Wot I Think: Rising Storm

Red Orchestra 2’s Pacific-theatre standalone expansion, Rising Storm, appeared last week and offered tough-as-nails World War II multiplayer for the discerning FPS player. I waded on to its tropical beaches with my rifle above my head. Here’s Wot I Think.

Ugh, even I am doing it.

Exasperatingly, it seems impossible to mention Red Orchestra 2 or expandalone Rising Storm without picking up a trenching tool and unearthing remarks on the terrible launch issues faced by the original game. They did ruin the experience for plenty of folk – a stats reset wiping unlocks being one of the worst of the issues – but I can’t help thinking they ended up providing a superb game with an ill-deserved reputation. Red Orchestra 2 is a brilliant and beautiful game, and one of those titles that I think anyone with an interest in shooters on the PC should take a look at. Really, I recommend it that highly.

There’s a knock-on ramification of RO2’s launch and subsequent shaky community building, which is that populations are fairly low across the servers, and the same is currently true of Rising Storm. Not low enough that you can’t consistently get a great game, I stress, but enough so that there are a bunch of servers filled with bots. A friend joked that it was a shame that a 64-player game only had sixty people playing it in the world, and I had to laugh. He’s wrong – you can usually find quite a few busy servers – but nevertheless this should not be true of a game of this calibre. It’s a startlingly-realised piece of work, built on the kinds of foundations that make the PC such an appealing place to do your gaming.

The story behind the game is a fascinating one: the SDK for Red Orchestra 2 was made available to a group of modders months before the game shipped, and the subsequent results of that access was Rising Storm, which Tripwire went on to publish. Modding moving into commercial gaming isn’t exactly unheadof, but Tripwire have pioneered in that area, and this seems like one of their most successful experiments. Rising Storm is a fine piece of work, a collaboration between amateurs and pros that is deserving of attention. Your attention, Steve.

Anyway, enough contextualising: to the game itself.

At the heart of it are 64-player battles on maps which portray major scenes of conflict from the real World War. Red Orchestra’s signature feature motif is that the sides are not symmetrically balanced in the way that other games tend to be, and instead offer an “asymmetrical” balance. What this means in practice is quite different abilities and weapon types, which in play sort of even out. The Japanese have abilities which increase suppression (and they themselves are less susceptible to the effect, I think), while the Americans have a range of firepower which includes the nightmarish flamethrower, and these in themselves can help with that morale-crushing exercise in bombardment.

As in RO2, there’s plenty to learn about the way this game works, like that suppression mechanic, like breathing and managing your stances, or supply of bandages. There are even penetration values for everything, so expect to be shot through a wall by a sniper until you can learn what really provides cover.

The game itself is constructed from a series of objectives that must be either defended or attacked, and co-ordination between players (and between squads, for which there is a Battlefield-like structure that allows you to spawn on the squad leader) is essential to take or hold terrain. The dynamics of this provides for some thrilling moments, and the additional tools that the game provides – like being able to call in artillery strikes – means there can be suddenly and brutal shifts in the battle flow.

Precision and authenticity are the big watch-words for this game, but it’s hard to really say how much authenticity a videogame is able to offer. You are always going to be confined to the way in which FPS games do these things, from limited fields of battle to the awkwardness of stances. (Arma 3’s compromise for that latter issue is the best I’ve seen, I have to say.) But realism is treacherous terrain, as every simulator ever known has discovered. Being realistic is not what games should aim for, but instead to be internally robust and consistent. That is what Rising Storm manages. What I can say is that the “feel” of the game is even and engaging. The gun-feedback, suppression effects and other battlefield atmospherics combine to produce a dense, robust experience that kept me clicking even after horrible and annoying deaths.

There’s always a thread that runs through commentary on FPS games with any amount realism, from Planetside 2 to this, about the power of snipers, artillery, and so forth. And it’s worth saying that this game isn’t a romping deathmatch, and you will be repeatedly killed from the bushes. Even in the “action mode” you can expect the action to be creeping, and the gun-fights to be sudden, lethal rifle exchanges which happen more because someone messed up than because someone displayed any raw twitch skill. This is a good thing overall. Yes, it’s going to see many ragequit, but taking the time to learn the tactical and spatial awareness required to read the game and know what’s going on is one of those gruesome difficulty curves that pays off in (even the most humble levels of) mastery.

