it and the perfect antidote to twitch shooters of the world – Counter Strike and Call Of Duty, we're looking at you. It's methodical, it's intense and it's hardcore.
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Red Orchestra 2's biggest selling point is simply the fact that it offers something different in a world of identikit FPS games, though mostly for its multiplayer.