Red Orchestra 2 Review
An intense and atmospheric multiplayer shooter where the emphasis is on survival rather than kills
Imagine this scenario. You and a handful of fellow soldiers are hunkered down behind a ruined and overturned trolley in the middle of a large, crater-filled town square. Your objective is a massive, bombed out apartment complex 100 yards away. Well hidden enemy snipers are located in the upper floors of this building, and several others. The soldiers near you curse the Germans in the building, their own malfunctioning weapons, and their position in general. One peers around the corner of the trolley, only to be shot in the shoulder. He screams loudly and painfully while he bleeds to death. It is then that you hear the screech of incoming artillery shells. You can tell by the sound that they are going to land close to your position. The first one comes in 20 yards away, blowing one of your team mates into bloody bits. You have no choice but to move, so you and you're team mates leave cover and sprint towards your objective, bullets whizzing around your head.
This may sound like a scripted event from one of the World War 2 Call of Duty games, but in reality it was one of the countless harrowing and fantastically cinematic moments I encountered in a multiplayer match of Red Orchestra 2. Few games have been able to capture the feel of the war torn streets of major city in World War 2 like this one has. While the highly realistic nature of the game might initially seem off putting, the great atmosphere and realistic shooting mechanics go a long way toward taking your frustration and turning it into awe and terror as you clamber about the game's vast and intricate maps. Unfortunately, despite having these great qualities, Red Orchestra 2 suffers from stability issues, terrible bot AI, and a small, albeit dedicated, player base.
While RO 2 boasts a full campaign, in reality it is little more than a glorified and horribly buggy tutorial for the game's multiplayer. Each level starts with a stylish intro explaining the context for the mission, but the missions themselves are essentially just multiplayer matches with bots. This would be fine, except for the fact that the bot AI is simply awful. Bots will sprint out into the open, only to decide after a long pause they would rather run back the way they came. They will take cover on the wrong side of walls. They will get stuck trying to jump over walls, and get stuck in glitchy animation loops. They occasionally kill you and each other with remarkable accuracy, but for the most part they run around like idiots and in doing so kill the immersion and atmosphere. It is useful to play a few levels of the campaign to get used to the controls and feel of the maps/objective types, but once you know the basics, there is no real reason to play through to the end.
Once you decide to hop online, the experience improves dramatically, as real life players provide much more of a challenge, and do less to kill the immersion. In most servers empty slots are filled with bots, but their failings aren't as obvious if there are only a few running around amongst the human controlled players. There are a few different multiplayer modes, with the main one being territory assault. There are two variations on this mode, one which sees one team trying to defend a series of objectives, and one which sees both teams fighting for control of a series of different objectives. The objectives are usually strategically valuable locations such as factories or houses, and in order for one team to capture an objective, they need to have more players than the opposing team in the objective area. When you die, you will be able to respawn as part of a wave of reinforcements, which come in about every 20-30 seconds. This system works very well as it is realistic but not overly punishing, allowing for multiple lives within a single game without pulling you out of the experience.
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