I am a Soviet sniper fighting in the ruins of Stalingrad. The wall across from me has been destroyed, and I can see the German sniper positioned in the house at the head of a street my troops must capture. One glance is all it takes to tell me he’s a novice; the end of his rifle sticks out of the window, his uniform a pristine crisp dark blue. A faint smile crosses my lips. He is the prey, and I am the predator. Not a sexual one. In my uniform faded and dirtied by many battles, I lie in the shadows behind a support beam, far back from the hole in the wall to hide my silhouette and muzzle flash, on what’s left of the second story floor in the bombed out ruins of a building. I am a stone: silent, unmoving, and cunning. I estimate his range, a little over 100 meters, and dial in the sights on my trusty scoped Mosin-Nagant. As I watch him, I think of my imaginary Russian family: I remember my sister Valentina, how we used to do Russian things together; my father, too incontinent to fight. Those are the only ones I’ve come up with, so I shift focus back to the sniper. Just then, an MG sets up in the window next to the sniper, and with a clear field of fire pins down my advancing troops with suppressing fire. I gamble on the sniper looking through his scope, so he won’t notice if I take out his friend first. As soon as he turns and exposes his head through the window, I fire and catch him square in the face. I manually cycle the bolt on my rifle- it’s faster than auto bolting-, take aim at the sniper, and hit him in the chest, watching as he slowly bleeds out from the custom wounding system which uses hit-detection to simulate the effects of a bullet to different parts of the body. A shot in the arm will destabilize your aim once bandaged, in the leg will hinder your movement. Often one or two bullets are all it takes to send you to that respawn menu in the sky. My comrades charge forward, heading straight for the house. Then another German infantryman exits the house, and stops right next to one of my Soviet comrades. They stand next to each other, slowly turning to look at the other, doing nothing, and three seconds later, the German hits the Russian with his bayonet. Bots. Soon the MG reoccupies the window, and all the troops in the street are mowed down, and a submachine toting asshole comes up and sprays me (with bullets) from behind. At this point I decide to switch to the German team. Fuck you Valentina.
Red Orchestra 2:Rising Sun is a class based tactical shooter set in World War II with a focus on realism, occupying a position on the realism spectrum midway between Call of Duty and ARMA. It uses an XP based skill system for weapons and classes; the higher your class and weapon levels, the more weapons and weapon upgrades are available to you, as well as small bonuses to things like recoil control, reload speed, stamina, etc… The game includes many systems to simulate the realities of combat. Momentum builds as you run- the further you run, the more momentum you gain and the faster you go; no instantly going from zero to sprinting. If you sprint too long you become fatigued and your aiming is shaky as you struggle to catch your breath. The iron-sights on your weapon can be zeroed for different ranges to compensate for the bullet drop due to gravity. A cover system lets you stick to objects, steadying your aim as you rest your weapon against the cover, while you pop up or lean out to take pot shots at enemies, or blind fire to keep them pinned down without exposing yourself to enemy fire. A suppression system based on the volume of fire or artillery falling near you simulates the effects of combat nerves, washing out color and increasing weapon sway while aiming, which finally makes the realistic effects of suppressing fire by MGs a valid tactic to pin down enemy troops so your squadmates can advance or flank their positions. The cover also offers various levels of protection; a brick wall will give you better protection than a fence, unless it was a fence made of titanium, but as far as I know, and I’m not an expert, titanium fences weren’t abundant in the Soviet Union during the war. Or ever, really. The tank simulation is claimed by the developers to be superior to dedicated tank sims, with an in-depth shell penetration and damage system, and as I roll through the streets in my T-34, whether looking through my claustrophobic driver’s view slit, manning the gun inside the cramped and accurately modeled interior, or sticking my head out of the tank commander’s cupola to survey the battlefield, I’m not inclined to argue with them.
These are a few of the many features that make Red Orchestra 2 a unique and captivating experience. The main problem the game suffers from is this: no one is playing it. Even though the Rising Storm expand-alone, which expands the game into the Pacific theatre, was released less than a year ago to glowing reviews, the number of players is still pitifully low. Even though the server browser is filled with servers that support up to 64 players, most of them are empty, and even at its busiest there are maybe three full servers and ten other sparsely populated servers, which have to make up the lack of players with bad AI teammates. While I admit I’ve from time to time partaken in entering a server full of bots as a way to increase my skill levels and satisfy my need to pick on those weaker and more legless than myself, there is no feeling like fighting bitterly with fellow players to gain control of a single room against emplaced defenders to gain control of a house overlooking a strategic crossroads, or storming an enemy position with your comrades under the cover of smoke to mask your advance while throwing grenades into their cover and spraying them with submachine gun fire as they try to escape, or lying in a shell crater throwing a grenade perfectly through a window to take out an MG so your comrades can advance. But these experiences are far and few in-between and happen mostly on the full servers. Red Orchestra 2 also comes with a single player mode, for those of you who’ve ever wondered what World War II would have been like if fought entirely by people with Down’s Syndrome: the initial entertainment descends very quickly into soul crushing depression when wave after wave of enemy charge directly into your MG fire, which is probably why the Rising Storm expand-alone left it out to focus more on the multiplayer aspect.
Moral problems aside, the bottom line is that Red Orchestra 2:Rising Storm is a great game, and if you’re looking for a challenging and engrossing shooter experience, you can’t go wrong with this game. Additionally, purchasing Rising Storm also gives you the multiplayer content from Red Orchestra 2, so there really isn’t any reason to not buy it. Unless you use a Mac. Because fuck you.
Thanks to Ian Laird for this article! Do let us know what you think!