First Impressions: Red Orchestra 2

By Jim Rossignol on September 6th, 2011 at 6:45 pm.

Dead. All dead.
There’s a grim danger with multiplayer shooters. The danger is that if they’re any good, I’ll lose a year’s worth of productivity. This is becoming a genuine concern as I played through more rounds of Red Orchestra 2, Tripwire’s shiny sequel to the super-bleak World War II shooter. It’s a little less brutal and minimal than its parent, of course, because it’s a more friendly commercial release. But the horror remains. And it is brilliant.

Right now the game is in the painful birthing throes of a beta. And this is a proper “lots of stuff is broken and we need to fix it” sort of beta, rather than one of those “the game is secretly finished and this is a marketing exercise” sort of beta. The game definitely need a bunch more work, but even the occasional glitches and agonised chat-cries of players who have serious issues can’t mask the potential this game has to eat my life.


I don’t usually care about atmosphere in multiplayer shooters (and care about it too much in SP shooters), because really what I am interested in is mastering the mechanisms that pitch me and other human beings against each other, but there’s no denying Red Orchestra 2 has the “A” quality in creaky, smoky droves. The shattered, desolate maps would be enough, but the grim chatter of the characters “They’re out there… somewhere…” and the screams of your stricken comrades makes this chilling, even before you get to the one-shot-maybe-kill-but-perhaps-bleed-to-death combat.

Initial impressions are that it certainly feels like Red Orchestra to me, although I only played a few hours of Ostfront, despite some dramatic differences (particularly in visual loveliness). The main reason for this, I suppose, is the way in which hugging scenery is essential not simply to not being shot, but also steadying your aim. There’s a first-person cover system here, but what’s far more interesting is how the original mod’s steadying of your weapon comes naturally. It is one of those FPS games where what could be quite arbitrary functionality actually feels organic and intuitive. It feels chunky, and dangerous and I was wincing at both killing and being killed. That’s a good start, isn’t it? Things get better when you look at the options screen, too.


The important bit, though, is the man-shooting. My first couple of encounters with enemies were just fantastic. Stumbling on someone who was reloading and taking them apart with a pistol, and then a series of one-shot kills with my bolt-action rifle as I hunkered in the snow, squad-mates yelling around me. Yeah, basically grinning like a madman at that point.

Things were dampened a bit when I got lost, stumbled the wrong way into enemy territory, got sniped, and then a few moments later killed by artillery from somewhere. Possibly friendly? Yeah, the game is frighteningly bold, but cruel. As it should be. And the server browser works now. I didn’t for a while there, and it gave me the fear.


Perhaps the most provocative thing in here, though, is the 32vs32 player battles. If anything is going to get the blood pumping it’s that number of people going against each other on these maps. Some of the firefights are terrifying – not least because some bullets will penetrate walls, and when you’re under a hail of fire it can all be over very quickly. (Also, the scale of a 64-player game should remind us to be excited about that other 64-player game coming out a little later in the year. A different flavour, certainly, but it feels like the kind of play games have been missing of late.)

I’ve not had a go in tank yet, but I understand it still needs some work.

There’s even going to be a single-player campaign. It might be terrible, but that scarcely matters. This is one of those shooters that has been formed in the wire-tangled, humming womb of the PC community, and its vitality is obvious. It might be displeasing a few fans of the original, and it might be stricken with a few ugly bugs, but right now I’ve got no worries about the success of this one, and I can’t wait to sink more time into it.

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65 Comments »

  1. Real Horrorshow says:

    Damn my cheapness for making me buy the standard edition. 7 days. 7 long, grueling, unbearable days of yearning.

    • Brumisator says:

      Here, have a tissue.
      Can I weep on your shoulder?

      We are failed human beings, my friend.

    • CaughtVD says:

      I feel for you but at least you should have a less bugged experiance. If you can’t wait cancel your pre order and head over to http://www.greenmangaming.com/?gmgr=cinokehe (this is a referral link, but we both get $5/£5 if you register through it and make a purchase or use a mates!) It’s 20% off steams price using code SUNNY-SAVER-20PEC or 20SUM-MERSA-VINGS or 20SUMMERSAVINGS @ the checkout. Making the DDE edition cheaper than the normal edition. And you get your code instantly.

