Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad

RO2

I have been made soft by my time on consoles. I wasn’t ready to admit it until now, but I can feel it in my bones. Like an arthritic old race horse being asked to gallop into a glue factory, I have been left broken by my journey through the Red Orchestra 2 (RO2) multiplayer beta. Each session leaves me gasping and bewildered, much like the soldiers who fought for months in the shattered city of Stalingrad where this game takes place. In that way, I imagine, Tripwire Interactive is meeting one of their design goals.

No matter how many deaths I have in a round, no matter how much I am incapable of landing even the simplest full-auto shots unassisted by auto-aim, I just can’t stop playing this game. And in this way they are clearly meeting another of their design goals.

The meticulous care with which Tripwire re-created this time in history shows that they respect these soldiers and the war they fought, and that means a great deal to me. All the time I’ve spent mowing down “a-rabs” in Modern Warfare 2 and locusts in Gears of War now feels disingenuous and immature compared to these battles. I do not imagine that a platoon of German grenadiers, given the opportunity, would kick back in the barracks with RO2 the way our troops do with MW2. And that’s because multiplayer MW2 doesn’t feel like war, while RO2 very clearly does.

Tripwire has shown creativity in using modern shooter mechanics and clever gameplay modes to enrich the player experience, to elevate it above the common shooter into something almost sentimental. In doing so they are telling the story of a pivotal moment in the history of WWII, not through a ham-fisted single-player campaign but in the structure of the multiplayer maps and the character models themselves. As any good writer will, Tripwire shows this story instead of merely telling it.

Perhaps my favorite mechanic is suppression, brought on by sustained heavy weapons or artillery fire near your position. During one battle the other night, I sprinted toward the Soviet party headquarters in the middle of the map, mantled through a broken window and landed in a dark office. Crouching, I checked left, right, and carefully moved into the next room to clear it. Turning left again I saw movement down a hallway running the length of the building, and heard the tell-tale burp of an MG-34. He had to be the one who wiped out my squad as we crossed the road and I was determined to root him out.

Unfortunately so was our commander. Overhead I could hear the first artillery rounds coming in. Whether they were ours or theirs didn’t matter, because they would kill us both just the same. The rounds landed in the road perhaps 10 yards away. SCREAM, BOOM SCREAM SCREAM BOOM BOOM! Through my headphones all I could hear was a ringing studded by impacts, then the burp of the gunner dulled and ceased altogether as he stopped firing and took cover. I decided to wait, while the German decided to run.

As the shelling intensified, my vision grayed around the edges, stuttered and froze like a slide show. My movements slowed and became jerky. Finally the cowering gunner emerged into the hallway and, having prepared my fatal funnel, I gunned him down. Then another German crossed into the funnel, then another, and another. But I took down only one of these others before the shelling became so intense that I couldn’t accurately aim my weapon any longer. I tucked in the corner, near a child’s desk, fumbling for another magazine for my assault rifle. As the volley receded I realized I had been unable to hear where the Germans were running to and would have to clear the building, carefully, all over again.

Of course other games have modeled the effects of suppression, but what makes it all the more interesting in this game is the way you move through the environment. To find the perfect spot, and then to be rendered immobile with piss-your-pants fear is almost worse than death. The broken landscape does not have clear pathways or logical frontlines. Each is a maze of ruined buildings, each which must be navigated carefully while all the time keeping track of your enemies and their lines of fire. Instead of weapons or kill-streak combos your reward is your position, and getting there is laborious.

To augment their traditional ASWD+lean layout, Tripwire has elected to steal several mechanics from Gears, namely the aforementioned mantling as well as a unique cover mechanic. In Gears and other modern third-person shooters, your mantles are a graceful pirouette through the magical, invulnerable forcefield of animations. Not so in RO2. As soon as you put your foot on a waist-high sandbag you become the biggest and most awkward target on the map as you catapult yourself to the other side with all the elegance of a dishwasher falling down a staircase. To mantle before your enemy is to commit suicide.