The “killed by x I couldn’t see” complaint is strong here, granted, but I know some of you understand the deep reward of hunting down and killing those camping bastards, and how a deep tactical proficiency in such games provides quite a different reward to the bunny-hoppy speed-run delights of other FPS games.

This means its appeal will be… focused. Like a laser.

Unlike a laser, the game is not as pretty as I had remembered RO2 being, being rather muddy, but I suspect that’s partly due to the false lens of memory, and I can’t really deduct any proverbial points for the enormously detailed and realistic maps. Rising Storm is one of those games which remembers the craftsmanship of such things, and while they’re not all breath-taking, there’s an overall workmanlike feel to it all which suggests the team really know what they were doing.

There are some oddities under the hood, not least of which is that Red Orchestra 2 owners get the Rising Storm content by default, but can only play the rifleman without purchasing the full game. Probably worth the upgrade, but it’s basically a mandatory multi-gig additional download even if you don’t.

Anyway, I want to conclude by saying: take a chance on Rising Storm. It’s tough, unforgiving, and not always the prettiest game, and I think most of you know roughly what to expect from that formula. But I am also pretty certain that it will be more and better than you expect, particularly if you haven’t played either game before. It’s filled with accomplished features and brave ideas. It’s filled with realised ambition, which is more than you can say for most AAA games.

This is a big, bold, PC-centric multiplayer project that needs and deserves a thriving community, and RPS readers are just the excellent sort of souls I’d like to be met by when I log on to one of its servers.


  1. db1331 says:

    What are the killstreaks like?

  2. MrLebanon says:

    Aside from RO2s sometimes-awkward looking animations… Rising Storm is beautiful.

    Screenshots don’t do justice… it’s a combination of the environments, sounds of weaponry & artillery (and accompanied suppression effects) that make it one of the most beautiful FPS games I have played.

    Certainly not up to the look/sound fidelity of BF3… but the better gameplay dynamics certainly make up for it.

    The RO2 community has gotten better as well… it’s gone from a majority of bossy vets whom get mad at the idea of new community members – to a bunch of new community members who appreciate the games need for teamwork and communication.

    Working as a squad leader with a good commander and good squad is some of the best team chatter I’ve had in a public Fps match

    Anyways, listen to Mr Rossignol – give it a try. Been playing with this chaps every night since open beta

    • darkChozo says:

      I played on a server where a couple of new players were figuring out and applying the banzai mechanics over voice chat.

      Even as a relatively new player myself, it was adorable.

    • Oak says:

      There’s been at least a passable level of communication going on in most of the RS games I’ve joined, and often more than that. I played a couple of rounds last night with what must’ve been the most well-coordinated group of strangers I’ve ever encountered in a multiplayer shooter. It’s wonderful.

      And you’re right, it is beautiful. How beautiful becomes even more apparent when the server switches to an RO2 map and you’re suddenly in a cold, grey, bombed-out hellhole.

    • Scumbag says:

      It seems all the more pretty due to the fact you HAVE to take in everything going on. With some twitchier shooters I can play and notice how nice they look before dismissing the general aesthetic to focus on spotting movement and / or reacting to situations at top speed, in RO/RS if you feel that there is an enemy there the chances are things are going to suddenly stop and you both (presuming there are only two people in the situation) enter a tense cat and mouse standoff. Studying every rock, tree and cubbyhole for something vaguely human shaped.
      Running through the bushes on Hanto you see some birds fly off a short distance in front; there is someone there. You hit Alt and throw yourself to the ground and then spend about 30 seconds slowly shifting and studying the slowly swaying foliage to see if you can spot anything familiarly human moving in the poor light shining down from the canopy. Is that an American? Was that distant shout closer then it sounded? Where is that gunfire coming from? WHAT gun is it?
      You suddenly die as he spotted you first and capped you in the face with a single shot from his Springfield.