      EDIT: Sorry looks like the codes have expired.

    • Linfosoma says:

      @CaughtVD

      Mind if I use the link/code? Im interested in the game, but Im also poor, so so very poor. Thanks!

    • westyfield says:

      You can upgrade a standard pre-order to a deluxe pre-order on Steam.
      http://store.steampowered.com/app/35450/?snr=1_7_7_151_150_1 (The third option down – currently £4.50)

    • CaughtVD says:

      @Linfosoma sure feel free no need to ask.

    • Colonel J says:

      Damn it, had my eye on this, now Jim has made me hit the buy button. Might have time to dive into the beta if I can get my new PC built by the weekend.

      Those GMG 20% codes have all expired though. @CaughtVD, used your referral link, is that £5 kick-back to the buyer just for new account registrations to GMG? Used my existing account and no credit has appeared.

    • Bluebreaker says:

      Don’t worry, everything indicates you are going to get your beta too.

    • CaughtVD says:

      @Colonel J you have to make a purchase of 5 £/$ before you recieve the credit.

    • Colonel J says:

      Yeah I did – clicked your referral, GMG was already logged into my account, bought the Red Orch 2 deluxe edition.

    • CaughtVD says:

      @Colonel J sorry I misread your post, I thought you’d just made an account through the link. I was also unaware the codes had all run out. Sorry folks! Hopefully they’ll issue another before the beta ends I guess.

  2. Nullkigan says:

    Controversial: Countdown is the best mode because you can actually flank without respawns ruining it.

    Less Controversial: Beating someone up with binoculars never gets old. The same goes for the war cry your guy lets out when you charge a melee attack and sprint forwards.

    Not Controversial: We have a server (see forum threads for details)

  3. Bosscelot says:

    It took me a long time to get used to the cover system but now I feel pretty comfortable with it.

    This really does feel like a prettier version of RO with a few fixes and extras (more destructible environments for one thing; that was the main weakness with ostfront). RO managed to hit a real sweet spot so having a more fancier and more accessible version of it so my friends will want to try it is fine by me!

  4. Adamamam says:

    I hate it. Absolutely hate it. I simply cannot find any fun in this game no matter how hard I try.

    Also, “you cannot go prone here. you cannot go prone here. you cannot go prone here. you cannot kill dwarf soldier with canada goose.”

    • DrGonzo says:

      I prefer it to allowing you to go prone into a wall or object but definitely understand your frustration. I’m guessing you haven’t discovered the “you cannot stand up here” message yet!

    • Bloodloss says:

      I completely and utterly agree with you, though I don’t know your reasons for hating it. I’ve desperately tried to enjoy this game, but I utterly detest it. It’s basically “Dying: the game.” Poke a millimetre of your body out of a wall? BAM! You’re dead, instantly, from across the map, hope you had fun because it’s time to do it all over again! Or maybe not, maybe you’ll have to wait God knows how long before you can try again if you’re playing a different game mode.

      Conversely, your opponents die in the blink of an eye too and when I kill people I don’t feel as though I outplayed them; merely that I saw them first, which is all that seems to matter in this game. I envy people who can enjoy it, but it’s just not for me at all.

    • crizzyeyes says:

      The skill in this game is all about positioning. If you are in the open, it’s around 85% likely that you will die. If you kill someone, you should indeed feel like you have outplayed them, because either they have stumbled forward without checking their flanks or you have slipped past their base of fire unnoticed. The actual shooting of your target is of little significance.

    • Njordsk says:

      same here, I hate it with passion. This game is anti-fun, bugged and absolutly not smooth.

      It’s not a matter of skill, it’s a matter of moving at 0.1 km/h to be sure you didn’t forget to check every windows every damn 10 meters.

      There is so much camping (some call that tactical, right) it’s not fun anymore to me.

    • Lobotomist says:

      This is the reason i didnt preorder the game , although many friends asked me to.

      Its frustrating camper paradise.

      Now some people love this, i myself prefer run&gun.

    • wengart says:

      I agree with crizzyeyes, and will add that map knowledge is paramount. Of course you can hunker down as a riflemen and do well but if you want to run and gun you need to know the flow of the fight and where to flank.

