Have You Played… Red Orchestra 2

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Crack!

‘Did I get him? I think I got him. Is he just injured? I’m not sure if he’s–‘

Crack! ‘I didn’t get him.’

Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is a multiplayer first-person shooter steadfast in its commitment to historical accuracy and to the grim realities of war. So why do I enjoy it so much?

It’s the ambiguity it interjects into every part of its combat. In most multiplayer shooters, no matter what you can see, you’ll be notified of accurately striking an opponent by a bleeping sound effect, by a kill notification in the corner, by a shower of gibs. RO2’s hardcore servers peel all that away, leaving only jittery people controlling jittery men in half-collapsed buildings across the battlefields of World War 2’s eastern front.

You might have hit the person you saw in the window across the courtyard and killed him. You might have hit and injured him, causing him to retreat and start applying bandages. You might have hit him and injured him and he might have no bandages left, in which case he’ll be slowly bleeding to death while his in-game character calls out for his mother in German or Russian. You might not have hit him at all, but your bullets slamming into the flimsy woodwork beside his head might have caused his character to panic, his vision to blur, and his hands to shake in a simulation of fear that makes continuing to fire worthwhile even if you know for sure you’re not hitting.

The ambiguity then carries on into every following decision you make. Is it safe to run across that courtyard? Have you just given away your position and you should re-locate? Is it worth tossing a grenade through the window to make sure, or should you clamber inside and trust your quarry has at least fled?

Red Orchestra 2 embraces historical accuracy above game balance, but the result is that every second is tense and every decision you make is important. It’s as thrilling as it is horrible.

53 Comments

  1. Orija says:

    How populated are its servers currently? I’m interested in getting it, but I heard people left in droves after the initial release turned out to be a broken mess.

    • haradaya says:

      All the promotions and free weekends have helped the player count. I can’t remember the last time I saw under 1000 players currently playing on a weekday.
      Weeks after its launch it was below 500 at times.

    • TC-27 says:

      Always plenty of players whenever I log in.

      That said finding a server with bots when you first try the game will give you a bit of well needed practice beofe taking on human teams.

    • Folly Incorporated says:

      I’ve always seen at least few servers full. Though I have my filters set to Realistic so I’m not sure how many more play outside of that mode (I don’t think you ought to though. it was made to be played Real I say!)
      A sale for it sould be coming up soon and it will be worth investing then. I mean. its worth it now but with one right around the corner why spend the extra money if you don’t need to?

      To every one else who reads this. Yes this game is great. really great. you should get it.
      Balance is a bit rough to the attacker at times. A well built defense is a brutal nut to try and crack. and all you have some days is a rusty spoon. but you have to. so get up out of that trench and pray your squad leaders smokes protection you from the Mg’s Buzz and the Snipers kiss.

      also I think you can get Rising sun (same game but america and Japan) and Red Orchestra together too. there’s a mod in the works that pits Americans vs. Germans too. so you can have it all.

      Edit: Also SteamCharts Total: link to steamcharts.com

      I’m not sure how accurate they are but it gives a rough idea of player pop.
      which is consistent. though a slight decline. then a free weekend comes up. and you gain another 400

    • Rian Snuff says:

      I’ve never not once been able to not find a server or FEW with 50-60 people in it.
      Coming from Northern Ontario also, never have to play with a 100+ ping which is rare.
      Tons of great 60-100’s.

      Just bind that mic’ key and use it, know your role and don’t try to be rambo.

      YOU HAVE TO DIE TO WIN.
      Something COD ragers won’t understand.

      • SlimShanks says:

        I must say, I appreciate your enthusiasm for the game, but your attitude is problematic. If you are dying, then you are doing it wrong. And when you tell your teammates to attack harder, they die and you tend to lose. What you actually need to do to attack is lay down LOTS of fire and advance small groups of well armed soldiers, THEN move up the rest of your men. Time your push with force multipliers like artillery, tanks, or when lots of MG’s are set up facing enemy positions.

