Have you got any plans this weekend? Maybe you're thinking about going somewhere nice or meeting up with a few friends. Fool! Weekends aren't about that any more. These days, they're for trialling games that have been made temporarily free to play, then pondering whether they're worth the rather hefty discount they've also been given.
From now until Sunday evening you can download and play the hardcore World War 2 multiplayer FPS Red Orchestra 2. Should you find doing that a pleasurable experience, there's a 75% discount in effect until Monday, bringing the game down to £3.74.
This is all to celebrate the release of the Fall 2012 Free Content Pack, which brings a new map - Barashka, from the first Red Orchestra - and a redesigned Countdown mode.
There's also a 75% discount on the Tripwire bundle, which includes both Red Orchestras, first-person puzzler The Ball, Dwarfs?! and the rather good zombie co-op FPS Killing Floor.
Anyone planning to give this a shot? RO2 was pretty wonky on release, but I've since heard that it's been fixed up nicely and is well worth a try.
Red Orchestra 2, our 2011 multiplayer shooter of the year, is now on Steam Workshop. As I write, only one map and a selection of SDK tutorials have been posted, but phase two of Tripwire's $15,000 RO2 mapping contest should incite a blitzkrieg of community-made content for the WWII shooter.
Also, for the next few days, the Tripwire Interactive Bundle is 75% off on Steam. That's $15/£12.49 for Red Orchestra, Red Orchestra 2, Killing Floor and its DLC, The Ball, and Dwarfs!? (I wasn't angry and confused about that list, the game is called "Dwarfs!?" Or is it?!)
Speaking to PCGamesN, Tripwire Vice President Alan Wilson said the exclusion of modding tools from accessible genres -- most notably shooters -- is a choice they "really can’t wrap our heads around."
"Why would you stop people from modding your game?" he asked. "Why would you prevent people from being creative with your material? Just look what done for everyone concerned, for example. Arma 2 has been on the top-ten sales charts on Steam for about the last four months solid because of what one of their employees did for fun in his spare time."
Originally a team of spirited modders, Tripwire elevated to a full-fledged development studio after Red Orchestra took the grand prize in Epic's first Make Something Unreal contest. The standalone followup, Red Orchestra 2, gets its first expansion later this year.
"Frankly, we can see zero downsides to allowing people tools and letting them mod a game," Wilson added. "I never understand why companies effectively block people from doing that stuff."
Meanwhile, DICE recently reiterated that the closed environment it has established in Battlefield 3 should remain that way, warning players not to use a mod which affects the game's color saturation.
Excellent co-op kill-o-geddon Killing Floor now has Steam Workshop support, letting fans share maps, mods and weapons. The most popular mods include a version of Killing Floor that uses Doom 2 assets, a map set in hell, a version of classic Counter-Strike mod, Gun Game and a scythe. That's a pretty good cross-section of the sort of bonus extras we can expect from Killing Floor's active modding community.
Red Orchestra 2 will be getting Steam Workshop support soon as well. To celebrate, a Tripwire Steam bundle has been on sale all weekend at 66% off. There's still seven hours left on the deal, which includes Killing Floor (and all DLC character packs), Red Orchestra 2, Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45, The Ball and Dwarfs!?
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.
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.
The Darkest Hour mod brings the Western Front of World War 2 to Red Orchestra. The huge new 5.0 update adds new vehicles and maps that will let players fight through the most famous battles of Operation Market Garden, including the fight for Carentan and Hill 400. Read on for a list of the new features.
For full details on the update, head over to the Darkest Hour site. The mod is completely free to anyone who owns Red Orchestra, and can be downloaded now through Steam. Here's a summary of the new maps and vehicles.
The new maps:
Bridgehead Caen Cambes-en-Plaine Carentan Causeway Gran Hill 400 Kommerscheidt Lutremange Poteau Ambush Simonskall Vieux Recon
My 30 second guide to gaining a WWII education through gaming: for insights into the airman’s war, choose Battle of Britain II or IL-2: 1946. For a taste of the tanker’s experience, your best bet is Steel Fury. Interested in the challenges that generals faced? Grab anything by Panther Games. Wonder what it was like to be a WWII grunt? No title will get you closer to the muck and bullets than Red Orchestra.
Tripwire’s multiplayer time machine may be a little long in the tooth now, but thanks to mods like the recently refreshed Darkest Hour, it remains unmatched as a 1939-45 infantry simulator. DH shifts the high drama, high bodycount aggro from Ost Front to West Front. Out are the Ivans with their bulky greatcoats and chattering PPSh-41s. In are the Yanks with their BARs and bazookas, and the Brits and Canucks with their Sten guns and stiff upper lips.
