This fall many companies have organized a strategic assault on gamer’s wallets, as is always the case in this time of year. Amidst the near three digit release list for the 2011 holiday season, two titans have squared off—Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. Some gamers have enlisted in one side or the other, some will try to straddle the fence and serve tours on both sides, while others have defected from one side to another, because of combat trauma suffered in Section Beta of one side or the other. On the PC front of this war, the battle also stems from who will get you to enlist in their tour of duty Origin vs Steam. While the battle rages on for who will enlist the most members, I believe I will be among the draft dodgers this fall.
More Than Two Sides
Despite the delusion that these two games are the sole combatants waging war for your time and money this fall, it is undeniable that a large portion of the multiplayer market will be invested in these two titles this fall. In addition to Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3, there are more than 80 games releasing during the fall/winter season of 2011, many of which will also feature multiplayer components. Knowing the $59.99 price point that each of these games carries, choosing one or both of them will part from you $60-120 dollars, along with the gobs of time you will spend playing online. Both games are very similar-modern military shooters, both carrying their own innovations, new graphics and unique features. Rather than pick up one or both of these games, I would rather spend my time playing two games already released this fall, and both featuring their own rich and vibrant multiplayer experiences. These games are Red Orchestra 2 and Nuclear Dawn, retailing at $39.99 and $24.99, respectively. Those price points means that you can snatch both of these great games for the same amount of money you would pay for one of the above mentioned military shooters, with tax included.
This is the less robust of the two games I’ve mentioned, but there are some pretty major free updates coming in the future. Nuclear Dawn takes on the task of incorporating RTS elements into a multiplayer FPS, with astounding success. One player from each side dons an RTS Commander role, building structures from a map overview, while the players fight on the ground over control points and resource points. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic future, with a new twist on the common classes featured in most multiplayer games. Nuclear Dawn features four classes—Exo, Support, Assault and Stealth—each giving the player a choice of a kit within that class. Do you like the Sniper role? Well, you can take the Assault Class Sniper Kit and use the advantage of thermal vision and slightly better armor, or take the armor penalty of the Stealth Class equipped with a Sniper Kit, and trade that thermal vision for a cloaking ability. Assault is by far the most versatile, allowing a typical rifle kit, sniper kit and grenade launcher kit. Sadly there is no campaign mode, or single player mode with bots to help you sharpen your skills. With only six maps and one game mode, it’s debatable that Nuclear Dawn may be perceived as a holdover until the release of MW3 or BF3. Still, with some major game changing updates being promised by it’s developer, InterWave Studios, and an already strong multiplayer experience, this is definitely going to be a game that monopolizes my time this fall. Our review won’t go live for a couple days, but check out our preview of Nuclear Dawn here or our interview with InterWave Studios here.
Red Orchestra 2
Red Orchestra 2, from Tripwire Interactive, is a far reach from the modern battlegrounds of MW3 or BF3. It portrays the Russian/German grudge match at Stalingrad in World War II. Of course there’s been a very anti-WWII sentiment within gamers ever since COD4 first made it’s boot print on multiplayer shooters. Gamers were too busy with COD4 to support the sales of Call of Duty’s own step back into WWII, but Red Orchestra 2 is not ‘just another World War II shooter’. In addition to being the first game to allow players to fight on the Axis side of the war, RO2 has invested an amazing amount of detail in the historical accuracy and shooting mechanics of the game. This is the first game where a weapons tutorial feels appropriate. With each weapon you can dial in your sights to adjust for the range or your target and for bullet drop across that distance. When aiming the cannons or machine guns of the game’s tanks, the same options for aim adjust is available. An incredibly detailed and accurate damage system makes most shots an instant kill, and makes the player stick to more strategic options, rather than just a run-and-gun mentality. You soldier is affected by morale–seeing his squad mates cut down or being pinned by suppressive fire will affect your vision and accuracy and make you more vulnerable to damage. There is a rich single player campaign that allows you to practice these skills on both sides of the battlefield, before trying your abilities out online. With amazing in-game tension, alone or online, and the grit and primitive feel of older weapons, Red Orchestra 2 is really hard to put down. For more detailed thoughts, you can read my review here.
I certainly don’t doubt that both MW3 and BF3 will feature rich gameplay elements and complicated perks, customization and innovation over their previous iterations. I also acknowledge that the mainstream appeal of MW3 and BF3 will certainly be greater than that of Nuclear Dawn and Red Orchestra 2, especially since there won’t be console releases for the two games I spoke of in this editorial. My intent was not to take a stab at the two military shooters debuting this fall, I’m sure they will both deserve the high sales figures they earn. My point was to restate the obvious–that there are more options available to us this fall, and that while most people will be mulling over which game to buy in a few weeks, I am perfectly happy letting every one else fret over their choice while I spend some quality time with these two great examples of forward innovation and gameplay. Enjoy your tour on whatever battlefield duty may call you to. Nuclear Dawn, Red Orchestra 2 and I will still be here when you get bored.