      Regardless of what happened and my sucky writing skills, you certainly get to know how the trees look around there.

  3. MrWeed says:

    There is in fact already an RPS community server up!
    Join this Steam group to stay on top of current events and to get messaged when we host an event.
    link to steamcommunity.com

    • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

      With its own server, no less.

    • MrWeed says:

      Also, forum thread for Rising Storm discussion here: link to rockpapershotgun.com

      The server we have is currently running idle in Countdown, but when we get together and decide to play I usually fire up Territory mode.

      There is also an event this Friday at 9 PM UK time!

    • Bodge says:

      We are a happy bunch of soldiers, especially when i have hold of that flamethrower :D

      I am mildly surprised by the “unpretty” comment, the game at times can look awesome. Particularly at night with things on fire.

  4. Scissors says:

    Best FPS out there.

  5. DudeBro says:

    I’ve been playing RS since the closed beta and it’s seriously the first FPS in a long long time that held my attention. It might be partially due to me being a Pacific War nerd, but it’s all just wonderfully put together and fun. I strangely spent more hours playing RS the last few months, then Battlefield 3 for the past two years (which I also loved).

  6. Zealuu says:

    I admit, I was one of the probably many who wrote off RO2 as promising-but-terrible on its initial release – the combination of being constantly shot by people you couldn’t see, dull environments, punishing respawn timers and the many technical issues made for an experience that managed to be both cruelly boring and endlessly frustrating at once – but Rising Storm pulled me right in.

    I don’t know if it’s because they fixed the bugs, or because the Pacific Theatre offers more interesting environments, or if it’s because the delightful madness of the banzai charges and leg mortar/flamethrower face-offs somehow gave me the patience to persevere through those initial stages when you keep getting shot by people you can’t see and learn the rhythm of the game. It might even be that I’ve just had another year to grow tired of high-speed multiplayer shooters. Either way, Rising Storm is now my favourite multiplayer shooter (alongside Planetside 2).

    Unless I read the Steam description entirely wrong, you actually get the entirety of RO2 when you buy the Rising Storm standalone. That means it’s ridiculously cheap for all it offers (although I doubt I’ll ever return to the eastern front myself). Give it a try, and if you get shot by people you see, remember that you can sprint while crouched, that there’s no shame in going prone, and always run from cover to cover. If all else fails, just run after your squad leader. Also, zig-zag when banzai charging.

  7. nimzy says:

    I signed into Steam the other night and it automatically started downloading the expansion. If your “handful of servers” description is any accurate, I can look forward to a short-lived career of suffering through games with Hardcore Realism mode enabled.

    Poor bloody infantry indeed.

    • darkChozo says:

      I haven’t had a chance to play since the weekend, but thus far “handful of servers” seems to be translating to a couple pages of full or near-full servers due to the post-release rush, with all ways of life represented. Probably won’t last, but it’ll be good while it does.

    • wengart says:

      There are always 3,000 players online give or take a couple hundred. That is an amazingly solid community for a niche multiplayer PC game. You’ll have no trouble finding servers.

      Be aware. Tripwire defaults the filter to only showing you action servers until you are level 15. So that you can get accustomed to the game without vets murdering you constantly.

  8. mouton says:

    Hey, RO2 was on some crazy sale a while ago – why no such recommendation back then? Why does the reality constantly fail me.

  9. Christo4 says:

    I’m so pissed… Wanted to see how it will turn out, but now that i want to buy it the paysafecard in my country only has 12 euro and i need 14 euro :(. And i don’t have paypal…

    • Solanaceae says:

      Owners of RO2 get a “lite” version of it free. You can only play rifleman. But you should be able to try it out at least. (I rarely play anything other than rifleman so it’s no loss to me ;))

      • David Bliff says:

        Well you get to play as a bolt-action rifleman. Which is fine for the Japanese team but it means you don’t get to use the Garand if you’re on the American side.