Likewise in Gears, slapping a button pulls you into the warm embrace of cover. Done right, a good COG can rollerskate across the terrain, from bump to bump, and take only a few glancing blows from enemies no matter their distance from them. No dice in RO2 as very few places allow for cover. When horizontal objects do allow for cover, you don't knuckle-drag your lancer surreptitiously at your feet. Rather, your bolt-action rifle is propped up in the air, ready to lower and fire but also giving away your position. You must cover, fire, and move — or the next time you pop up your head, you’ll lose it. God forbid you cover against a vertical object and exit cover to the left, because your perpetually right-handed avatar will have to expose his entire body to take his shot, a fact that is nearly impossible to discover, as this is a first-person rather than a third-person game.

In RO2, entering cover is a keystroke. Aiming is a keystroke. Firing is a keystroke. Releasing from cover is another keystroke. What took one or two buttons in Gears takes nearly a half dozen in RO2. I feel like I’m playing chopsticks on a grand piano. There are literally not enough buttons on my new Nostromo to effectively play this game. I have been completely, inevitably forced onto my keyboard.

Understand though that this is why I’m falling in love with this game. It does not make things easy on the player, it does not pander to them with simple solutions. RO2 demands that you take it seriously, and when you do, you can be rewarded.

One thing that I’ve been taking seriously is the history behind the game. Back during the Close Combat series I took up a healthy interest in the Eastern front in order to make sense of their awkward campaign map system. Here in RO2, map after map tugged at the edges of my memory in annoying ways. I cracked a book the other night and there, in black and white, is the final proof that Tripwire has really gone another step up in realism. The square dedicated to the fallen of the Bolshevik Revolution, the grain elevator, the machine shop, the industrial district … all of the landmarks of the Battle of Stalingrad are accurately detailed and here for me to “play” in. This is not a contrived map, like Gears’ underground cavern filled with paint-ball barriers or MW2’s impossible intersection of a plane crash, a mountain cave, and a poppy field. Tripwire wants this game to evoke and even celebrate its history, and they’ve gone to great lengths to do so.

There are warts on this game, and I'm downloading the final version right now to find out if they were taken care of. Local clients tend to lose connection with the servers as you are spawning back in. The user interface between spawns is wonky to say the least, but improvements came quickly during the beta. For under $40, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. This is a game I’ll happily lay my money out for, perhaps even instead of Battlefield 3. But I’m still buying Gears 3. I need to feel good at a game, to feel a mastery over it, and that’s not something I think I may every have with RO2. And that, I am sure, is yet another one of Tripwire’s design goals achieved.

Comments

What took one or two buttons in Gears takes nearly a half dozen in RO2.

And probably took a dozen in the original. I'm glad they've refined things from where they once were as it's much smoother even if it's a bit infuriating to get stuck to cover as you hit the wrong button to get out of cover.

Looking forward to proper release tomorrow, but you already knew that.

Never played the original. It was during the Dark Time. Did they have the cover mechanic in there?

Please do not make me buy this game...

Speaking as someone who loved ArmA 2, but didn't put as much time into it as it deserved, I think this one's going to end up in a similar category for me. A game I will love (I can't keep up with most modern FPSes anymore) but just won't play as much as I should.

Man, rings all the right bells. Strength... failing... wallet... opening...

I think I'll wait until the time is just right. I have Hard Reset to look forward to. Maybe after that one.

This makes me really want this game while simultaneously scaring the crap out of me, mostly because I know I'd be eviscerated.

TheWanderer wrote:

Never played the original. It was during the Dark Time. Did they have the cover mechanic in there?

Not a snap to cover mechanic, just the standard stand behind things (which you can still do, but it doesn't provide quite as good cover).

trichy wrote:

This makes me really want this game while simultaneously scaring the crap out of me, mostly because I know I'd be eviscerated.

It's not that bad, really. The score screen in any match shows your total points, how many you have for teamwork and how many kills you have. It doesn't show how many times you've died. This isn't a game about your k/d ratio and dying is just a natural part of the process.

The catch is that as easy as you go down, so does the enemy. It levels it out a bit as long as you don't just run and gun it the whole time. I think it's more "fair" than a lot of other mp shooters. You just have to accept that you're a fragile human being.

Does a shot to the foot kill you? Do they have wounding mechanic?

MoonDragon wrote:

Does a shot to the foot kill you? Do they have wounding mechanic?

No. Yes, depending on what you mean. I'm not sure how indepth the wounding mechanic goes. You have a chance to bandage up a wound, but it doesn't make you limp or lose the use of your right arm, etc.

Just watched the trailer. It looks sweet.

