Not one step back! Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad Review
First thing, a surprise. When I played RO1 I noticed the lack of a single player campaign except for the “Bot Fights” which in the end was only practice with the different classes, weapons and tanks. Due to the vast number of maps available this mode was also useful as there was always more than one way to approach the enemy. Sometimes, however, it became painfully obvious that without players your job was a nightmare. Especially when it came down to tank crews, or officers who were responsible for calling in artillery or throwing smoke grenades. In RO2 there are two impressive single player campaigns. I say “Impressive” because there was a lot of effort put into including key “battles” during the siege of Stalingrad, such as the grain elevator, or Pavlov’s House. When you finish each “Chapter” of the campaign there is a quote associated with the specific battle you just fought or the general thoughts and feelings during that specific time. As you slowly progress through the German campaign you feel how the seasons change, and the at first mildly untouched city slowly turns into a ruin around you, and every single corner is a hiding spot for enemy troops. Then, when finally the winter comes, and you end up standing in the middle of a white wasteland, with buildings burning in the distance you remain enamoured for a very long time.
But, the campaign is more than just a great way to spend the time. It is the perfect opportunity to practice with different weapons, random classes and on different maps, just as in the case of RO1. Any map you finished you can play over again, however you do not have much influence over the rounds parameters except the AI difficulty. Here, I must confess at times the AI is impressive, but at times it botches terribly. On a few rare occasions during defensive missions the AI bots would bunch up in a single spot and a trigger happy SMG bot would mow them down. The AI tank crew feels like a wild horse. The Driver listens to your orders (whichever position you hold) and when you do not wish to tell him when to turn or at what speed to drive you can simply order him to ride to a specific point (with varied levels of success). The main gunner, however, is a different story. My first impression (since I was driving a German Panzer IV) was like mentioned, a wild horse. I would look out my hatch as the commander, deciding on how to lead my tank battalion and the whole turret would suddenly turn and the gunner would fire off at some distant enemy… then begin going back to its original position, then back again to fire. This creates a whole lot of confusion, and the gunner is often inaccurate which hands out your position to enemy tanks on a silver platter.
This mentioned, RO2 offers you something very useful, whether you play with bots or other players. There is a quick orders menu which allows you to give orders to specific squads or the whole company. This also applies to your tank and for example, you can eliminate all the chaos associated with your gunner by ordering him to cease fire. Sometimes this menu does not work perfectly, and when you have a lot of squads you can find it very troublesome to remember which is which, but it gets the job done.
Let’s talk about the classes. There is a lot to choose from, and thanks to the campaign you will discover the ins and outs of each class to their full extent. The basic infantry classes include the good old Rifleman, the Assault Troopers (who use SMGs), Snipers and Machine Gunners (who use deployable LMGs, but can at times use them undeployed). Among the more special classes are the Engineers who use Satchel Charges to destroy obstacles, or to efficiently empty a room from friends or enemies, having access to Anti-Tank grenades they are also useful in eliminating enemy tanks. The Anti-Tank Rifle gunner, is in essence what would happen if you gave somebody a sniper rifle which is meant to destroy tanks. It is not the easiest class, but once you learn the weak points of enemy tanks he can do a lot of damage with single shots. Then there are the Squad Leaders and Commanders. The difference is that Squad Leaders do not have access to the radio, and instead lead squads from the front. They can mark targets for artillery using their binoculars and create smoke screens for their infantry to advance in. The Commander has an equally important role to all the other classes. As mentioned before he can use the radio, and for example call for a recon plane, send in an artillery barrage (or a mortar barrage, or a rocket barrage) to a position he or a Squad Leader pin-pointed, or cause a Force Respawn (which immediately brings back all those dead, rather than wait for the timer). This said, some classes allow you to pick different weapons, some of which can be unlocked (more on this later).
