Red Orchestra 2 is the best murder simulator I’ve ever played. It’s not the best first-person shooter or multiplayer game, or even the best team-based multiplayer game. It’s certainly not the best World War II game, and its singleplayer is the worst I’ve played in years. But in the killing, and in the being killed, Red Orchestra 2 is a terrifying and satisfying experience.
Let’s talk about you for a minute. You’re a soldier in either Hitler or Stalin’s army, and you’re shit-scared. You’ve got your back against the wall in a room with one door, two windows and three walls, and you’re peeking around a corner into the exposed core of a half-destroyed building. Every room could conceal an enemy soldier, and you’ve died a hundred times already, always from that one angle you didn’t check.
Looking down through the rubble, you see an enemy soldier break from behind a wall. You aim and fire in a single motion. You’ve shot him and now he’s dead. It’s exactly like a million other games, but it feels nothing like any other game. It’s the little things that make the difference, such as the sound of your own breathing when you lifted the rifle to your face, and the way it bobbed slightly in your hands. It’s in the mark on your enemy’s chest where the bullet hit, and the way his blood spritzed from his back, marking that bullet’s exit. It’s in the way he fell, forced by some terrible weight. Sometimes, but not this time, it would be the way he clutches his stomach, yelling in Russian, or the way he fires his machinegun madly during his last few seconds of life.
At some point, the developers of Red Orchestra 2 realised that if the primary interaction in your game is killing, then you should probably make the killing feel incredible. It’s this attention to detail that turns an otherwise ordinary game, a slightly more realistic Battlefield, into something great, with Soviets fighting Nazis across mother Russia.
Take the game modes, for example. The most popular is Territory, in which one team starts in control of a map’s capturable points and the enemy must take them. In this mode, reinforcements spawn every 20 seconds or so, and on maps designed to support 64 players it does a fine job of focusing attention on the shifting frontline. But it did the same in Battlefield 2, where it was called Conquest mode. Countdown mode has similar attack/defend objectives, but players get just one life per round, and the teams swap sides midway. No one is currently playing it. The third mode is Firefight, a team deathmatch variant which is popular, but feels as if it’s missing the point of Red Orchestra.
While the weapons feel remarkable, the classes that carry them are familiar. There’s the Assault class, with a sub-machinegun; the Marksman, with a sniper rifle; the Rifleman and Elite Rifleman; and a few others. The few inventive classes, such as Squad Leaders and Commanders, do little to change the flow of battle. Both roles have valuable abilities, but nobody follows orders on public servers.
Even tanks don’t add much to the experience. They require a whole different set of skills to use well, and have lovingly detailed interiors, but they are an easily ignored nuisance on the few maps that actually include them. On any server I’ve ever joined, the one tank-only map is the moment in the war when everyone disappears to write letters home to their mothers.
Let’s be clear: none of these things are bad, they’re just not why Red Orchestra is great. Ignore how dull the idea of another World War 2 shooter sounds, and look to the experiences RO2 provides. Again, it’s the little things that have made me play it for 25 hours in a week.
It’s creeping through the ruined buildings of Pavlov’s House, one of the best maps, and jumping every time you see a piece of paper float through the air. It’s listening to the footsteps echoing through the building, and freezing as you hear creaking on the stairs. It’s the time I rounded a corner to come face to face with a Nazi holding a grenade above his head, bayoneted him in the stomach, and then dived down some stairs to escape the blast. It’s the thrill of sprinting across an open field, enemy machinegun fire whizzing all around you.
Death in RO2 is so sudden and violent that you’re constantly on edge, an experience that’s exacerbated by all the little pieces of information the game is keeping from you.
Firstly, at a distance there’s no easy, instant way to tell if a soldier is on your side. The uniforms are distinct, but not the fluorescent green cycling jackets you need on a smoky battlefield. If you’re close to someone, looking at them, and they’re on your side, their name will appear, but often you don’t have that kind of time.