      I will also add that I think RO2 is relatively close to oldschool UT and Quake games. Yes you are usually one shotted but unlike in CODalikes smart position and intelligent movement are a boon keys to success.

    • Lipwig says:

      playing assault comes down to knowing the maps and keeping track of the ebbs and tides of the battle. i’ve been playing a lot of barracks (on super realism mode, no minimap, no ui indication for friendlies etc) and i’ve been getting better each round. if you’re attacking then you move and act quickly. riflemen are at a huge disadvantage against an smg in short range fights. ideally you’ll be pushing forward while your own rifleman provide support, but this isn’t always necessary. the maps are riddled with flanking opportunities to be taken advantage of. even on 32v32 with a team of campers they will never be able to cover all pathways and doors.

      as a machine gunner you are easy pickings for any rifleman, unless you can change the battlefield. a machine gunner in the right place covering one choke can hold it against several enemies at a time. so long as the machine gunner doesn’t get too cozy (grenades and snipers will always come).

      there’s a lot of considerations going on outside of straight gunplay. this is a game that requires some investment of time to learn the maps and understand the reinforcement system. it’s a game that rewards patience and opportune aggressiveness where appropriate.

      it’s not halo, it’s ww2. you’re going to die, but if you work as a team and play to the best abilities of the role you take maybe the enemy will die more.

      anyway, this game is absurdly immersive, not for any art or audio considerations (though both are excellent) but because it really forces the player to use skills and abilities that are alien to most multiplayer fps games. stripped of crutches of “balance” and most ui elements you have to start thinking like a soldier, and the gameplay rewards that thinking. it’s a prime example of gameplay creating immersion. the most important sort of immersion in Games.

  5. CaughtVD says:

    Yeah I have to agree (not with the fella above obviously) it really does feel just like a sequel to RO 1. Theres some changes and adjustments but I don’t feel they’d made the game any easier. I still die rather alot, and kills still feel very rewarding. With mod support I’m sure people can run further with little tweaks to get the realisim level to they’re hearts desire.

  6. skyler88 says:

    It’s boner inducing for sure.

  7. Shakermaker says:

    RO:HoS is the most fun I have had with a manshoot since Battlefield 2*. The gameplay is on its way to being very smooth, the maps look gorgeous and the audio equals that of Bad Company 2.

    * TF2 being the only exception but that is basically another sub-genre.

  8. Bungle says:

    It’s nice to play an indie multiplayer game that actually has a community behind it! RO2 is the real deal.

  9. Petethegoat says:

    Yeah, I’ve been playing the beta, and it is delicious. Really, really good.
    Sound design is absurdly fantastic, easily the best I’ve encountered outside of Penumbra, Amnesia, etc.

  10. airtekh says:

    Sounds promising.

    I’m intrigued, but I’ll wait for a few more opinions once the game is released.

  11. Trashcanman says:

    Ok, I had my reservations but this article made me preorder the damn game on steam. Don’t disappoint me now.

  12. Shadrach says:

    “the painful birthing throes of a beta” – That’s a very poetic way of putting it :)
    Yes, love the game, and I suspect it will be a huge time sink, but right now things are a bit… messy.

  13. Dina says:

    I like it a lot, but one area that needs work are the weapons. In particular the mp40. In RO1 the SMG’s were crap when you were shooting any further than 30 meters. In RO2 it’s only crap when the distances exceed the 100 meters. Which only happens in the biggest maps across, like FallenFighters.

    In all the other maps, from Apartments to Barracks to GrainElevator to RedOctoberFactory, it is hands down the best gun to have. Which is bad because it is also the least fun and by far the least rewarding. Give me the KAR, Mosin or Tokarev semi automatic rifle any day of the week. A lot less spammy, too. The gun also doesn’t have nearly enough recoil when fired in burst compared to the PPSH, but it’s the proficiency in both short and long range that makes it such a good weapon. MGs seem the weakest weapon of the bunch because staying in one position attracting attention to yourself spells certain doom when 50% of the players carry a long range rifle with pinpoint accuracy.

    One other concern is the way the bandage, the cover AND the pickup weapon key are all on the same button. Which leads to conflict when I want to bandage myself near a wall I can take cover behind, leading to an unneeded death. Also, bandaging needs to interrupt reloading, like weapon switching does.