        • MagisterMundi says:

          Although this is true, the Springfield is an AMAZING rifle. Really, truly amazing. So… you’re limited to the long-range support style of American rifleman (unless you’ve unlocked the second bayonet and know what you’re doing with it, at which point you can raid buildings just fine), but that’s hardly a weakness.

  10. David Bliff says:

    I’ve been having SO much fun with this after trying the free-ish version open to RO2 owners out.

    I enjoyed the first Red Orchestra but struggled with RO2 since the player base felt much smaller and the game less approachable and interesting than the original. I think it’s funny that you’ve mentioned the series’ asymmetry, because the relative symmetry between Germans and Soviets was enough to bore me in RO2.

    The huge differences between Americans and Japanese in Rising Storm, however, is much more immediate and engaging to me. I’ve been playing only on Action Infantry mode, which really is perfect at balancing realism and approachability. The RPSer who recommended the game to me likened it to the Day of Defeat mod for Half-Life, which was quite a bit different from what became Day of Defeat: Source, and the comparison seems spot-on.

    There aren’t too many issues finding servers right now, and I hope a community that prefers Action Infantry mode sticks around because I really do prefer it.

    • jkz says:

      Yes, the sides play very differently in this. Enjoying the Japanese more as they have more unusual tactics, and well coordinated banzai charges are a thing of beauty.

  11. Solanaceae says:

    I still don’t find it anywhere near as satisfying to play as Red Orchestra: Ostfront (first game), or Darkest Hour (mod for RO1), though RO2, and by extension RS, improve on it in many ways (mantling, better MG handling, bullet penetration, much prettier obviously)

    Something about the gun mechanics just makes it not quite as good in my opinion. I think it might have to do with there hardly being any movement when you’re sighted in, even if you’re standing with nothing to rest on. Ironsights also pop up much too quickly in my opinion. This results in faster paced play, and kills are easier. (too easy IMO).

    That said, it’s better than basically any other WW2 FPS out there, other than its predecessor, and if you have not played Ostfront, I’m sure you will enjoy it greatly. (or even if you have, you might still love it)

    The RS team did do a fantastic job though, even if the game is built on the same fundamental gameplay as HOS, for better or for worse.

  12. kzrkp says:

    Rising Storm’s maps are the biggest improvement, they’re fantastic. RO2’s maps were all garbage, tiny with short sight lines, completely counter to the basic game design.

    • Leb says:

      try out the custom workshop maps – and the winners of the map contest.

      Infinitely better eastern front maps than the base game

  13. Mattressi says:

    I’ve played the lite version a little and it seems ok. However, there do seem to be very few populated servers, especially in Australia/NZ (and there are none when it’s not peak time).

    I’m also hesitant to buy it because I already bought RO2 at full price when it first came out. I endured the bugs, the wipes, everything – but there were never many players, so I left. Now they’ve finally released the (previously announced as “free”) expansion, but the RO2 vets don’t get anything except a demo of it. It’s pretty disappointing to be honest. I was hoping that we’d at least get a huge discount (not 20% – more like 75%+), but instead, as always, it’s much better to be a very late adopter. The problem, I think, is that a lot of early-adopters of RO2 are once bitten twice shy, and the number of new players probably won’t be enough to keep it going long term. So I’m even more hesitant to buy it, since it seems that the game will, once again, have far too few players to last more than a few months (except for peak time, where one AU/NZ server will be almost full). I just don’t want to support a developer who does not seem to support their own community.

    • BPongo says:

      Agree completely.

    • ColdAsIce says:

      You must have missed the massive discount before the game was released then. You could snap it up for £8 which is a bargain imo.

    • rammjaeger says:

      I’m not generally one to comment on stuff like this, but in this case I have to set the record straight. Tripwire NEVER said that Rising Storm was going to be free. From the very beginning we said this “If the Rising Storm team develops something that is just good, we’ll release it as a free mod. If they develop something that is great, then we will sell it as an add on or DLC”. RO2 owners get a 25% discount (not 20%) and if you pre-ordered Rising Storm it was a 40% discount. Everybody wants something for free, and Tripwire has given out a lot of free content with RO2 including 2 free content packs and the map contest pack where they incorporated 3 of the best maps from the Tripwire sponsored map contest (which had over $35,000 in prizes supplied by Tripwire). But at the end of the day, businesses have to pay their employees. A lot of Tripwire’s time, money and resources of went into created Rising Storm. The only way for the company to continue to make games like Rising Storm is if they sell them. Has Activision or EA ever given you 25% off the next COD or BF because you bought the last one?

