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Red Orchestra 2 : Heroes of Stalingrad

A sequel to the innovative WW2 first-person shooter, Red Orchestra 2 continues a legacy of realistic combat action.

"Red Orchestra 2" is a first-person shooter set on the Eastern Front of World War 2. Players take the roles of Russian and German soldiers as they fight across fields, through city streets, and into apartment complexes. What sets it apart from most other FPS games is the way the game handles; rather than having ever gun be bolted directly to your frame, Red Orchestra handles in a very realistic manner, with the gun swaying based on its movement and requiring proper sighting to get a good hit. It's also, naturally, a highly lethal game, so speed and caution are both required.

Gamers who have played RO1 will be largely familiar with the way the game works. The basic elements - the classes, the gunplay - are only slightly modified. There's far less vehicle action in the current map lineup, but the basic infantry aspects of the game are basically similar. One of the new additions is the cover system; while traditional leaning and crouching still exist and can be used just fine, the option also exists to stick to cover. This allows you to pop over cover to take a shot and then pop back down. It also allows you to fire blind from your safe position, though since the game stays in first person mode it's only effective as a last-ditch resort.

Another new addition to the game is the way suppression works. In RO1, "suppression" existed in the sense that its easy to tell when you're being shot at; the screen shakes, there's loud pings and whizzes, and so on. This meant that you knew not to stick your head out, which naturally kept you from firing back effectively. In RO2, suppression also has more direct psychological effects; being kept under sustained fire will cause your screen to blur and mess with your vision. This means that even apart from the risk of being hit, taking potshots at a suspected enemy position also has negative effects on that enemy. The system has kind of mixed results - it felt like they toned down the actual "I'm being shot at" feel - but overall it provides a way for guns to be helpful without directly hitting enemies.

The game's graphics are an obvious improvement from the first game, but the tradeoff is that it doesn't feel quite as smooth. Once I got used to it, the game handled okay, but in general the bloom and coloration of RO2 may be difficult for RO1 players to adapt to. However, as a game it looks pretty great - on par with other FPS games, at least. The materials and soldiers feel very well done and add to the game's intended realistic feel. The game's realism also supports gameplay; uniforms blend into some environments, and lighting is a big deal when you're trying to watch for enemy units. This means that the game is hard, but rewards sharp-eyed or quick-witted players.

The sound design is pretty well done too; the music gets a little overbearing and annoying, but one thing I really liked is the automatic battlecries done by the soldier, indicating whether a character is pinned, needs ammo, is currently pinning an enemy, and so on. In an interesting touch, the faction the player is part of speaks accented English, and the enemy faction always speaks their actual language (so if you're playing as the Russians, all the Russians speak English with Russian accents and all the Germans speak actual German). This helped create a divide between "our team" and "their team" no matter which side you were on.

Without a doubt, though, the game is currently buggy as heck. The stat system (connected to RPG-style advancements) randomly gives you bonuses or unlocks achievements you didn't earn. The actual gameplay has gone through a lot of patches following its release, but each one seems to unbalance as much as it balances. These bugs, combined with the general difficulty of the game, may drive away some more casual players. However, gamers who want a truly hardcore experience may be able to put up with the gripes to get a truly distinct FPS experience.

Rating: 8/10.

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