    • LaunchJC says:

      I agree about the SMGs, I have no real knowledge of the workings/ballistics of real manshooters, but maybe they should be in a happy medium between RO1 – 2, as i hated them in 1 but hate getting sniped with them in 2 :(

    • Lack26 says:

      @Launch

      I believe that you could comfortable expect to hit a target at 200-300m with the Mp40 if you were careful, it was a surprisingly accurate weapon, they had to reduce their effectiveness a lot in RO for balance.

      They were deadly in real life too, the only saving grace for the other side being mankind’s habit of making the loud thing go boom as many times as possible without really caring about which way it’s pointed.

    • crizzyeyes says:

      SMGs effective range average at around 100 meters, so that’s unsurprising, and the MP40 is known for its accuracy. So I’m not really surprised to learn that it’s a great weapon. I haven’t gotten a chance to play RO2 yet, but the larger iron sights of both the PPSH and the MP40 made it hard to aim them accurately at rifle distance.
      Aside from that, Red Orchestra never facilitated balance between the two factions. The Stg44, although I personally disliked it, was just about indisputably the best weapon in the game, and I’ve seen it used to ridiculously great effect. The G43 was also an excellent weapon, much better than the SVT40, which was heavy (your aim started wobbling sooner and more violently) and had huge recoil in the first game. That was my preferred weapon of choice along with the Karabiner, which I would often peg Russian submachinegunners in the chest with before they could fire a shot indoors.
      Machineguns require a bit of knowledge and trigger discipline to use to great effect, but in the right hands they’re devastating. A good machinegunner will wait silently in an elevated position for an enemy element to move across the field and then begin firing once they’re all out in the open, not shoot the pointman before the rest have left their cover. You’re stationary, yes, but what rifleman in your line of sight would be brave or stupid enough to poke his head up to risk one shot when he could easily receive three or more rounds himself? Proper machinegunners can only be defeated by someone not in his field of view. Almost all real world tactics apply to this game.
      I’m rambling a bit here but the point I’m trying to get at is that the weapon balance in this game is completely trumped by your actions as a soldier. They were based on their real-life counterparts in RO1 and I didn’t expect anything different in RO2. Does this mean I hate playing as the Russians? Absolutely not. Their weapons are lethal too, after all – and besides that, their grenades are better and the DP27 has a fast reload and a better cooling system. If you dwell on German Weapon A versus Russian Weapon B, you will find yourself very frustrated.

    • Lipwig says:

      @crizzyeyes

      excellent post. so many shooters are balanced around either giving everyone equal strength weapons or relying on class based hard counters. red orchestra is about mimicking reality, and the balance of the game ultimately comes through by meta strategy, level design and sheer numbers. it’s really quite different and i love it.

  14. Ranger33 says:

    I love it, it has the feel of RO1, but with all the clunky bits smoothed out. Every kill is satisfying and it’s exciting every time you get shot at. There are still a lot of weird glitches but the gameplay itself is nearly perfect. Can’t wait for the flood of maps and mods over the next few months. @Dina, the key to the MG is location, location, location. You can’t be covering a huge area or you will get sniped every time. A single street or hallway, on the other hand, can easily be held by a lone machine gunner against multiple foes.

  15. thepavementview says:

    I’m glad I got the beta, to be honest. It’s just been filled with “HOLY SHIT!” moments. The first time I was playing Fallen Fighters, I was in the central park with some team mates when the guy crouching to my left got shot through the throat. There was some pretty intense audio that consisted of him choking as he died. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.

    Then, last night, I single-handedly cleared out one of the main buildings in Barracks. I think I killed around 6 Nazis and stopped everyone trying to get into the house. As the 7th man bolted up the stairs, he had the chance to return fire. But god damn it, I took him with me. Seeing his name on the kill roster after I started to black out was pretty damn satisfying.

    • yougotnick says:

      It’s stories like that that make games so damn great. I didn’t spring for the deluxe edition, so I’ll be sitting on my hands impatiently for the next seven days.

    • wengart says:

      I was just playing barracks a the German marksmen. I was sniping out of a window when in a lull in the fighting I heard glass crunching behind me. I spun around as fast as I could and managed to peg a Russkie sneaking up on me with a bayonet.