        • bravekarma says:

          I agree. There is a balance between not trying to die at all (leading to camping needlessly) and just hurling yourself to the enemy to get mowed down. You basically shouldn’t care about your number of deaths, but you should also make your ticket count.

          I had many matches where a defending team lost because they were trying too hard, i.e. not giving up any caps but using up too many tickets in the process and eventually losing because of that.

  2. Eightball says:

    I remember I pre-ordered RO2 because I loved the first one. They let pre-orders play it early or something and it was a disaster. I convinced Steam to refund me in-steam credit.

    In what turned out to be poetic justice, I used that to pre-order Sword of the Stars 2.

    I don’t pre-order anymore.

    • Folly Incorporated says:

      it got better :/

      Though yeah. you really got the short end of the stick on that one. I’m guessing you don’t kickstart either?

      • Eightball says:

        Not anymore. I didn’t actually get burned too much, but I regret kickstarting stuff because I thought I would like some stuff more than it turned out I did. I backed Plannetary Annihilation because I loved TA (through the Spring open source project) and it looked cool. Turns out I’m just not that interested in it (exacerbated by how weird the spherical maps are). Same thing with Wasteland – it seemed cool, but it’s just too dense so I’m probably never going to play it.

        I don’t blame anyone but myself for the kickstarters regrets.

        • Folly Incorporated says:

          I had the same problem with PA. Turns out I’m a pretty simple guy and not too great at the micro stuff. Also I like to turtle which the game doesn’t like you doing. :/

          But its good to hear your kickstarter regrets are fairly benign ones.

          I do hope you get a chance to get back into RO/RS sometime. the exasperation you face now tends to be other players more than the game mechanics.

        • Hex says:

          Ugh please please please play Wasteland 2. I’m usually scared off by games of W2’s scope — as it was a Kickstarter game, I went in with expectations of a pretty limited scope, and the game does such a good and gentle job of introducing you to new things, I was in love before I realized just how massive a game it is. (And I’m not positive I have a full appreciation of that, quite yet.)

          There’s something about the way W2 has you progress, run up against a brick-wall of difficulty to nudge you into exploring your surroundings, and then heading back to that brick-wall to discover in the light of your exploration-boosted stats, it’s turned into a ramp with the gentlest of inclines — and sometimes those brick-walls can be clambered over with some clever tactics, anyway.

          I dunno. There’s something about the pacing and the way everything comes together that has me in love with it.

          Check it out. :)

    • Stardog says:

      Any complaints about the launch were just the 1%. The game has been amazing since beta. Too bad you missed it.

      • Rian Snuff says:

        I feel sorry for anyone who ditched it so quickly.
        I think personally (as an old school 90’s FPSer) it’s the best WW2 MP game that EVER, ever existed.
        I’ve never enjoyed one since the COD 1 MP addon. : P Remember how solid that’ shit was?!

        Still sad In-Country Vietnam has not gone anywhere yet..

        But like… How many maps can you find on the Workshop? At least 2 pages of really top notch stuff man.

        I really suggest bridges of druzhina, my all time favorite so far.

        Death to Russian scum.

      • derbefrier says:

        Thats just a flat out lie. The were horrible problems for instance the stat and unlock system were so screwed up they had to do a full reset shortly after release(which is why some of us have the inb4 the reset achievement) Hit detection and lag issues were a game killer for a lot of people. Hit detection was so bad and unpredictable we even had a community member come out with a mod that changed the way hit detection worked in an attpempt to fix it. It was so bad if you lag was say above 100 you could literally miss people standing a few feet in front of you( i tested this myself many times so dont tell me its not true) It was realy really bad and cost the game a lot of players. This can not be denied. IT may be fixed now I havent played the game in a long time but saying there were no problems is ridiculous. I really wanted to like the game to. The atmosphere is something i havent seen rivaled in a multiplayer FPS and the few times the game did work as intended it was great but the technical issues eventually drove me away and I haven’t looked back. .

