Rising Storm is a standalone expansion for Red Orchestra 2, the ultra realistic First Person Shooter from Tripwire Interactive. Essentially, this is a re-skin of the brutal formula found in RO2; but this doesn’t mean it’s lacking in great content for new and current players.
Red Orchestra, as a brand, represents the anti-mainstream first person shooter. The heroism, high health rate and sport-like presentation found in the biggest FPS titles is swapped out for one hit kill, tactical and team based gameplay. For fans of the series, this hyper realistic mechanic is the only way to play a shooter. So for those already initiated, Rising Storm brings the same hardcore gameplay, previously set in the WW2 eastern front, and takes it to the Pacific theatre. Of course, the new setting is likely to attract new players to the RO2 world, for whom the experience is likely to be one of tough love.
If anything, the Pacific setting only takes the harsh style of RO2 to a whole new level. Cover, while still the primary way to stay alive, is more sparse in the open environments. A new batch of players means that many games have a more frantic feel to them compared to the measured gameplay found in the eastern front maps. Plus, the very direct attacking style of the Japanese army is brilliantly reflected in-game; banzai charges are a more than common occurrence.
So for new players, Rising Storm will bring a stiff challenge that unfortunately may be a bit too much for those accustomed to the big modern FPS games. With time, however, any gamer can adjust to the difficulty spike and become one of the many dedicated RO2 players. It’s for these fans that Rising Storm provides the best service, bringing a lot of new, albeit not revolutionary, content.
The biggest diversion from RO2 is the setting itself. The Pacific theatre is really brought to life using the same game engine used for the base game which, while being a couple of years old, still looks great even on mid-range PCs. The natural scenery not only looks good, but also acts as visual cover and is implemented well in to the maps. Bunkers, trenches as well as rocks and cliffs, also do a great job of recreating the Pacific theatre. Anyone who’s watched HBO’s The Pacific will feel right at home in the earthen defences and palm trees. The Pacific theatre of war hasn’t been overdone in the same way most of the other aspects of WW2 have, so the locations feel fresh, yet familiar.
The maps themselves are also well designed. Rising Storm has been developed by a joint team of Tripwire staff and Red Orchestra modders. This means that the maps have a great balance to them while also feeling vast, beautiful and multi-tiered. These aren’t the square, symmetrical maps found in other shooters. There are definite advantage points, but it’s a team's job to either make use of these or nullify them. The one side attacking, the other defending gameplay of RO2 makes a return and in many ways feels even more at home on the new maps.
The Iwo Jima map is a particularly fun setting which really forces players to work with the height differences between the two forces on the volcanic hill. The Guadalcanal map is also a winner; seeing Japanese forces push the Americans back through dark jungle defences until they’re pushing on to an open airfield that completely changes the way each team needs to play. In fact, all of the maps on offer are true marvels of multiplayer FPS design and they all have their own unique character and play style.
Considering this, it’s a shame there’s only six new maps in the base expansion. As mentioned, they’re all fantastic, but it does hurt replayability that there’s so few to choose from. Thankfully, Steam Workshop comes to the rescue. Exactly as in RO2, modders have access to map creation tools meaning any design can be posted to Steam’s brilliant mod database and downloaded by players from there. At the time of writing, there’s only a few options, most of which are night versions of the same maps. Given a bit of time to learn the ropes, expect the big modding community behind RO2 to release some really great maps.
Obviously it’s not all about the new maps/locales. The USMC and Japanese Army are both new to the RO2 world and bring with them new weapons, animations, sound design and tactics. The pre-set classes of Rising Storm are well balanced. While most players will take up standard rifleman and assault classes, the more specialist units like flamethrowers and hand mortars are fun without being overpowered. Being a squad or team leader is still a fun role that actually requires a sense of responsibility which stems from the huge influence you canhave on a match.
Weaponry all looks top notch and behaves historically accurately, particularly on the more extreme Realism game setting which sees the HUD removed and mechanics fine tuned to closer reflect real combat. Little details, like being able to make the sound of an M1 Garand reloading in order to fool your opponent, are littered throughout the game and only increase the brilliant sense of historical immersion. There’s a good range of guns to try out and they all feel hugely powerful, although this is largely due to the frequent one hit kill game mechanic. The aforementioned flamethrowers are particularly terrifying to be on the receiving end of.
The much touted asymmetrical game mechanic is difficult to spot but you get a sense that it’s working well behind the scenes. Banzai charges from the Japanese are difficult to organise properly, but when they are then this is a highly effective strategy that plays well on this asymmetrical system. The fact that Japanese troops can take a little more damage is also a functional system that counterbalances the American’s superior weaponry (although arguably the arisaka rifle is better than most of the American arms).
One final point to mention is the brilliant sound design. It’s nothing revolutionary, much like the entire game, but uses a good collection of weapon sounds, thematic and tense background music as well as some oddly inspiring voice acting to achieve a great overall effect. When a group of Japanese troops banzai charge they all let out a cry of death; I’ve never been so inspired by words I don’t even understand.
Rising Storm is a game that plays it safe; there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, but what it does, it does very well. The gameplay is slow, but very tense and engrossing due to this more methodical pacing. Despite this, the pace can quicken massively in an instant and you could be charging across the battlefield like a madman. Audio and visual design is particularly pleasing for those with an interest in WW2 or military history, due to the historical accuracy and crowd pleasing effects. On top of all this, the new maps are world class and demonstrate a real craft in creating perfect online FPS environments. This may just be a re-skin of a great base game, but it’s a top effort by the unified Tripwire/modder team to give RO2 a fresh face that’s sure to not only attract new players, but also keep them fighting in to the foreseeable future.
Rising Storm (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
This may just be a re-skin of a great base game, but it’s a top effort by the unified Tripwire/modder team to give RO2 a fresh face that’s sure to not only attract new players, but also keep them fighting in to the foreseeable future.