  16. Mitchk says:

    I had so little interest in this game until I read this article and all the comments below it. I’m now itching to play it! I love single life game modes on shooters, it makes it so much more tactical and methodical. You really feel like your little soldiers life is in your hands!

  17. Eynonz says:

    This is the game that just made me spend £350 upgrading my pc………DAMN IT!

  18. Isometric says:

    Its beautiful and brutal. The maps are immense and when the server is full to the brim of 64 players it really shines. There is nothing that can rival the panic of seeing an enemy up close. I love it so.

    • wodin says:

      Can’t agree…64 players means super fast play and alot of instadeath…these maps apart from maybe Red October and Fallen Fighters are best enjoyed with 32 upto maybe 50.

      Unitl someone makes proper combined ops with fields and say two or three villages then we can have 64 people…but we need transpost for the footsloggers…

    • wengart says:

      I wouldn’t say 64 player maps are super fast and insta-death. There much more like the 1st world war. There are so many players that any breakthrough you do make can’t be exploited because there are too many enemies to constantly fill the gap.

      Especially Apartments, god is that map a bitch with 64 players. There is always another enemy around the damned corner.

  19. cairbre says:

    I am new to RO and am finding it tough going.

    • HeavyHarris says:

      Yeah I’ve been playing RO1 on and off this year and all I can say is stick with it really. You might not play like a vet but you can definitely keep up after a little while of playing. Still, you’re gonna die a lot haha

    • dazman76 says:

      It IS a tricky game for sure, but if you’re enjoying it even in the slightest – stick with it as HeavyHarris says, because it really is worth it :) Once you start to get the hang of it, you should find it more satisfying than most shooters. There are many manshoots and most belong to a particular style or group that is overcrowded to say the least – RO tends to stand alone in attempting to provide this much realism, and I think it does a really good job.

      Definitely rough edges right now, and more than a bit of tweaking required – but the beta plays pretty well, and has already started to drag me back to the world of RO :)

  20. Duckee says:

    This game is brilliant and great fun.

    To those who complain about SMGs, they are realistic. The mp40 was deadly up to 150 meters, while the PPSH up to 200. Damn inaccurate most likely, but deadly. They are still very powerful, as the ranges often do not go over that. One way of dealing with this, and I believe people have been saying this in the forum is to reduce the amount of them available.

    Secondly, the game is exhaustive and more so probably than anything you have played. You will be using your noggin more than any other game, and squinting for those emerald green bastards like a half-blind hawk. After 2 hours you need to rest.

    My third point is the most important, and it is a fair bit of criticism to the players who play. I am in no way a RO1 veteran only started playing this Beta, but it is infuriating when people just play as lone wolfs when the game has a squad system which is potent. It is a bit clunky and broken, but its potent. The potential for big flanking manoeuvres are there if people listen to their squad leaders and commanders, but no everyone precedes to just run around like chickens and more often than not not being where they should. This is will hopefully be better with time, but at the moment it is pretty difficult to get a good squad going, unless you already got friends to play with.

    My 2 cents. Great game, get it!

  21. Lack26 says:

    It looks great, it really does, I just wish I could get it to connex to a server. The server browser doesn’t work for me, but you can get round that by just typing in open [IP address] (found here http://www.gametracker.com/search/ro2/). It worked once, but immediately crashed.

    Ah well, that’s what betas are for.

  22. Monkeh says:

    All I can say is, that this game is freaking awesome and everyone should buy/play it!

  23. wodin says:

    First impressions..hated it…RO was the only online FPS I ever enjoyed. This game seems to be abit of this and abit of that and ended up neither one nor the other….the reason I hated it at first was without knowing I was joining countdown or firefight servers…rush,spawn,death modes…horrible.

    Then I relaised and kept to the TE modes…starting to enjoy it…but have issues…yes MP40′s in a controlled enviroment are lethal at 150 metres but in a combat situation…doubtful…they have made any point of the rifle redundant. headhsots with an mp40 at 150 metres…rubbish.

    Also weapon sway…there is none…even after running…and no kick back whatsoever from the rifle…none…not a smidgen…need fixing.