Secondly, there’s no instant kill confirmation. You’ll be fighting across the ruined tenements on the wonderful Pavlov’s House map, and you’ll spot a head in a window across the street. From the shape of the helmet, you’ll infer that it’s an enemy and fire. The head will disappear from view. Are they dead? Did you miss? Are they wounded and bandaging themselves? Is it safe to move on? You can only hope. Wherever it can, RO2 makes murky what other games want to be clear. There’s no ammo display on the HUD; you have to check the barrel for a rough estimate, or count your own shots. Realism mode, which is activated on roughly half of the servers currently running, removes certainty altogether by taking out friendly names, kill confirmations and the radar. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but I had more fun in non-realism mode.
Lastly, the heart-munching adrenaline you feel in front of your PC is mirrored in the soldier you’re controlling. When you’re stood at a window and bullets start to chip against the frame, all the colour drains from the screen, the world blurs, and your aim becomes worse than a drunk teenager in a nightclub bathroom. You need to get out of there to catch your breath, like the person who enters the bathroom after the teenager. It’s a smart way to stop camping.
All this attention to detail hasn’t prevented the game from being miserably broken. Connecting to a server frequently plops me on to a team selection screen where the buttons don’t work. The server browser refreshes only once, meaning I have to restart the game to try again. If I do successfully connect to a server, the bugs don’t stop. Sometimes when I die, I’m unable to re-spawn until I re-select my class. The XP system, which is supposed to reward you with new weapons, is completely broken, and the Steam achievements system will often reward you for things you haven’t done. At least once every two hours, on two different PCs, the game crashed entirely.
It’s like buying a beautiful dining table from eBay, having your editor help you carry it up two flights of stairs, and then discovering it has Death Watch Beetles pupating inside it. Tripwire say they are aware of the issues, and I’m confident they’ll fix them, but right now it makes playing a chore.
Less likely to be fixed any time soon are the German and Soviet singleplayer ‘campaigns’, which amount to nothing more than multiplayer matches with bots, connected by brief, animated history lessons. They would be fine, but the bot AI is more stupid than the larvae tunnelling under my dinner plates.
Let’s make a list, then. The AI soldiers are blind, and will run directly past soldiers on the enemy team without firing. They’re cripplingly indecisive, and will leap in and out of the same window over and over. If an enemy is close enough, he’ll try to melee you, but if you run backwards, he’ll chase you interminably and never fire.
I’ve seen machinegunners set up with their backs to the enemy. I’ve seen machinegunners set up on top of kitchen cabinets, facing a wall. I’ve seen soldiers run in infinite circles, unable to navigate a corner. I’ve seen enemy tanks drive forever into walls, and crash into the front of me, but never fire.
The singleplayer option appears at the top of the main menu, and to newcomers who aren’t familiar with Red Orchestra it provides a terrible introduction. It should not have been released. Ignore it.
But don’t ignore the game. By perfecting a lot of tiny, gruesome details, its developers have created an experience where killing a man is as satisfying as getting a tetris, and when I close my eyes I’m still firing rifles in my head.
15 years ago, the original Diablo hacked and slashed its way into PC gaming history. Now, on the run-up to Diablo III, we take a trip to Blizzard to look back at how all began, and forward at where it’s going—including insight into the Diablo III that almost was! Plus, we’ve got Battlefield 3 sniper survival tips, a special report on what Windows 8 means for gamers, and an emergency guide to wrestling your accounts back from hackers. Then read our reviews of Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, Rage, Hard Reset, Driver: San Francisco, and more!
It's all on newsstands now! Or, if you can’t make it to the store, we’re available on Coverleaf.com and Apple Newsstand.
At Ars Technica, Ben Kuchera tells the searing story of a young medic who joins an assault team charged with storming enemy positions. The only problem is, the assault team is composed entirely of snipers, and refuses to move out. He asks his CO about it:
"The squad leader grinned coldly before bringing the binoculars up to his eyes. 'Of course we're the attacking force. That's why it's so important for every man under my command to pick up a sniper rifle and wait here, at our base.'
He nodded to himself, sure of his strategy. 'Snipers as far as the eye can see. Sooner or later... they'll come to us.'"
