War, huh. Good god, y’all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. That’s what Edwin Starr thought anyway. There’s no doubting that war is a bit of a bugger and none is more representative of this than the second world war. This brutal war has been remembered in video games countless times and one of the best of the bunch, Tripwire Interactive, have been very adept in making possibly the most realistic WW2 games with Red Orchestra, Red Orchestra 2 and now Rising storm.
To say I’m not good at Red Orchestra 2 is an understatement. The last time I was above average at a shooter was Call of Duty 1 & 2, Battlefield 2 and Red Orchestra. I’ve deteriorated through lack of practice and an unwillingness to play due to the tosh that has been coming out with botched single player modes, sending me down long corridors against countless shooting galleries. It’s a big shame because the good games like Red Orchestra 2, Battlefield 3 and CS:GO have been thoroughly ignored as a result of my feelings towards the genre, although Red Orchestra 2 is partly to blame for my ignoring it. The result of my actions are that I’m crap at the games.
Now we’ve established that I’m crap at Red Orchestra 2 and FPS as a genre has been dead to me for a few years, It’s time to talk Rising Storm. What Rising Storm does is breathe a bit of life back into that dead horse that is the genre, it gives me hope that my jaded feelings may eventually be worn away by quality and some enthusiasm will creep back in. Just need another ten or so Rising Storms to really get my interest back.
Yes, I like Rising Storm. Why this stands above Red Orchestra 2 already, even though it’s just a standalone expansion, is that it isn’t suffering from the same bugs that drove me away from it’s parent. I bought Red Orchestra 2 on launch and for the first two weeks I kept trying in vein to get into the game and when I did to actually play the damn thing. There’s only so much ‘trying’ I’m willing to do before calling it a lost cause, which is what I did and I only went back about a month ago in the build up to Rising Storm, which allowed me to see what I’ve missed out on.
What makes Rising Storm all that more interesting is the locale. This couldn’t be further away from the ruined eastern front, full of snow and demolished buildings that we’ve had in the previous Red Orchestras. What we have here is the varied, but messy, terror of the pacific theater. The dense malaria-ridden shrubbery of Guadalcanal, the barren death trap of Iwo Jima to the rather urban Saipan. All offer a rather different experience to the one used to from maps we’re used to.
Of course if it was just a change of uniforms and rubble to trees there wouldn’t be much else to talk about because at core this is still Red Orchestra 2. Well, this is much more than a cosmetic change. The major thing to know first is that the weapons have been painstakingly recreated, from the positives to the negatives. The major negative being that the Japanese were hopelessly outgunned from the get-go, having mostly bolt-action rifles against the American assault rifles. This did result in a few positives for the Japanese, they were inventive to say the least and made a mini mortar much more mobile and easier to use than standard mortars, as well as using their grenades as a trap, burying it in the ground to kill an unsuspecting enemy.
This isn’t to say the American’s didn’t have a few special weapons. They had their standard issue Bolt Action rifles, as well as Machine Guns like the BAR. However, also featured in the US arsenal is the iconic flamethrower, used to such deadly effect in the storming of Iwo Jima. Not only that, there was the trench gun that leaves an enemy suck in the trench no option but death. A feature that is beneficial moreso to the Americans, but useful to the Japanese is suppression. When suffering from suppression your screen starts to grey and you start to shake much more when aiming.
Of course, even with the mortar and booby traps, the Japanese are still hopelessly outgunned when it comes to attacking American positions. What Tripwire have done to even the odds a little more is put the stoic nature of the Japanese soldiers here at your disposal. This is the infamous Banzai charge. Effectively what this does is make you a little less vulnerable to the bullets ripping through your body as you charge head on into the enemy. While slightly effective alone, this really works when grouped with others on your team. It’s both exhilarating to do and fearsome to face. You will die because the charge doesn’t make you invulnerable, it simply increases the pain threshold, makes you immune to suppression, and gives you time to close the gap and spear your enemy with your bayonet or, if you’re a Japanese commander, your katana before you keel over and succumb to your wounds.
Where Rising Storm really shines is the ambiance created. This is a different beast to what you’re used to in Red Orchestra 2. If you let yourself become immersed while playing, you will genuinely worry as you hear the faint sound of leaves rustling nearby, or the clang of pots up ahead as the Japanese are sneaking up on your position in the pitch black of night. This immersion is enhanced through the lovely use of sound, as in RO2, as you listen to your soldier breathing slowly while aiming at the enemy. What can make it all the more tense is the fact that, in certain maps, the enemy can be anywhere. Hiding in the foliage, waiting to pounce.
Like its parent before it, Rising Storm isn’t at base level the most visually splendid game on the market. Although when running at ultra settings on enhanced mode it looks as good as you will ever need it to be. Sure, some of the details are a little shallow or blurred, but it still looks great. Where it really shines is the use of light and dark, the use of shadows. This is spectacular, especially on darker maps where searchlights illuminate one area, or flares are being dropped at spots and will suddenly light it all up for you. Not only that, every shot fired will give a bit of light and either reveal your position to the enemy or, if you’re observant, give you a target to hit.
One other positive I must mention about Rising Storm is that there are three game types, difficulties if you want. You have your action mode, trying to appeal to the more casual CoD/BF crowd. Classic, for those who were fans of Red Orchestra 1 and weren’t happy with the two options in 2. Finally there is realism, my choice, where a single bullet tearing into your meaty flesh will put you down. unless you’re lucky and it hits you in the arm, or arse.
This is still a review of the beta. These are just my impressions of the Beta because all reports indicate that when finally released, there will be more maps, more ways of using your guns and making slight changes to them and just more fun. To say I haven’t encountered a single bug yet makes me more than happy after the dreadful start RO2 had. I can see myself being willing to play this much more than I have already.