    The game is most enjoyable when your teamates actaully work as a team…or at least afew of them…then it starts to feel like RO…the map sizes are dissapointing and those superb abttles on combined ops maps are no more…moving to contact, flanking etc etc you can kiss good buy…even if modders make bigger maps there is no infantry transport and one of the joys of RO was siting in the back of a SKDfz with ffive others a gunner and the driver bombing down to the obj…

    Still the game has alot of potential…and I reckon become better than RO….but it has away to go…

    Also on Fallen Fighters map you all become hobbits.

  24. Jimmy says:

    Took a few hours to get the game working and it is very much wip but it is rather good. I am still not sure about some things: the health bar, the map, the sounds, the pacing. I feel there is too much help and data onscreen and it feels, well, less brutal than RO1 (autoreload etc). But brutal it is nonetheless, and mods will follow.

    It will probably take a while until there is a stable version to judge. It might change a bit over the next few weeks and months, beta or not. A lot of the new features were in Darkest Hour, such as climbing walls and suppression and sound upgrades but without clutter, and graphically I haven’t exploited RO2 yet so it looks no better. With a 9800GT I won’t really see it in all its glory for the moment.

    • AlonePlusEasyTarget says:

      It’s not a health bar but suppression bar and all those infos are included because you’re playing in relaxed realism I think. Autoreload can be disable in the options screen.

      The only thing I don’t like is the inconsistent fps that I got. Hopefully the optimise this better than beta.

    • Jimmy says:

      Yeah, so I had another go today (the joys of working from home) after reading your comment. I managed to set it on high settings and native resolution on a 9800GT (1gb) without a hinch and on a realism server. It was really good and the cover system is starting to be intuitive.

      There were no confirmed kills or killcam and I had the music turned off. Looking a lot better – textures tend to disappear at a distance but it is actually playable once you bypass the server browser. I had to use “open [IP ADDRESS]” without the port number, and then alternate F11 (toggle fullscreen) during loading to refresh the loading screen.

      The music reminds me of TF2 at round start and end… This game should be pretty amazing a month or two from now with more vehicles and open maps. And yes, I read that armoured infantry transport will be along eventually.

  25. wazups2x says:

    It’s an awesome game! Haven’t had this much fun with a multiplayer game in awhile. Just needs all of the bugs to be sorted out and it will be perfect.

    Also, I enjoy standard mode (relaxed realism) much more than realism mode. I find it to be the perfect balance between realism and fun/balanced gameplay.

  26. Barman1942 says:

    Anytime I so much as peer at a 64 player server, my aging CPU and ram have simultaneous heart attacks, so I’ve decided to stick with strictly 32 player fights for the moment, which to me feel a bit more tactical as it seems the newer players gravitate more toward the larger maps, and nothing is more frustrating than having a team that has no idea what it’s doing.

    That said, I *fucking love Red Orchestra 2* :D.

  27. Dennislomon says:

    I bought it on greenmangamming, code no longer working but still is cheaper and is redeemed in steam.
    You can use my referral link and get 5€/$ in your account if you buy it.
    http://www.greenmangaming.com/?gmgr=lureciga

  28. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Bought off steam, installing now, can’t wait

  29. timmyvos says:

    The bodies of the people blown up by grenades, artillery or tank rounds are probably the most realistic dead bodies in an FPS game yet, they’re painful to watch. The sound is also amazing, especially the sound of your comrades bleeding out and calling for their mothers or choking on their own blood .

  30. Rossi says:

    Damn stupid frustrating brilliant game!

  31. Davee says:

    As a UT2k4 mod (Combined Arms) and Ostfront NationsCup veteran, I approve of this game!

    It’s pretty much everything I wanted from a sequel, with only some fixes and tweaks missing. And added content obviously, which they’re already working on apparently (yes, FREE DLC).
    RO2 is a bit on the buggy side now, yes – but knowing Tripwire, this game will look very different between release day and a year later. They’re not going to stop developing just ’cause they got it out the door. Trust me – if you like it – it’s worth buying on potential alone! :)

  32. cavalier says:

    I agree with the column. When I saw a teammate get shot and just seeing him slump over and stop moving, instead of getting blown accross the map by a single bullet, I was sold. hering the cries of bleeding soldiers asking for their mothers… just jesus its awesome.

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