Balancing Realism and Gameplay in Red Orchestra 2
Since the release of the original Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45, Tripwire and its realistic WWII shooter have gained many awards, and a large fan following. After some mods, and some other projects by Tripwire, Red Orchestra is back in the form of Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad. If anything, it seems faithful to the original, in that it's really, really realistic. This realism, while seemingly pointless to some, is actually in the service of the gameplay.
On its surface, Red Orchestra 2 can seem to some like it's only being realistic for realism's sake. With manual ammo checking, manual rifle bolt action, multiple people required to man a tank in first-person, and more. However, once you look closely at all of the individual gameplay mechanics, they all serve a purpose to improve the gameplay.
For example, whenever you check the ammo in your weapon by holding down the R key, the game will tell you whether the clip feels heavy or light. This seems like realism for realism's sake, but according to Tripwire's president, it's to add tension to the gameplay. “You never know exactly how much ammo you have in your gun, so you end up having those ‘oh crap’ moments where you run around the corner to shoot at enemies, pull the trigger, and nothing happens. It gives the player a brief moment of panic.”
The touches of realism also inspire teamwork, like when operating tanks. There are three drivable positions in the tanks: the driver, the gunner, and the commander. The commander spots targets for the gunner to shoot, the gunner aims and fires, compensating for range, leading, and gravity, and the driver moves the tank with WASD.
One of the greatest benefits of the realism is the satisfaction that comes along with gunplay. In order to shoot enemies at range, you must lead your targets, and account for the ballistics modeling. There's also a first-person cover system, which implements true blindfire (meaning you can't see where you're shooting), and suppressing fire, which decreases your accuracy and blurs your vision while you're being shot at behind cover. When using bolt action rifles, you must manually click again to use the bolt after a shot. These touches make the game take longer to get used to, but add satisfaction and player interaction in the long run.
The animations and environments are realistic as well. Depending on the army in which you serve, you'll have different animations for running, crouching, going prone, reloading – pretty much any details that have been recorded in army history can be found here. The battlefields are also painstakingly detailed from real life locations, such as a grain silo from WWII, which the Axis unfortunately ignored, allowing the Soviets to capture and hold it for 5 days.
Red Orchestra 2 is certainly pushing the limits of realism while keeping the gameplay fun and enjoyable for the player. Its touches like these that separate Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad from the other multiplayer shooters out there today. We'll be sure to post a review when the title releases.