This and other anecdotes are hilarious gags at the expense of the way games like Battlefield work, and gamers' seemingly bottomless appetite for killing things through long-range sights, and driving vehicles they don't know how to use.
It also reminds me of Red Orchestra 2, and the kinds of stories that come out of its more structured missions and teams. Sometimes I'm a little sad that I rarely get the chance to work on my sniping, or my tank-driving skills, but I also have to admire how harshly RO2 enforces balanced teams and cooperation. The temptation to go lone-wolf in a RO2 match is tempered by how indifferent it is to kill-to-death ratios, and how difficult it is to operate in isolation from the team.
I wonder if it's just a question of audience, or whether RO2 has created a set of acceptable behaviors through classes and scoring. If you took the same people who are parking on hillsides in Bad Company 2 and put them in RO2, would they still camp? I'm not sure. There is something about RO2 that is authentic, that creates stories not about what I did, but what "we" did.
A post on the Red Orchestra blog announces Rising Storm as the first expansion pack for Red Orchestra 2. It'll ferry Red Orchestra 2's bloody, muddy realism out to the sunny, sandy beaches of the Pacific theatre, where American forces will battle the Japanese army on famous battlefields like Tarawa, Kwajalein, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Peleliu.
The expansion is a total conversion created with help from Red Orchestra's active modding community. Tripwire recruited a "hit-list" of modders who had worked with Tripwire before, and asked them to help produce the expansion.
"As Red Orchestra: Ostfront had such an avid modding community, producing some pretty good content, it made sense for the Tripwire team, the core of whom were ex-modders themselves, to offer this opportunity to a team of modders," Rising Storm producer Tony Gillham tells Gamespy.
The US and Japanese factions will be asymmetrically equipped. Gilham tells Gamespy that balancing the well-equipped US forces against a Japanese army that hardly used automatic weapons at the time is the biggest design challenge for the team at the moment, but they're hoping that carefully constructed maps can help to even out each battle. The expansion's due to arrive at an unspecified point this year, and IGN have the announcement trailer, which you can see below.
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad has had broken experience and achievements since it launched, among a number of other problems. In a message to customers today, Tripwire admits, "...We've not done as well as we would have liked in the most important area to us - the happiness of all of our customers. To put it bluntly, the game had a rough launch. We've been working diligently since launch to get these issues sorted and have made great progress fixing issues with matchmaking, VOIP, and stability as well as improving performance. The final major area that we've been working on is stats, player progression and ranking."
Because players were wrongly credited for Audie Murphy-levels of heroism, Tripwire has decided to globally reset the stats for the game.
As I say farewell to my hundreds of undeserved kills and phantom sniper shots, Tripwire explains its position. "We have now fixed all of the major issues with the stats system and released an update yesterday to address these issues. Due to the problems with stats and players either earning stats and achievements that they didn't actually earn or earning stats at many times the intended rate, we are going to have to do a global reset of all stats for the game. This means all achievements, stats and player progression will be rolled back as if all players were new. This was not an easy decision for us to make, but one we felt we needed to do to preserve the integrity of the stats and ranking system, and to provide all of the players the best experience with the game over the long term."
Since this is going to erase a lot of progress, Tripwire have made the next few weeks a "double experience period" so players can quickly rank up to the levels they would have achieved if the experience system had not been broken. Tripwire has also created an achievement, "In B4 Reset" for those who play during this period, and hope to give some future rewards to people with this achievement.
It's not all bad news, however. Red Orchestra 2 is hands-down the biggest success Tripwire has ever had: "Within 2 days of the launch of the game it had surpassed the lifetime revenue of the original Red Orchestra that has been selling for over 5 years. The pre-sales and launch week sales of the game broke all company records, even beating out our hit game Killing Floor by a three-fold margin."
Listen up soldiers! We've got ten copies of Tripwire's Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad to give away, da? Ten of our European readers will be chosen by our glorious leaders to defend mother Russia against the Nazi threat.
Are you up to it comrade? Then find out how to enter inside.
Red Orchestra 2 is Tripwire's gritty, realistic World War 2 eastern front shooter. If you like your games hardcore and tense, this is the shooter for you. Not convinced? Read our Red Orchesta 2 preview.