If you want to drive a tank the basic “class” you can choose is the Tank Commander which makes you the guy in charge of the tank, you can swap between the tank roles at any time, so, if you want to position your tank in a specific way switch to the driver, then once done, go back to the commander. If you feel the AI won’t do you any good you can allow players to join your tank (during a multiplayer game). The positions available in the tank are the Main Gunner, Driver and Hull Gunner (or historically, the Radio Operator). There is also the loader but you do not have access to the role. There is a “But”, and that is, depending on the side you choose you can have five or four crew members. The Soviet T-34 has a four man crew, where the Commander also acts as the gunner. The Commander in the German Panzer IV is “only” a commander, however when a player does not occupy the gunner position the commander can at will take it over from his “seat”. There is also the Tank Squad Leader and Tank Platoon Leader, which are exactly the same as the ordinary Infantry Squad Leaders and Commander, except that the Tank Platoon Leader has his radio with him (it’s inside the tank after all).
Since we are on the topic of tanks… The “Tank Mechanics” are incredible in RO2, and I say so honestly. You can get a good look at your cockpit, checking for damage within your tank and look at the different dials to see if your engine was not damaged or whether you have a fuel leak or not. Your tank does not have “Health” per se, but instead armour all around you can get slowly weakened when the enemy pounds away at it. An accurate shot could mean that suddenly your left or right brake is no longer operational, meaning you can only turn in one direction. You can lose your gun, or the turret ring will be damaged and your turret will be unable to turn. Your engine too can be damaged and suddenly you can find yourself a slug against quicker enemy tanks. Among other things you can also lose crew members, which results in steadily losing efficiency, up to the point when there are only two crew members left. This does mean that tank battles need a lot more thought and caution, since exposing your fuel tank on the rear means a sudden explosive death. Some obstacles can be levelled by your tanks, buildings destroyed and enemy tanks which might be blocking your way pushed aside with your own panzer. All this said, if you became attached to your tank and suffered too much damage to bare there are “quick fix” stations as I call them which will fully repair you, bring back your crew and resupply you with ammunition This might be considered by some to be a cheap way of fixing yourself and farming such spots, but very often they are not near objectives and as such, mean only that the camper will eventually lose.
Multiplayer Infantry battles are intense. Considering the mechanics of the game, the suitable level of realism (although levels of realism can be adjusted by the server, from “Easy” to “Extreme”) and the environments you usually end up in it will take time to get accustomed to the high level of action, and relying on advancing in a group, rather than alone. Each side of the battle has its own specific weapons which you will discover in your own time. Fighting up close will be an incredible experience, especially when storming buildings and the butt of your rifle will suddenly become your best friend. Each role will have its strengths and weaknesses, each map will have multiple ways of attacking a position or defending it. Grenades will still be a death sentence in closed spaces, but considering the claustrophobic atmosphere in Stalingrad they might be the only way to enter a room relatively unscathed. There are holes and firing spots everywhere, so ambushes will be common (including, from the floor above or below you). Nowhere is safe in Stalingrad, whether you are the ambusher or the one being ambushed. Whether in the open, or inside a building.
There are four multiplayer game modes.” Territory” is in essence capturing control points until one side or the other has all of them, one of the sides has the majority of the points, or one of the sides loses all their forces and their reinforcement pool is depleted. There are two “variants” of territory maps. One of them is what you could call an “Attack/Defend” territory maps, the other is “Engagement” type maps, where nobody is the attacker or defender, both sides have the same amount of starting points, and there is a neutral point in the centre. The second multiplayer game mode is “Countdown”, very similar to your Defend/Attack maps from the single player campaigns. There are a number of points which have to be captured by the attackers, and both the defenders and attackers have “One Life”. What is meant by this is that the defending team will spawn “whole” to defend the point and once a team mate dies he stays dead until the point is captured (in which case the whole team respawns to defend the next point) or the round is won. The attackers work on the same principle but the Commander has the ability to “respawn” those dead from his team a limited number of times. “Firefight” is, in simple terms TDM. Upon death the player will respawn near his or her team, which means that once your team finds a suitable position to “hold” you can rejoin them near said position. Of course, if it’s a bad position, you will have more than a small problem to get out. “Campaign” is what I assume the option of finishing campaign missions with fellows players against bots (or other players?). Unfortunately at the time of writing there were no servers hosting this game mode, so you have as much an idea as myself.