      Regarding Australia/NZ that is always a tough one. I’ve been watching the server browser and I’ve seen many full servers in that area throughout the day. And I know we’ve sold a lot of copies of RO2 and RS in Australia. Frankly, I think the “wait and see” think may bite you in the rear in that area. If too many Aussies “Wait and see” then you have a self fulfilling prophesy (i.e. no one is playing in that area because everyone “waited to see”). Watching the sales of RS and the player counts I think you’ve got the best shot you’ve had in years of having a nice sized shooter community in Australia for a military shooter that wasn’t COD or BF. So all I can do here is encourage you to give it a chance, we’ll do our best to support the game in all areas and keep it growing.

      • Mattressi says:

        I’ve looked back at previous articles and you’re right about the “free” thing – I guess I must have just remembered incorrectly. Sorry about that.

        I’m aware that Tripwire need to make money in order to continue developing. However, my awareness of this does not bring me a sense of trust or good-will. Unfortunately, as I said, for me it’s a case of “once bit, twice shy”. I bought RO and loved it, and the community dwindled after many good years. I bought RO2 soon after release (full price) and it just wasn’t up to scratch. I feel that the time taken in fixing it severely impacted the number of players in my region and after a few short months I was often playing with a half/half mix of bots and humans.

        My thinking was that Tripwire could have released the expansion for free to all RO2 owners and charged as much as they are currently for non-RO2 owners. The influx of RO2 vets would boost player numbers and server activity which might finally make the game seem alive (in Aus/NZ). There are players, for sure, but usually on one or two servers. With any luck, this would help encourage non-RO2 owners to buy Rising Storm. Thus, you would be making your sales off the wider community, rather than making a few sales from the wider community and also trying to milk more from the RO2 community. I’m sorry if this sounds hostile, but I really do feel like Tripwire is just trying to milk more from RO2 vets. Forcing vets to buy Rising Storm, to me, is trying to get as much money from vets as possible, knowing that there is little chance that the player counts will go high enough to sustain the game much longer. If Rising Storm didn’t include RO2, I would feel less like this is the case – at least then it would be consistent. But right now I feel like I should be discouraged from being an early adopter of a Tripwire game – all I get from it is higher cost, more bugs (for many months), half of the game and a risk that the game will have very few players in a short while. I just don’t see a benefit. I guess getting it early meant I got to play for the few months when there were a large number of (full) servers.

        And no, Activison and EA don’t give discounts on their next games. I can think of two reasons why:
        1) They do not release broken messes which end up having very few players in a few months. They give their target audience what they want and their target audience is satisfied. There is no reason for them to make amends. They also do not have any need to try to bring player counts back up.
        2) They are horrible companies (EA even wins awards for it) which do not in any way care for the consumer, other than as a money-dispenser. I was hoping that Tripwire cared for its community and would try to foster a loyal fanbase and build a larger community, not just because of the monetary benefits, but because they actually care for their community.

        Aus/NZ server pops usually are an issue for us. I played RO for a long time, even when there were no players online (in our region) until the community-chosen ~6pm (AEST) timeslot on Friday. RO2 lasted a while before being almost bot-only, but I’m just not looking to buy another game only to find that in a few months I can only play for a few hours each Friday night.
        There aren’t many military shooters in Australia that aren’t BF or CoD, but then again there aren’t many in other countries either, from what I can tell. We still have a pretty decent Arma 2 community, though. Certainly I would love to see a thriving RO2 community here, but I won’t believe it until I see it. Perhaps everyone else here thinks the same, too. I’m not sure, but I know that I’m not going to spend money on something which may die in a few months.

