By Stalin's Great Bushy Tache!
The game includes a squad and commander system which, while a fan favourite in suggested features, is actually a mystery to many players. It’s not overly refined for public play and most likely favours players organized in clans and as such serves its purpose. Commanders are given a variety of different abilities such as forcing respawn waves to spawn, having aerial recon show the rough position of enemies and requesting artillery support. It's a tough life as a commander as the game forces you to be near radio point which can be found in various places on the map to call in any of these features. Artillery must also be marked 'by hand' so to speak, meaning you have to go out onto the battlefield, mark the artillery position by looking at your target, then leg it back to the radio to call it in. It's a nice touch for realism but can get a bit tedious when you find out your artillery target is now obsolete and you accidentally blew up twenty of your comrades...
A fabulous new feature is being able to engage in combat using tanks. Tank crews are comprised of three to four people who will find themselves inside of beautifully rendered and animated machines. You can chose to spawn as either a tank commander or a crewman and any unfilled crew slots will be controlled by AI players. At any time you can look around the interior and see the men doing their jobs, loading the cannon, firing the machine gun or scouting the battlefield from the commander's hatch.
Each weapon has its real world calibre which is used to calculate bullet drops and penetration rate. Pistols will only be able to penetrate light cover while the absolutely ludicrous anti-tank rifle is able to penetrate just about anything. If some lucky bugger with an anti-tank rifle gets a shot that penetrates the tank's armour, it has a chance to kill a crewman. Once he's dead he'll stay in the tank as dead people are quite tricky to remove from an enclosed tank. You can take that crewman's place by having your character push him aside in a rather gruesomely unemotional way. Gruesome, but greatly adding to immersion.
More Bugs Than A Guardsman's Knickers
And where would a game taking place at the Eastern Front be without game maps of war torn Russia? The selection is rather large. With 10 completely different maps to chose from. There's one for practically every play style, from close quarters infantry combat through ruined five story apartments, to large open maps featuring intense tank combat, there is something for everyone. And quality doesn't suffer either, with each being beautifully detailed and thought out to resemble the old Russian architecture and style without detracting from the gameplay. On top of this, the graphics for the entire game look stunning. Not content with simple textures, the designers chose to go into acute detail, literally rendering and texturing each brick in the crumbling walls. Admittedly the characters are slightly lacking but altogether it's on a higher level than even Black Ops could achieve.
There is much to praise about the game, but there some things were it is lacking too. The game has made leaps and bounds in bug squashing since the beta but too many remain still. The VOIP lacks quality severely if it works at all and performance issues plague systems of all shapes and sizes. The game’s intrusive server browser is usually more trouble than it's worth and some players were denied weapon upgrades due to bugs. The list goes on and on. Tripwire has a great record for after-market support, though and I’m certain that patches will polish the game to perfection at some stage.
Victory Is Assured!
Despite the bugs, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is a fantastic game, a monument to how progress should be made between sequels. It also shows the true power of PC gaming and is much deeper than any console shooter to date. It is unforgiving though rewarding and moulds casual gamers who are too stubborn to give up into hardened veterans. Red Orchestra 2 is the definitive hardcore first person shooter, rewarding players who stick with it with an immense sense of achievement that no deathmatch game ever could.
Looks and Sounds superb, Great player control, amazing realism, developer mod support, a truly smart shooter.
Quite a few bugs at launch, teamwork centric which is hard to work with on public servers, higher learning curve than the average FPS.