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Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad

 

Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad

Platform: PC Games
Category: Action Games, First Person Shooter, Shooter
 
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Features

Single-player
Multi-player
Steam Achievements
Steam Cloud
Stats
Valve Anti-Cheat enabled

Recently I had the privilege to receive the deluxe edition of Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad from Tripwire Interactive. Running on the Unreal Engine 3, it's a World War II first-person shooter focusing on a realistic take on the war. As the title suggests, Heroes of Stalingrad is centered around the Battle of Stalingrad, July 1942 through February 1943. You can play as either the Russians or the Germans in both single-player and multiplayer. While there is a single-player campaign, the game really shines in multiplayer where there is online stat tracking and the ability to rank up to be a Hero! Despite a few problems and a less than stellar single-player campaign, it's a great multiplayer shooter and really scratched an itch I've been having for a World War II first-person shooter!

Graphics

Tripwire was striving for realism when they designed Heroes of Stalingrad, and this is definitely evident in the graphics. The environments are all dirty with dilapidated buildings, dirt, and dust. In other words, they look like battlefields! While you won't be flattening buildings, there are semi-destructible environments, and hiding behind a thin, wooden fence might not be the best idea.

Something that I always look for in a game is the ability to play the game on older PCs. Sometimes I'd like to play on my laptop or a computer other than my main PC, which is especially easy with Steam games. Luckily, Heroes of Stalingrad gives you the ability to decrease the graphics to significantly increase performance if you want to go that route. After doing this it might not look as great, but it gets the job done! The game also features a very minimal HUD to help with the immersion and keep the experience as realistic as possible. No one's going to look at Heroes of Stalingrad and be blown away by the graphics. It's far from cutting edge, and I did run into some graphical problems rendering the sky (solid black sky with strange, white glow). However, the graphics were decent, and the gameplay and audio make up for it.

Sound

The audio is definitely awesome in Heroes of Stalingrad. Explosions, gunfire, yelling - it's all there. Being stuck in the middle of a gunfight sounds very impressive. The game features terrific music as well. I recommend putting on a good pair of headphones and really immersing yourself in the Stalingrad experience. The voice-acting is great, both in the levels and during the cutscenes that play before each mission.

I have to half-jokingly make one minor complaint. When I was stuck in the first level, the tutorial, for a few minutes (I know, I know. What can I say?), the instructor kept repeating himself over and over. Yes, I know I'm supposed to shoot those targets. I'm just bad.

Gameplay

Most of the game revolved around capturing territory. After the tutorial, the first level tasks you with capturing a church, moving up and capturing the first housing block, continuing by capturing the second housing block, and finally proceeding to capture the town hall. You pretty much continue that until you beat the game. Unlike some other shooters, you don't return to a checkpoint upon dying. Instead you take the role of a squadmate. It's an interesting mechanic that works well. I have seen similar functionality in other titles, and it works well for Heroes of Stalingrad. What's confusing for me most in the game though is knowing who to shoot and who not to shoot! That's the problem with realism. In Heroes of Stalingrad, I'm not fighting giant monsters or enemies outlined in red, I'm fighting people that look like the people on my own team but with a different color clothing!

Heroes of Stalingrad feature a high level of control with a high level of complexity. While I usually play shooters that are simpler to control, I enjoyed the level of complexity in the game. Players like myself who are accustomed to games like Team Fortress 2 will find that they need to have their fingers hovering over and ready to press more keys. You can stand, crouch, and go prone. You can run. You can snap into cover and peek out of cover. You can pull up your gun, steady your breathing, prime a grenade. I thought it would be a little overwhelming, but the quick tutorial teaches you one thing at a time, and experienced first-person shooter fans shouldn't have a problem at all. I will say that sometimes I got confused when an enemy popped up near me and I had to remember what to do, but I got over it.

I touched on this already a little, but let me talk a little about the aiming and weapons. You can shoot from the hip, but I wouldn't recommend it unless the enemy is incredibly close. If you want to actually hit your target, you won't want to fire from the hip; you'll want to pull it up and aim. Heroes of Stalingrad doesn't baby you with crosshairs in the center of the screen either. You'll need to use the iron sights on the guns. Now I know this is a really subjective statement, but the weapons feel really good to use. There's nothing like a solid bolt-action rifle for example. Again, staying with the realistic aproach, you'll need to remember how many rounds you have in your gun or manually check. This is a nice touch because it adds realism without hindering gameplay. Do you want to play without worrying about when to reload? Shoot until you can't shoot anymore, and then reload!

You will also need to compensate for gravity when firing, because bullets will fall. You can compensate by either aiming higher or adjusting the sights. This is the part at which I had some trouble in the tutorial. Did I really spend 20 minutes stuck in a little area of a shooting range, trying to shoot distant targets? Yes, yes I did. Rather than entering the game proper, full of enemies, and missing everyone at whom I was aiming, I had to spend some time practicing. Well, actually I had to walk away for a short break from the game. I came back, finished it quickly (funny how taking a little break can help), and got on with the game. The best way to learn to play a game in my opinion is for the game to slowly introduce more and more mechanics as you master the previous ones over the course of the game. That method would not really work for Heroes of Stalingrad because the core gameplay is going to be present the entire time. However, making sure you know how to aim properly and can move around before setting you loose against others is a good move.

Like the other aspects of Heroes of Stalingrad, grenades function realistically. You usually won't want to simply throw them, because they'll sit on the ground before detonating. You'll want to prime them. Pull out the pin, wait the proper amount of time, and let it fly! Again, the tutorial helps teach you how to do this correctly, and it's relatively simple. The tutorial is very helpful in general.

Heroes of Stalingrad features various classes that use different types of guns. For example, if you want to snipe, you'll need to pick the appropriate class. There are restrictions on the number of certain classes available. This ensures that when playing online, you won't face an entire team of snipers. Eh, sniping can get boring anyways! It's important to note as well that you're not a walking tank in Heroes of Stalingrad. If you take a bullet to the chest, you'll die. If you get grazed you can bandage, but you'll need to be careful. You can bleed to death. When I first started playing, I ran away thinking I had survived. I hadn't. I just hadn't died yet. Unfortunately, Heroes of Stalingrad crashed repeatedly for me. It only happened while starting the game. Once I got into a level and was actually able to play, it did't crash. This could have been worse, because I'd definitely rather it crash at the beginning than in the middle of my session! It also had some problems with the stats tracking and achievements, but this seemed to rectify itself quickly. I'm not sure if it was something I did, but I suspect it was simply a kink in the system that was worked out by Tripwire.

There is a full single-player campaign; however, the game is really designed around multi-player. You'll see the same levels in both modes. Single-player is really just playing multiplayer levels with a bit of scripting and bots instead of human opponents. In single-player, the AI can sometimes be pretty bad, taking cover on the wrong side of things and running into fire. In multiplayer, people are usually ridiculously better than you are and snipe you across the map! (Okay, maybe that's just my experience!) You'll want to tread much more carefully in multiplayer. This isn't a game for running around crazily. To succeed, you'll need to stay in cover, move slowly, aim your shots quickly and carefully, and of course, don't get discouraged. Heroes of Stalingrad tracks your stats and allows you to level up over time, eventually unlocking Hero mode, allowing you to inspire allies around you and put fear into your enemies. With 32 people versus 32 people online battles, Heroes of Stalingrad packs a lot of action!


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