Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad Preview (PC)

It's hard to approach any World War 2 shooter these days without thinking it's been done already. In a general sense, this era is in danger of becoming boring and stale, and we're sure they are many that believe it's already happened. But with stagnation, comes innovation, and in an era where AAA publishers generally prefer to follow trends, it's best to look at the smaller studios for a change of pace. One such studio is Tripwire Interactive, and having sat down with them at this year's GamesCom, we're feeling a level of excitement not felt since we first saw Men of War or Mount & Blade.

Even though you can see a tank in the backgorund, nothing has been confirmed with regards to vehicles yet
Coming from their humble origins as a group of modders, Tripwire have done extremely well for themselves. Their original game, Red Orchestra: Combined Arms, was a critically acclaimed mod for Unreal Tournament 2004. That was then developed into a commercial title, Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41 - 45, and to date it has sold over 400,000 copies. It brought the hardcore realism of something like Operation Flashpoint, and combined it with the intensity and action of the original Call of Duty games (although without the Hollywood-esque hyperbole) and crafted a unique PC shooter experience.

After a brief interlude with Killing Floor (which, as it happens, also started life as an UT2004 mod), Tripwire are back with Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, and from what we've seen so far, we're very impressed. Whilst Ostfront was good, it was essentially the first game of a small start-up company who had only a mod to their name. Listening to studio president John Gibson you can't help but feel that, not only are they taking Red Orchestra into the current generation, but they're also making it into the game they'd always wanted it to be.

Enough of the pre-amble though - let's talk about the game itself. There's so much detail to Heroes of Stalingrad it's hard to know where to start. Hardcore shooters are starting to really come into their own as a contrast from the Hollywood shooters, and it's only poor offerings like Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising that really let the side down. Much like its predecessor though, this game combines that hardcore experience using depth and realism, but combines it with the natural energy and tension that surrounded the Eastern Front during World War 2.

Wait... there's another one...
The game, which centres around the city of Stalingrad, will be divided into ten maps at launch, with more likely to come post-launch. The first-person cover system returns, complete with blind firing and peeking, enhanced squad commands, squad morale, MAG-like incentives for team based actions, different roles within the squads destructive environments (although for reasons that could have been a bit more convincing, they avoided going to the lengths of Bad Company 2)... hell, they even have a dynamic music system that changes based on the squads morale, with the music specifically tailored to the German and Russian sides. What do you even say to something like that? It's ridiculous yet ever-so-slightly awesome and we think that little touches like that will really make Red Orchestra 2 into something special. Not to mention the music is done by Sam Hulic, of Mass Effect fame.

The main focus of this year's GamesCom presentation however was the multiplayer, which we don't mind telling you straight off is looking rather impressive. Heroes of Stalingrad will feature three modes, instead of Ostfront's one: Firefight, Countdown, and Territory. These are variations of your archetypical multiplayer modes, such as team deathmatch or conquest, but with a subtle Red Orchestra twist. In addition to that, there is a multiplayer campaign mode - something which we've never seen in a shooter before.

In this mode, players are presented with a map of Stalingrad, which has been divided up into ten territories, with each territory assigned one of the existing maps. Those are then divided between the two sides. Each side has 'Victory' points which they spend in order to attack or defend a certain province. It costs more to attack then it does to defend, and you lost points by losing reinforcements, but gain points for holding territories. It's a simple little system, but one that could really add some diversity to the traditional FPS multiplayer space. One team wins by either holding all the territories, or depleting the other team's victory points. All three of the multiplayer modes are available to use on a map in the MP campaign.
The game is using a modified version of the Unreal 3 engine.
There's so much more to talk about, but a lot of it is available through official channels or the forums - unfortunately the build we were shown was still pre-alpha, and so we weren't given any hands on time. We hope it gets the mainstream attention it deserves - with improved accessibility, a dynamic online mode, and an expansion (of sorts) already in the works, this could prove to be one of the last great WW2 shooters. So far no concrete news on platforms, although PC is a given. As for consoles however... it will be interesting what form the game will take should it go there. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is slated for a Q2 2011 release.

Most Anticipated Feature: The MAG-like squad dynamics are what intrigue me the most. That and calling down artillery using recon planes and binoculars.

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By bosnian_dragon (SI Core) on Aug 24, 2010
It's always nice to see when a group of enthusiasts and modders develop such a nice game. I haven't played their mod for UT2004, but now I will surely give it a try. Honestly, I didn't even know they exist. This preview certainly shows that they mean business with their new title, and I just can't wait to give it a try.
By OPFORCE (SI Member) on Aug 25, 2010
Red Orchestra is a nice game. Unique tank battles, great fun. And team play is rewarded. I'm also curious about Red Orchestra 2. Hope they improved infantry units.
By fat_ant (SI Member) on Sep 02, 2010
Im looking forward to this. especially the Stalingrad setting.
By Illusive_Serb (SI Veteran Member) on Feb 07, 2011
Yes Stalingrad battle is the greatness incarnate (as a turning point for WWII sould be)
Seams it's set for second quarter of 2011. I will definatly look forward to it.