Actually, scratch the stiff upper lips. You’d have to be knapped from Norfolk flint to maintain a stiff upper lip through some of DH’s teeth-rattling bloodbaths. Take Dog Green for example. Battles on this vast recreation of the deadliest sector of Omaha Beach often feel like subliminal adverts for the Quakers.
Die like a dog
Fighting for the Allies, my last session began something like this: Spawn 1: chewed up by an MG 42 seconds after leaving the landing craft. Spawn 2: cut down by sniper fire while cowering behind semi-submerged beach obstacle. Spawn 3: blown to smithereens by artillery while attempting to resupply a machinegunner on first shingle bank. Spawn 4: rifle shot from hand while sprinting between shell craters, then killed endeavouring to retrieve it. Four deaths in as many minutes, and I never even fired a shot.
Dog Green played from the attacker’s perspective is at the extreme end of the Darkest Hour difficulty spectrum, but the core elements that make it so brutal and convincing are common to all of the 18 official maps. Whether you’re storming French farmhouses at La Chapelle, darting between wrecked gliders on Ginkel Heath, or hunting Panzers through the slushy streets of Stoumont, you’ll be doing it without crosshairs, ammo counts, or medkits. How autistically authentic can Darkest Hour get? Squeeze the trigger of a Lee Enfield or Kar98 a couple of times and you’ll find out. All bolt-action rifles in the game have functioning bolts that must be manually worked between shots.
Leaning, weapon resting, bipods, bayonets, suppression effects, bazooka backblasts... all the fine details that FPS makers routinely ignore are bread and butter to Tripwire and Darklight. In its own stylised way the class system also ratchets-up the realism. Nab the officer slot before anyone else, and it’s up to you to orchestrate friendly forces by setting rally points with coloured smoke. You’re also the chap that gets to call the artillery in. Assuming of course, there’s a radioman nearby.
Plausible teamwork is everywhere on a frantic DH battlefield. Anti-tank soldiers and squad machinegunners spawn with piffling amounts of ammo. Once that initial stock is gone, they are wholly reliant on comrades for resupply. On smaller, denser maps like Foy and Juno Beach, armour is screwed without infantry to watch its flanks, and infantry massively disadvantaged without an HE-slinging trundler in close support.
Tank fans have done particularly well out of the last update. An impressive choice of chariots (of which those in ‘Stars Of Track & Field’ are just a selection) now includes the M36 Jackson, a vulnerable yet vicious US tank destroyer, and the Panzer III Ausf N, the perfect tool for silencing troublesome MG nests or clearing buildings at range. All AFVs die a little more dynamically thanks to new damage modelling subtleties. Though DH can’t quite match Steel Fury’s fancy ballistic maths and slew of degradable systems, it has a good stab at it. Pump a shell into a target’s tracks and you may immobilise it. Land one on the front hull and you can nobble or nail the crew (up to three players may man a single tank). Turret hits can play havoc with gun traverse and elevation controls, and – gulp – cause shells in storage racks to cook-off.
Among the half-dozen new maps are two tailor-made for long range, high velocity duels. La Monderie’s scattered villages and copses, and Freyneux’s bare snow-mantled hills are tough environments for the pedestrian, but a skilful tanker can have a lot of fun. It says plenty about Darkest Hour’s authenticity, that you often find yourself using historical tactics not out of a desire to roleplay, but because it’s the natural thing to do. Lone AFVs seldom last long, so tankers often band together into ad-hoc zugs. Skylined AFVs are easy meat, so wise warriors lurk behind crests or in hull-down positions in hollows.
Of course true-to-life tactics come with their own risks. Last night I parked my Sherman Firefly behind a wooded hill, and jumped out to scout on foot (a bloke with binos is a lot less conspicuous than 36 tons of smoke-belching steel). Reaching the summit I came face to face with an enemy gentlemen also clutching binoculars. After exchanging a few panicky pistol shots, we both legged it back to our vehicles. He, sadly, was a lot closer to his than I was to mine. DH’s delights are strictly multiplayer (the dunderheaded Red Orchestra bots can’t even navigate their way out of the spawns on some maps) but that’s no reason for the shy to hang back. The vast majority of people who throng the dozen or so servers active most nights are friendly and helpful. Triumphalist trumpetblowing is rare, perhaps because Darkest Hour players understand better than most that behind the riveting spectacle and high excitement of war is a meatgrinder. See you on Dog Green.