Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad was not only a fantastic game but was also PC Gamer’s 2011 Multiplayer Shooter of the Year. If you read our review, don’t be fooled by the change in scoring since then–Heroes of Stalingrad was awarded a 4.5 out of 5 when I reviewed it. Now Tripwire has added a fresh expansion, titled Rising Storm. Is this another jarring, realistic look at the battles on the Pacific Campaign of World War II, or is it just simply jarring?
30 Second Review
(+) Completely new twist on already fantastic gameplay
(+) Unbalanced sides enhance the game
(+) New weapons and attributes to explore
(+) Tripwire did a fantastic job of avoiding community fracturing
(-) Can’t think of a negative!
Land of the Red Sun
In the days of downloading WAD files for Doom, we had a term for expansions like Rising Storm. They were called “Total Conversions,” and I loved them. They took the framework of a beloved game, like Doom, and completely changed it into something else, like Aliens. Well it’s a fitting reference, because that’s what Tripwire did with its mod community and Red Orchestra 2 by bringing us Rising Storm. The game only adds multiplayer features to the RO2 universe, within the setting of the Pacific Campaign of World War 2. Rather than attempt to shoe horn the drastically different tactics used by the Axis and Allies into a balanced multiplayer game, Tripwire decided to leave well enough alone. Allies can use flamethrowers to flush Axis troops out of the brush, or even fool them by simulating the empty click of their Garand. Japanese soldiers gain a morale supressing effect when launching a kamikaze charge, or use grenades set up as proximity mines. All of these elements blend together to give players something so completely different than what they are used to in the German Campaign of RO2.
Can’t Please ‘Em All
Any of us who play even the smallest amount of multiplayer shooters are painfully familiar with the fracturing that DLC and map packs cause. I personally feel left out in the cold when I don’t buy the latest map packs for two of the most popular FPS franchises which shall remain unmentioned. Tripwire was also aware of this and tried to cut that train off at the pass. New players who purchase Rising Storm gain all multiplayer content from Heroes of Stalingrad. Gamers, like me who don’t always buy the new content also get a nice bonus. If you own Heroes of Stalingrad and don’t want to pay for the new content, you will still be able to play when the server you are on rotates into the new maps; you simply will be restricted to the Rifleman class. The reasoning for this is that it offers the most available slots compared to other class availability. Regardless of what you own, all multiplayer content has been moved to the same Steam heading, and the Heroes of Stalingrad single-player content now has its own Steam heading. Last, but not least, the true non-conformists can simply restrict their servers to one set of maps or the other.
One would assume that this move would squash a lot of the ire usually found in a multiplayer community after new content is launched. Sadly, a quick glance at the Steam forums shows us that gamers find reasons to spew venom no matter what path developers take. It would seem that many feel slighted because they bought into Heroes of Stalingrad at a higher price when it launched, and new players are now getting that content free. Fans of the original claim that the game issues should be addressed before adding new content and creating new issues to fix. Personally, I couldn’t be happier with the choices Tripwire has made, and I applaud their efforts, regardless of how the vocal minority chooses to receive them. We seem to forget that the developers really don’t owe the community anything, and still their valiant efforts to improve the experience are turned aside. Sure, it behooves them to make sure that as many people as possible are happy and still playing their game, but I simply don’t see a better way to handle this situation than what Tripwire has already done. I dare say it’s ground-breaking and certainly hope larger studios would take notice and mimic it.
I’ve already written a preview lauding all of the features Rising Storm employs, here. The reason you are reading this is to see if all of those features that sound great on paper bring the player a great game. My answer is a resounding ‘YES’. I was a huge fan of the original game, and I am loving the changes Rising Storm brings. The mechanics work great, from the original bolt action rifle gunplay to the new weapons and features. Win or lose, there is something satisfying about how Tripwire makes its games more skill-based than twitch-based. Using the Japanese mortars and the Allied flamethrowers is fantastic. The day/night maps add more of a challenge, and the original sniper gameplay is still the best in any game. I can’t accentuate enough how the new features dramatically change the gameplay and are most definitely worth the price of entry. Even better, fans that aren’t ready to pony up the cash for Rising Storm can get a free preview of the new maps using the Rifleman class. Having migrated away from Red Orchestra multiplayer long ago, Rising Storm brings it right back to the top of the cue. Rising Storm is a fantastic expansion, robust with new features and inviting to both veteran and new players. That’s why Rising Storm wins 9 valor medals out of 10.