Here's how you can win:
We want you to pitch us a war-game. It can be any genre, and play however you like, but it has to be based on a real life conflict. The more arty and unusual the better!
Answer in the comments below, the ten most original, interesting, historically obscure and funny ideas will win a copy of Red Orchestra 2.
European entrants only I'm afraid. The competition ends on September 30th. If you win you will be notified by private message and your name will appear in this week’s winners. Good luck comrade!
Red Orchestra 2 has launched. And to celebrate the five-year trek of development, Tripwire Interactive has released a trailer. Click within to have a look, and for information on our trio of new RO2 servers.
I've set up three RO2 servers for our community here in the US. Look forward to a heap of Steam events in the future--I think we're actually going to assemble something that resembles a clan, too. I can't make any promises that our servers will be running tonight--I'm unsure how long it'll take to update them and configure everything. I'll send up a flare over Twitter once they're up and running. In the meantime, here're the IPs:
San Jose, CA | 220.127.116.11:7757 Dallas, TX | 18.104.22.168:7757 Chicago, IL| 22.214.171.124:7757
I'm looking for folks to help me admin our servers and/or manage our RO2 clan. Responsibilities would include helping us run public and private events, manage clan members, and edit server settings and map rotation for maximum fun. If so, tell me why you'd be a good fit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sad news: Tripwire Interactive announce that Red Orchestra 2 has been delayed. Happy news: it's just for two weeks. The team say they need a bit of extra QA time to iron out a few bugs and make sure Red Orchestra 2 is as polished as possible when it comes out. September 13 is the new release date.
"We haven’t taken this decision lightly, say Tripwire. "Moving a release date late in the day is a nightmare. We’ve done it because we feel it will make a difference to the product on launch day – for the better, obviously."
Find out more about the promising World War 2 military shooter in our Red Orchestra 2 preview, or check out the official Red Orchestra 2 site.
Preceding the game's August 30 release, Red Orchestra 2 is up for pre-sale on Steam. Tripwire also revealed a Digital Deluxe Edition of the game, currently discounted at $44.99, that includes access to the "final phase" of the RO2 beta, instant unlocks of four weapons, along with two TF2 hats and two Killing Floor skins.
Buy Red Orchestra 2 on Steam here.
If you own Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45, you'll get...
20% off the game's price (as opposed to the current 10% pre-order sale) Special in-game item - Russian Guards Badge and German Close Combat Badge Day 1 unlock of the Kar98 and Mosin rifle bayonets
If you buy the Steam Digital Deluxe Edition, you'll get...
Access to the final phase of closed beta before the August 30th launch Day 1 Unlock of the Elite Assault Weapons (MKb 42(H) and AVT-40) and Semi Auto Sniper Weapons (SVT-40 and G 41(W)) Team Fortress 2 German and Russian hats ("vintage" if bought during pre-purchase) Two new characters for Killing Floor - Russian and German Soldier Re-enactors
Like so many tinkering, well-armed elves in a war factory, Tripwire Interactive is putting the final touches on its 64-player, WWII multiplayer FPS, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. Today, they've passed along the final system specs for the game, along with the retail box art.
Minimum: OS: Windows XP/Vista/7 Processor: Dual Core 2.3 GHz or better RAM: 2 GB Graphics card: 256 MB SM 3.0 DX9 Compliant NVIDIA® GeForce 7800 GTX or better ATI® Radeon® HD 2900 GT or better Sound: Windows Supported Sound Card DirectX: DirectX 9.0c Hard Drive: 8 GB free hard drive space
Recommended: OS: Windows XP/Vista/7 Processor: Quad Core 2.6 GHz or better RAM: 3 GB Graphics card: 512 MB SM 3.0 DX9 Compliant NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 260 or better ATI® Radeon® HD 5750 or better Sound: Sound Blaster Audigy or better DirectX: DirectX 9.0c Hard Drive: 8 GB free hard drive space
Nothing unexpected, right? Having played Red Orchestra 2 on at least three different hardware configurations over the past month, I can't say that I've had any framerate issues on the systems I've used.