Played a little of the first. Might pick this up depending on what the gwjer community situation ends up being.

subaltern wrote:

Played a little of the first. Might pick this up depending on what the gwjer community situation ends up being.

There was about 10 of us online at once tonight, most of whom were on Vent. Personally I didn't play my best tonight, but it's still fun ... losing.

We had about 8 people in a squad tonight. Worked well. I'm really hoping we can get a critical mass playing weekly. Check the thread here:

http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/4...

unfortunately there's no demo. not sure whether the game worths £25

I must say I am a bit dissapointed with this game. I have Red Orchestra 1, love that game. Play it a lot still today.
My computer is allso 4 years old now, so RO2 stutters a lot, crashes and I dont have a good framerate.
That said, there are many things I feel are wrong with RO2.

1: The cover system.

I keep getting killed because of this. If someone flanks and shoots at you and you need to get prone, forget it! First u need to attach urself from cover, then you can prone. By that time it is too late. It allso feels like you are glued to the wall and need to struggle to get away from it.

1: Prone.

Many places it says "can not prone here". WTF? Prone is your nr.1 life saviour! In RO1 I never have problems going prone. It happends a lot if you are very close to a wall or in-doors.
If it was in real life I wouldnt have problems going fast prone in the places I couldnt in RO2, so please fix this Triwpire

3: Bandage wounds.

What the...? You get shot in your arm and have to bandage yourself? And you can do it in 3 seconds, while holding a rifle...
Remove this Tripwire, and let it be just like it was in RO1. It was perfect. Dont ruin something that works. It is just annoying and not very realistic.

4: Kill cam.

Just remove this Tripwire. I am not playing Call of duty for a reason.

5: Language.

Can germans speak germans and russians speak russian? It sounds so stupid when both sides speaks gebrokken english, and sometimes I am not sure if there is an enemy nearby.

6: Map.

You have a little map where you can see where your team mates gets killed an small blips showing where they are. Not difficult to abuse this and understand quickly where the enemy are.
Very arcadish and not realistic.

For now I stick to RO1. Too bad they had to change it for the worse.

I think a lot of those criticisms are fair. Let me start with:

4: Kill cam.

Just remove this Tripwire. I am not playing Call of duty for a reason.

Play on realism servers. There are no kill cams on those servers. And even when you don't play on those servers, you only know where you got shot from, not the exact location. I think it's a fair compromise.

Re: some of your other points regarding design choices:

I think if they changed all of the things you want, I would hate the game.

For instance, it makes sense that the players are speaking English. In real life, I speak English (duh.) I do not speak Russian/German. BUT if I am roleplaying, wouldn't my soldier presumably understand what his squadmates are saying? I admit the accents are funny, but I'd rather they be there than not.

Plus, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you hear your enemy speaking Russian/German, meaning you don't necessarily understand what they are saying.

There are a few bugs I don't like. I agree that the cover mechanic can be a little clumsy. 20 hours in and I stills struggle with it. The prone thing is hit-or-miss. I've never had problems with it and have always understood why I couldn't prone/stand in a specific spot.

I guess at the end of the day, I respect your opinion, but it's one of those situations where Tripwire had a choice: make a realism niche game that only a handful of people would like, or make some concessions for people who don't want to climb a huge barrier of entry, increasing the player pool (small enough as it is in SE Asia btw).

I'm not happy you are not happy, but if they made the game you wanted, I wouldn't put up with it probably.

I agree with Grubber, the options are there to turn off a lot that's annoying you. And you really don't have to use cover, many people don't.

I just think it's interesting the guy joined the forum for that one post to spread his opinion of the game.

We're an important place in the gaming world ... apparently.

Grubber788 wrote:

I think a lot of those criticisms are fair. Let me start with:

4: Kill cam.

Just remove this Tripwire. I am not playing Call of duty for a reason.

Play on realism servers. There are no kill cams on those servers. And even when you don't play on those servers, you only know where you got shot from, not the exact location. I think it's a fair compromise.

Re: some of your other points regarding design choices:

I think if they changed all of the things you want, I would hate the game.

For instance, it makes sense that the players are speaking English. In real life, I speak English (duh.) I do not speak Russian/German. BUT if I am roleplaying, wouldn't my soldier presumably understand what his squadmates are saying? I admit the accents are funny, but I'd rather they be there than not.

Plus, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you hear your enemy speaking Russian/German, meaning you don't necessarily understand what they are saying.