        Again, I’m sorry if this sounds hostile. I’m not trying to aggressively argue; I just prefer to say what I think and how I feel, rather than dance around it. I don’t at all blame you if you ignore my point of view – Aus/NZ/Oceania region probably doesn’t have much money it it for you guys (or most games, really), so catering to our region probably doesn’t make much business sense to you (plus, I’m most certainly not a representative for this region, so I may be the only one who holds this opinion). Charging vets for RS will possibly (I don’t know) work fine for you in other, more populous regions, and it would be silly to throw that away in favour of a tiny community (and hell, it might work for you in Aus/NZ anyway). As I said, I’m not really trying to persuade you to give vets free copies, I’m just expressing my reasoning for not buying it yet.

    • Scumbag says:

      Will also point out the early adopters of RO2 who have the “inb4reset” achievement get a large XP boost. While that may not sound too much, my SMGs and both Japanese Bolt action rifles are now level 50 while the majority of my other weapons (excluding the Katana, M1 Carbine and BAR) are about level 25ish. I’m playing it as much as Vanilla RO2 after release and I’ve still not made progress like that with my old German and Russian weapons even after almost 2 years.

    • wengart says:

      I wouldn’t worry about the game population overall, in Australia it may be different, but the game’s population has literally been going up since release.

      I remember a month or two after release and there were maybe 300 people online concurrently. There were maybe 2-3 servers where you could get a full game going and that was it.

      Now we have pages of servers that are full and over 3,000 concurrent players.

    • Ingall says:

      I had the good fortune to play a little earlier this week during the day and there were 2 or 3 Au/NZ servers populated (but not full). I’m a little worried that with such a small number of players currently playing that it won’t be long before there aren’t enough to make a game worthwhile, but for the moment there are enough ‘Centrelink Colonels’ to allow you to play at lunchtime. I’m just going to enjoy it while I can. :)

  14. ColdAsIce says:

    I am glad you brought up the server situation in the review. Game Hosting servers have been flooding RO2 with public servers that are mostly un-configured and left with completely default settings.

    For every 10 public game hosting server there is 1 small Admin team hosting their own server and struggling to attract the players.

    These companies that are hosting in excess of 30+ servers each need to vastly reduce this number so that potential customers that would want to host their own sever are not put off. Like I said earlier there are many servers out there that are trying their best to provide a great experience all round for RO2 but we are being left in the cold at the moment.

    In regards to the game itself, you get RO2 and Rising Storm when you purchase RS on it’s own. So many players that tried RO2 Vanilla and absolutely hated the game have tried Rising Storm and are loving every minute of it.

    Good work Tripwire!

  15. Herzog says:

    RO2 is really awesome and I was looking forward to Rising Storm. I recently moved to China some months ago (Shenyang). Anyone knows if there are some servers in this area? Maybe some russian ones in Wladiwostok? :D

  16. FFabian says:

    Crap, I’m in Germany and Steam wants to sell me a Low Violence version – is there way to buy Rising Storm uncut (all Key stores I found look suspicious) and perhaps get the discount too?

    • wengart says:

      Get someone outside Germany to gift it to you.

    • rammjaeger says:

      We’re going to be adding full violence for Germany in an update very shortly, as we recently got the approval from the USK :)

  17. Banjo-Tuesday says:

    It’s very good of Tripwire to allow RO2 owners to try Rising Storm with bolt action rifles (and no doubt it helps populate servers). While I applaud Tripwire and the Rising Sun team for a unique approach to a WW2 title, it’s a struggle for me to accept the notion of this being realistic. The problem with collision detection, and your avatar bouncing up a foot or two when colliding with a vast array of static map objects, I find infuriating. So many times I have been killed because of this, or at least revealed my concealed position, because of this 1990s style collision detection. I feel like I am fighting the game mechanics as much as the enemy. The animation too harkens from an ancient era.

    The Rising storm maps are diverse, atmospheric and very well crafted, granted, but I still can’t help mourn the lack of destruction after the Battlefield series.

    I know there are plenty of others who focus on other aspects and enjoy the game for what it is. What makes a game realistic is always going to be quite subjective. It’s definitely worth trying on a free weekend to see if it’s your cup of tea.