by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad looked even grittier at GamesCom than its predecessor Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45. Stalingrad set the stage for one of the bloodiest battles during World War II. Largely due to its name, the city had high 'sentimental value' for the Russians and their leader, Stalin. The Russians were determined to keep the city at any price. Heroes of Stalingrad depicts this battle in all its dark grittiness, with players fighting in the war-torn streets and buildings of the once great city.
The team at Tripwire has always prided themselves in creating true to life weapon behavior and are refining this even further in this game. Their quest for realism brought them to a place where they could test some of the weapons in the game in person to see how they stacked up in real life compared to what they had implemented in the game. They discovered that, contrary to what you see in most shooters, many machine guns do not actually 'pull upwards' while firing due to recoil. Instead, machine guns often just 'erratically circle around', which is now the way of most weapons in the game.
Veteran players of Red Orchestra will be glad to hear that the game’s ‘free aim’ feature that allows you to aim your gun without having to move your character, will now also work when zoomed in. Breathing will somewhat distort your aiming prowess but you can steady your aim by ‘holding your breath’, or rather, your character’s breath. This will stop your weapon from being affected from the motions that breathing causes, but obviously this can only be done for a short time before you will have to breathe in air again.
Listening to fan feedback on Ostfront, Tripwire also adjusted how the bipods that allow you to stabilize heavy machine guns function. Tripwire noticed that in many games, including their own, it was hard to use bipods. It could take a lot of time and frustration to find the right place and then "attach" the weapon so that it would be ready to fire. In Heroes of Stalingrad, it is simply a case of walking up to whatever object intuitively feels like it should be a good place, and push a button. This action is so smooth that I didn't even notice at first that the presenter was already done until he started firing the machine gun, effortlessly mowing down the Nazi enemies that had previously threatened to overrun his position.
Another innovation is found in the HUD. The developers felt that there should be as few distractions from the fighting as possible, and created a HUD that only shows what you need to see, when you need to see it. Statistics such as your health, ammo status and the location of your objectives are only shown when the game suspects that you are in need of that particular information. Once the information is no longer relevant, it simply disappears.
While your health bar is one of the items that will pop up and vanish when needed, there is one more sign that you are about to die. You see, in Heroes of Stalingrad, there are two ways to die. The first is by being shot in a vital body part like the head which results in instant death. The second is by being shot somewhere that doesn’t constitute an immediate death. A shot in the abdomen for instance, will definitely kill you but will allow you to fire off a few more rounds before you have bled out. When this happens, the world seems to ‘fade out’ in a slow and very dramatic way. There are some wounds that can be damaging to your health, but not to the point of losing your life. A shot in the leg for example, needs only some bandaging to fix. The only penalty is that you will move a little slower from then on.
All about multiplayer
Fans of Red Orchestra will most certainly enjoy Heroes of Stalingrad. The dark, destroyed city brings up a melancholic feel that is only replaced by the urgency of combat. While I am not sure where the single player game is heading, I doubt many people will care. Red Orchestra is about multiplayer action and there is plenty of that to go around.