What else is there to be known about Multiplayer? Your classes, weapons and your profile have levels. As you play games, gather up kills, finish objectives and win games you will gain experience. One of the ways this will be reflected is “Honour”. Honour is the overall “Level” of the player, and it does not appear to have any real role just yet, other than allowing you to level up your Classes. What do these levels mean at the end of the day? Very simply, the higher your level the more bonuses you will get, such as your movement speed, how quickly you recover stamina, or in the case of weapons how quickly you reload, accuracy, etc. There are also unlockables. In the case of classes by unlocking higher levels you will be able to pick more types of weapons (such as the “STG” for the assault class), or adding something “extra” to your weapon (be it a silencer, bayonet, bigger ammo drum or a scope).
Sounds and music are incredible. Sometimes the shouts that your men give make no direct relation to the actual state of things, such as your crewmen saying that if the tank suffers one more hit it will blow up, when in fact it is unscathed. Despite this the climate of your comrades shouting they have been hit, calling out for help, or their agonizing deaths ringing in your ears will make you shudder and have second thoughts about going in the same direction. Sounds, both friend and foe give you perfect awareness of the situation. When there is a grenade nearby, when are they reloading, or when somebody was firing nearby as they often yell out “Sniper” or “Machine Gunner” for example when such will fire. The music is not always matching the situation, but I had such heart warming moments that I stood up with my Pepesha and alone charged the “Hitlerites” with “Mother Russia!” coming from my lips.
The graphics are good. I have seen better, however RO2, although still demanding on my laptop should be able to run on a lot of computers. It is much more demanding than RO1 so hold that in mind when considering this purchase. What should be mentioned is the overall “feeling” RO2 produces thanks to its graphics. As you will see on the previous screenshots the moments you can capture can fill your heart with all manner of emotions, depending on the situation. Be it the sudden realisation that the tight corridor filled with corpses is your doing, the vastness of the Russian plains as your drive with your tank, the destroyed buildings which you know are filled with enemy gunners or the constant feeling of insecurity, that even now somebody can be on the floor above you, ready to jump down and impale you on their bayonet.
Nothing comes without problems. RO2 has a few of its own. The game release was a bit rushed and we can see and feel that, whether we play the single player campaign or the multiplayer. There are bugs, which make life a bit troublesome, and it feels certain features were not yet fully developed. One such feature, all in all, are the tank battles. There is currently only one Tank Battle map, and throughout the game you have access only to the Soviet T-34 and the German Panzer IV. Compared to the wide choice of tanks and vehicles in RO1 this looks like a non-existent addition to the game. Another problem with tanks is communication. The moment there is a player inside the tank you have a lot of trouble trying to communicate anything to him unless you use Voice Communication. RO2 lacks the “quick” voice commands that RO1 had, including the highly useful “Enemy at X o’clock”. Standard typing, even in infantry battles is troublesome, as it is very hard to tell at a glance when is somebody sending a public, team or squad message. I am certain this will be changed and be improved with time, as was the case with RO1. Even with these few problems (and a few others not mentioned here) RO2 is a solid game, with its maps fully developed, and infantry features implemented. It is only a matter of time when more content will be added, be it from the developers or the community.
Need a quick summary? Allow me to sum up all that was said here in a few simple sentences (in case your have the case of tl;dr). RO2 is in essence a multiplayer game, with three solid multiplayer modes (the fourth currently unused) all of which are fun and suit the game perfectly. The Single player campaigns with the tutorials in the German campaign allow you to discover the features of the game and get a basic grip on the controls of the game. The levelling system of your weapons and classes is a nice addition, with unlockables making your favourite weapons even more deadly and giving your classes a wider choice of weapons while not tipping the balance too much. The game is very climatic, and you will feel the chill of Stalingrad crawl down your spine on more than one occasion. Although buggy, with some of its features as of yet under-developed (Tripwire is hoping to prepare the first free DLC by the end of the year) it is a game worth buying, especially if you enjoyed RO1. Whether you are a fan of World at War style firefights (with more realism, no special call-ins and no perks), impressive tank battles (like World of Tanks, but with way more emphasis on realism, “First Person Play” and substantially lacking more tank types for now) or are a World War 2 enthusiast (I know I am) Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is the game for you!
Alex “WriterX” Bielski
Our guides to Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad:
The Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad Guide to the Classes:
The Tank Commander’s Guide for Red Orchestra 2:
Rating: 9/10 Pros: Mildly Realistic
Tripwire at its finest
Very big potential with future updates!
Cons: Limited Tank section
A bit buggy
Game producer's website: Tripwire Interactive Official website: Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad Game available at: