Review: Rising Storm Review

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Rising Storm, the latest game in the Red Orchestra franchise, is taking players to the historic battlegrounds of 1942-1945, confronting the Imperial Japanese Army and US Marines on 6 new maps spread throughout the Pacific. Certainly a must -buy for any fan of the franchise, but is it also worth your money if you never played Red Orchestra before?

As an avid player of Red Orchestra 2, I’ve been captivated by Rising Storm since the first moment I saw a glimpse of it sometimes in 2011. Originally planned as a full-conversion mod for Red Orchestra 2, it promised to take players onto a brand-new campaign to the historic Pacific battlegrounds of WW2 like the islands of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Saipan. Beach landings, jungle fighting, swamps and rivers seamed with palm trees… It all promised a very welcome diversification from the brown and greyish plains of Stalingrad.

For the readers who don’t know the Red Orchestra 2: it is Tripwire Interactive 2nd installment of a more realism-based World War 2 based first person shooter. Weapons behave credibly with bullet drop and spin, there is no auto-heal, the sprinting is limited and the HUD does not show the amount of ammunition you have left. Cautious movement is as essential to being successful as proper team play and communication, and the game features dedicated roles such as squad and team leader which let you take some more responsibility for your team’s progress by calling in air-strikes or assigning targets. The most-played game mode is surely “Territory”: ¬†an advance-and-secure variant in which the attacking team captures one or 2 points at the same time, pushing the enemy back further and further until they have conquered the whole map. The re-spawn is done in waves, simulating reinforcements.

Red Orchestra 2 was critically well acclaimed, though some major bugs and issues at launch kept if from getting higher scores.

Now, 2 years later, Rising Storm has been released, and from its mod roots has grown into a full stand-alone game available on Steam for $19.99 USD, and what a great game it is! Tripwire Interactive has learned from the past, so this time around – after a long Beta period – the launch went really smooth, so there is no reason to wait with buying unless you are waiting for more content to come. Currently the game only features 6 maps, with 2 more (Nphum Ga, Betio) already being announced to arrive through upcoming game updates. In general, the RO2 community is very active in developing custom maps on Steam workshop, and many of those have found their way into the previous games through mapping contests held by Tripwire Interactive, so the same can be expected for Rising Storm as well.

Rising Storm has a “free to play mode” for RO2 players that did not buy the expansion: As far as I am informed, those are able to play all maps but are restricted to the rifleman class. Unfortunately, Tripwire failed to put any FAQ about this up on the game’s homepage, so I leave it with what I read on the forums.

 

Game-play

Rising Storm tries to be historically accurate, so each map is based on a historic battleground of World War 2 and each faction has authentic weapons. 4 of the 6 maps have the US Army or Marines attack Japanese bases, while 2 maps (Guadalcanal, Hanto) have the US Army defend their fortifications, apparently part of a Japanese counter attack. The variety of maps is great, spanning tense jungle fights (Hanto), moonlit night maps (Guadalcanal), urban combat (Saipan), intense beach assaults (Iwo Jima) and the typical trench warfare in urban or semi-industrial areas (Peleliu, Kwajalein). Every map requires its own strategy and has a very different feel and playing mechanic to it, so even playing 3 or 4 maps in a row on the same server doesn’t get boring.

Guadalcanal is the only night map and provides intense immerse trench battles

 

The maps generally feel more intense than in RO2, with mostly flat buildings like shacks and huts instead of multi-level buildings like in the Stalingrad maps. Personally, I found Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal to be the most impressive: The first puts the US forces onto an inedible¬† assault starting form the beach upwards a hill dotted with bunkers and fortifications filled with Japanese just waiting with their triggers already pulled for their heads to pop up. The feeling of inferiority on the attackers’ side and the superiority on the other side is overwhelming, while a single flamethrower is enough to clear one or several bunkers.

Guadalcanal is a night map, seamed with trenches, tripwire and vehicles that have their headlights point towards the attacking Japanese while flares cast a red glow upon the landscape. Sitting in a dark trench waiting to be overrun by Banzai-charging Japanese is just as intense as running towards the blinding spotlights, not knowing whose gun is already pointing at you.

On Iwo Jima, US forces are desperately fighting uphill facing the Japanese bunkers

The weapon system is asymmetric, meaning US forces and Japanese forces have different weapons/classes and fighting mechanics. On first sight, the US troops’ armament seems way superior to the Japanese, featuring semi-automatic (quick fire) rifles like the M1 Garand and a flamethrower compared to bolt-action (slow single shot) rifles and mobile mortars (“knee mortar”) on the opposite side. At first sight the flamethrower seems way overpowered, killing you in a instant from several meters distance without even the slightest chance to fire back a single shot, making it truly feared among the Japanese. First order on the battlefield is always “take out the flamethrower” or run away asap.

However, the Japanese have a great means of area denial provided by the Type 89 mobile mortar, and the type 100 machine gun seems to be much more accurate than the American counterpart. Additionally, the Japanese can set boobie traps by burying their grenades in lose soil and are more resistant to suppression.

What the Japanese lack in armature they can make up easily with bravery: A neat feature called “Banzai Charging” lets you, once activated, unleash a battle cry (“Banzaaaaaaii”) and suppress your enemies, making it difficult for them to fire back. Additionally, it grants less damage taken by enemy fire and the area of effect is lager in groups, making it a very effective means to quickly push back the enemy or cooperatively capture a point. Hordes of Japanese warriors running screaming and sword-wielding at their enemies… what could be more fun, even if it is – to some degree – suicidal!? ;-)

The game features 7 different classes per team: Rifleman (bolt-action or semi-automatic), assault (sub machine guns), machine gunner (light machine guns with bipods), snipers, and flamethrower/mortar guys. The 2 classes squad leader and team leader (both equipped with machine guns) provide tactical depth, assigning targets for the infantry or mortar and requesting air recon. Both should only be played by experienced players, as a good team leader supported by competent squad leaders can be key to winning or losing a match. Machine gunners and squad leaders also serve as mobile spawn-points, so it essential for them to advance carefully and stay alive in tactically important positions.

 

Regarding game modes, “Territory” is currently the only mode played on the community servers, but as far as I know (no FAQ available, what the hell Tripwire?) Rising Storm also features the other standard RO2 modes like Firefight (team death match) and Countdown (a variation of Territory with only 1 life per objective). There are currently no tank maps, which might be a major disappointment for Red Orchestra fans, but I believe there will be some coming soon.

Rising Storm, as RO2, features ‘Action’ and ‘Realism’ modes. While new players are apparently intended to learn the game’s basics in ‘Action’ mode with comfortable gimmicks like cross hairs and reduced damage and suppression, reaching a certain level allows them to join ‘Realism’ servers, too. This is truly where the heart of the series lies: you are still able to bandage yourself when injured, but overall bullets are as deadly as you’d imagine them to be.

Speaking of leveling up: While playing you’ll level up your character (‘Honor’) as well as your individual classes and weapons, and reaching a certain weapon rank grants you access to new types.

 

Presentation

The graphics and sound of Rising Storm are well done to say the least. Birds getting aroused, the buzzing of flies in the swamps, the rumbling artillery in the backgrounds, soldiers screaming “Banzai” and the bangs of weapons firing all over the place create a great and dense immersion into the battlefield. The vegetation looks beautiful and lush and almost distracts from the terror of war, as do the beautiful lighting and smoke effects, which have a tactical use too in shape of smoke grenades. Compared to Red Orcehstra 2, the game looks much more vivid, and sneaking through swamps and high grass is much more rewarding than crawling through the awkwardly ugly plains of Mamayev Kurgan. To be honest, I never knew the old Unreal Engine 3 could look this good, even on medium detail, and sometimes I even forgot to respawn in favor of making screenshots.

Lush vegetation, impressive fire effects: Rising Storm sure looks nice

 

Verdict

Rising Storm is a great expansion to the Red Orchestra franchise. It finally offers the much needed diversity from the ugly Ostfront, making Red Orchestra more beautiful, more intense and even more accessible to new players. While still appealing to hardcore RO2 fans, it certainly focuses on intense infantry combat rather than large tank maps or complicated building structures.

The asymmetric weapon system works out pretty well, and while there still might be small balancing issues the overall impression is very good and I did not notice major complaints among the players.

The only real complaint I have is the amount of maps, as I feel it should have been more than 6, even if there are more to be come soon.

Overall a great game to start your Red Orchestra career with, if you haven’t already, and a must-buy for fans.

8.5/10

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