There are a few bugs I don't like. I agree that the cover mechanic can be a little clumsy. 20 hours in and I stills struggle with it. The prone thing is hit-or-miss. I've never had problems with it and have always understood why I couldn't prone/stand in a specific spot.

I guess at the end of the day, I respect your opinion, but it's one of those situations where Tripwire had a choice: make a realism niche game that only a handful of people would like, or make some concessions for people who don't want to climb a huge barrier of entry, increasing the player pool (small enough as it is in SE Asia btw).

I'm not happy you are not happy, but if they made the game you wanted, I wouldn't put up with it probably.

If you were a Russian, and someone was screaming something in German, would you understand it? No.
And what I ment was that if some germans are screaming saying something nearby they could aswell be russians because of the accent. So easy to not know if there are germans near by (opposed to RO1)
I dont know why they did this, you know by all the text in the game what you need to do and what your team mates are saying anyway. I think this takes away the feeling of being in a war. Its more like you are in a hollywood war movie.

And seriously, I dont believe you never had problems with the prone. If you are close to a wall or a fence you cant prone. You have to step back to prone. And by that time you could be dead.

And the explosions sounds are way too weak too. When I toss a grenade a bit far away, I dont hear the explosion. Same with some guns, they sound too weak.

I love the atmosphere though (better than RO1) and graphics are excellent.

I just hope they tighten the gameplay up. In some ways this feels a bit like ARMA 2's gameplay (wich is HORRIBLE)

Oooooh, I love the original RO, I played it until my fingers and eyes were squirting blood, repeatedly.

I completely fell off the gaming wagon in the last two years. Well, not totally totally - I got my fix on Kongregate and such, but the only AAA game that I installed and played to the end since I came to Canada back in 2009 was Starcraft 2...

But, few months ago I got a "proper" job (solid salary and benefits) and the wife finally got both a job and a proper one to booth after two years of college, internship, few volunteering gigs and a short term contract that finally lead to this beautiful, beautiful job she just did her first week on. Talk about doing things by the book.

Now, our two companies are actually in the same office building downtown.

Friends, my ecstasy knows no end...

I need to get back in the gaming groove. I need a proper realistic shooter to give me that rush.

Anyway, Tomandre's remarks worry me slightly, because it's just this kind of stuff that was pissing me off in shooters for the masses and that were virtually non-existent in RO, but I think that I will be able to disregard them as soon as I get in the thick of it. RO2 just may be a proper trigger to get me back on track.

We just have to move out of this damn studio first...

Just a quick poke at this thread to say that we've got another thread out for those playing the game currently, and Certis just put up a server in his den. Come on in, we need more targets!

http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/4...

Prederick wrote:

Speaking as someone who loved ArmA 2, but didn't put as much time into it as it deserved, I think this one's going to end up in a similar category for me. A game I will love (I can't keep up with most modern FPSes anymore) but just won't play as much as I should.

You know, a Gamers with Jobs tactical FPS group would be amazing. I used to play on the TacticalGamer servers, and while I enjoyed it, the politics there got a bit nuts and eventually fractured the community. I get the feeling we could manage a solid game (teamwork, serious play, etc.) without losing our minds the way the TG guys did.

Ask and you shall receive. Official game night thread is up.

http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/1...

TheWanderer wrote:

Ask and you shall receive. Official game night thread is up.

http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/1...

Darn it. Mondays are when I'm preparing to ask people to prepare me to be a doctor. When I'm 40.

TheHipGamer wrote:
TheWanderer wrote:

Ask and you shall receive. Official game night thread is up.

http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/1...

Darn it. Mondays are when I'm preparing to ask people to prepare me to be a doctor. When I'm 40.

Well, we just had an impromptu but really good Wednesday night group. Right now we're playing this game frequently. When BF3 officially drops I expect people to go away (not me, though).

Is there still a community playing this? Tempted, especially after the recent CC, but not if everyone else is full-on BF3 these days.

I've been trying to get a game going with JP Grant, Zacny, and Certis. Maybe we'll try next week. I'm fairly open. How's Wednesday look for you TheHipGamer?

BF3 definitely took the wind out of Ro2's sails around here, but there's still willing peeps. I'd be down for Wed. Hell, I'm down for tomorrow.

Always up for playing with goodjers, especially a game I haven't given much time.