by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
Innovative ideas that paid off
Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 was released back in 2006 and is a first-person shooter with a heavy emphasis on historical accuracy and team based combat. It borrowed heavily from other popular team based games of that time, such as Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, but what made it stand out was it's gritty look at the battles fought between the Russians and the Germans in the second world war. It also brought many interesting new ideas to the table. The lack of the usual cross-hair forced players to get used to aiming down the sight for accuracy or spray in the general direction which the barrel was pointing at for suppressive fire. The 3D scope allowed snipers to retain their peripheral vision while aiming down the sight, albeit it was very blurry. All this made it one of the most realistic interpretations of World War 2 era combat and earned it a seat on most team based shooter fans' Steam accounts. Now, Tripwire Interactive are out to knock their previous creation out of the ballpark with the immensely improved Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad.
New Game Types
The original Red Orchestra had only one game type, which was the Battlefield-inspired, flag based Territory mode. For Red Orchestra 2, they've added two more game types. One of the new multiplayer modes is the Countdown mode. In this mode, each map has multiple objectives. Limited time is given for the completion of the objectives and each soldier only has one life per objective. Which means that if you're killed on your way to an objective, you'll have to wait until your comrades have captured that objective in order to respawn. If the whole team is wiped out before the objective is captured, the game is lost. This allows for much bigger levels and the countdown timer makes sure that the team of campers who tend to hide in corners and wait for an enemy to run past them will definitely run out of time, keeping the action fast paced and mobile.
The other new mode is an offline campaign mode called “The Stalingrad Campaign”. In this mode, you are in charge of a small outfit of soldiers sent to clear out the enemies in the map. This mode can also be played in co-op mode with some friends, who will then play the part of a soldier in your outfit. The mode also includes a very nifty Brothers in Arms style command dial. The commands can be issued to a single unit or even your entire outfit and include commands like Attack, Defend, Go to area and Follow.
New and Improved Looks
In addition to the new game types, they've added a whole lot of new features to the gameplay. The game runs on the Unreal Engine 3, which makes for a vast improvement on the previous game. The lighting effects look stunning and the overall graphics are crisper and the colours are more vibrant, without losing the sense of despair and destruction which must have been omnipresent in the hearts of the soldiers fighting in these war-ravaged cities. Buildings can now be blown up with a well aimed artillery strike but they don't completely collapse. This was a conscious choice because no one wants to play on a completely flat map. The blown up buildings will retain their support structure and some of their outer walls, but you will see very clearly that that house has been hit with an artillery strike.
In the previous game, a commander could call in an artillery strike. This time around, he'll be able to call in recon planes, air strikes and 3 different types of areal bombardments. First of all, he'll have to spot the area he wants to reduce to rubble with his trusty binoculars. Then he'll have to run to the radio and call in the strike. He'll have a choice between a mortar strike, an artillery strike or a rocket strike. The mortar strike is a small, well aimed strike meant to be used for areas with mixed company. This means areas where your men are fighting the enemy and you want to blow up the enemy with a reduced risk of hitting some of your own men. The artillery strike is a wide area attack meant to be used when your guys are nowhere near to the point of impact. It is devastation from above and is sure to reduce the surrounding buildings to skeletal shells of burned wood. The rocket strike is a totally different matter. It is a huge areal rain of rockets and is a last resort to stop the enemy's advance. It has a high probability of hitting your soldiers as well but if used correctly, can reset the table and allow you to regain a dominant position. Be forewarned though, because if used incorrectly, it can lead to your own downfall.