Red Orchestra 2 hit two years ago, introducing gamers to a very realistic World War II experience. A first person shooter that ignored many of the tropes of the shooter genre and taught players about the fragility of the human body. Red Orchestra 2 focused on the European front of the war, recreating the brutal conditions of Russia’s war against Germany, but now there’s a new stand alone expansion that adds in content based on America’s land battles with Japan. Rising Storm is one part shooter and one part meat grinder that reminds gamers War is Hell.
While Red Orchestra 2 had a single-player campaign, Rising Storm is multiplayer only. It doesn’t require the original game to play, but it does include all of Red Orchestra 2’s multiplayer content. There is a quick single-player tutorial but aside from some basic combat training (And several easy Achievements) there isn’t much to it. However the original maps and the new ones offer an extensive amount of content even without a single-player campaign.
These new multiplayer maps are set on various Pacific islands where major battles occurred in the war. Players will choose between American’s and Japanese soldiers and the game uses a class-system where each class has a special selection of weapons and equipment. Rising Storm emphasizes asymmetry, meaning that the two sides of each map maps aren’t mirror images, but rather give each team unique challenges and disadvantages based on their starting point. The weapon loadouts for each team are asymmetrical as well. The Americans have access to a flamethrower class, while the Japanese have a portable mortar character (A lot like a slow, clumsy M-79 grenade launcher).
The weapons used by classes on each side are a little bit different as well, with the Japanese having a stronger focus on melee combat (Including a Banzai charge that can demoralize the Americans). Speaking of being demoralized, the American flamethrower is terrifying to Japanese troops trying to get in close for some hand-to-hand combat.
It’s true that melee attacks and flamers appear in other games, but action gamers should still beware, because Rising Storm plays differently from the typical online shooter. Death comes more easily in this game, and that will likely be startling and disheartening to gamers who are accustomed to some of the bigger franchises.
Rising Storm can feel terribly unfair for a number of reasons. First of all, players who are just discovering the Red Orchestra franchise will find themselves playing against hot shots who have been with Red Orchestra multiplayer for two years. This means that even though the game just launched, there are still very experienced players out there, and the only equalizing factor is that these maps are still new to everyone.
Then there is the emphasis on more realistic combat. Players can expect to be killed en mass by artillery strikes and grenades. Snipers will strike down the unwary without ever being seen. Machinegunners will mount their guns in tactical positions and mow down enemies in swarms. And, of course Japanese troops will be roasted alive in their bunkers if a lucky American with a flamethrower gets close enough.
Being on the receiving end of this brutality feels unfair, and new players will definitely spend their first couple of matches as a chew toy for the more experienced players. However once players grow accustomed to the mechanics of this series they’ll fare much better.
Stay under cover. Move slowly. Keep close to your teammates. All of the things that human beings instinctively know that they should do when in danger. In fact when players develop the sense that “I feel really vulnerable” or “This would be a great place for an ambush” those instincts are usually proven correct by a bullet through the head.
When Red Orchestra 2 launched it was very alienating to new players because of the sharp learning curve. Since then the developers at Tripwire Interactive have implemented an “Action Mode” that makes it play a little more like other shooters. On servers running this mode, players will take more damage before dying and aiming is a little easier too. This mode is available for Rising Storm and the old Red Orchestra 2 content alike. It’s the default setting for newbies and certainly seems like a good place to stay until the cover system has been mastered. The endless humiliation of getting killed by snipers can wait…
And as if to increase the humiliation that players feel when killed, the game publicly shows not only who killed who and with what weapon, but also shows the distance and hit location. In a game that uses realistic ballistics to make long-rage shots especially difficult this is especially embarrassing for the victim (And a source of great pride for players who pull off difficult kills).
Rising Storm has a few game types, but the most interesting is Territory mode. It is intended to simulate the strategic nature of war so it involve teams defending and attacking specific objectives around the maps. However it also tries to replicate the idea of reinforcements arriving at the battle by delaying respawns so that all players that died in the last few seconds will respawn simultaneously and come charging onto the battlefield in a wave. It’s a subtle trick, but it’s one of many little touches that help Rising Storm stand out from the crowd. There is also a team deathmatch mode called Firefight, and a Battlefield-esque mode which forces teams to capture strategic points in order to enable new respawns.
While it is only for the hardcore shooter fan, it will delight players who value a hard-earned kill with an old-fashioned bolt-action rifle. Players who like online shooters, but who haven’t tried the series yet will find Rising Storm to be a good entry point to the series. It’s currently selling for the same price as the Red Orchestra 2 GOTY Edition and includes all of RO2’s online content. Players who want to experience the single-player campaign from RO2 will still get a 25% price cut on Rising Sun if they buy Ro2 first (As of this writing). It is available now for PC via digital distribution.