        • bktor says:

          While there were problems with the launch, the game in its current form is stellar. Hit detection is spot-on. The character animations are fluid. The gameplay is intense. It is easily the best multiplayer WWII FPS game that has been developed to date. It is the fine wine of the online WWII FPS world. And Rising Storm has doubled the experience.

        • Mekhazzio says:

          I’m a bit biased on this topic, but hey. To clarify, the “hit detection issue” in release RO2 wasn’t a hit detection issue, it was a networking issue. It’s a good metaphor for Tripwire’s development in general.

          The specific, underlying mechanic (hit detection) was superbly well-made, and had a tangible impact on gameplay. Unfortunately, they used it in a multiplayer game, and proceeded to stick with the standard Unreal network action transmission, which was barely even adequate for that game and certainly is not for a game that’s focused on high precision and split-second outcomes.

          Then, when the player base started complaining about “hit detection bugs”, they were baffled for months because they (correctly) couldn’t find any problems with hit detection. They didn’t have the gaming background to know what players were really reporting, and worse, had developers actively lobbying against the systems that would fix it, under a philosophy that theoretical cheating is worse than actual poor gameplay.

          To their credit, they did actually fix things once the benefits were demonstrated, but it’s just *weird* that the problem existed in the first place, much less lasted that long. It’s like they made an internet multiplayer game without ever playing multiplayer with it over the internet.

          There’s some very talented people working on it, and some other people that are very talented at undermining the former batch. It makes for a schizo final product, where the great is side-by-side with the deeply flawed.

          …and that, ultimately, is why RO2 is simultaneously one of my favorite games and one I’ll never play again. There’s too much frustration surrounding the excellent bits.

          • bktor says:

            “…and that, ultimately, is why RO2 is simultaneously one of my favorite games and one I’ll never play again”.

            In my opinion, a person that would come to that conclusion because a developer made an initial mistake that was later corrected, leading to a hit mechanic that was “superbly well-made”, is an irrational, petty person. Your opinion is as valuable as those of others like you.

      • Eightball says:

        Well fuck me then, I guess.

  3. redredredguy says:

    This game provides so many fantastic, emergent experiences. I distinctly remember crouch-walking along a trench, pistol at the ready, before suddenly seeing the growing shadow of a German soldier on the bend in front of me. I waited, and shot instinctively. I was treated to seeing him collapsing to the ground, gurgling and coughing. I paused for a second to take in the kill, then his mate came round and shot me in the stomach. As I blacked out, he shot me again in the head. I’d like to see a game like CoD ever give THAT experience.

    • Rian Snuff says:

      Meanwhile he screams for his mother and begs for mercy, such a beautiful terrible touch.

      Or when you see your mate charge or in front of you, calling you to attack and then SPLAT.
      Artillery lands dead on his head and one of his arms hit you in the face.

      Or seeing an anti-tanker charge through a mortar shelled field as bullets somehow continuously buzz his face.
      To actually make it through and see the massive tank blow to pieces, then 30 people rushing the field…

      Pure, sexy, art.

    • Chuckleluck says:

      RO2 is one of the few FPSes I play for the *experience*, not to win or play well. I’m absolutely awful at it, but the immersive feeling is something I haven’t found games like Battlefield or Counterstrike or Arma are able to reproduce.

      • heyincendiary says:

        Oh, totally. Even when it’s 11pm and I’m exhausted and my reflexes have gone to shit, I’ll still play. Because my death doesn’t really matter that much, ultimately, to anybody else. And I get to really sink into and pretend I can feel what it was like. It’s so rich.

      • kevinspell says:

        I still remember the first time I managed to flank the defending team as a machine gunner, got on the 2nd floor of some building, took a peek trough a window and saw ~10 people hiding behind some cover. What happened next looked so brutal I actually felt a bit uncomfortable with what I have just done.

  4. TC-27 says:

    I call this game ‘dying simulator’….

    …because I am rubbish and die alot.

    Man a pre-positioned machine gun – boom obvious place a sniper will be looking – dead.

    Make the mistake of not crawling in the vicinity of the enemy – dead.

    Do everything right but be in a part of the map he enemy calls artillery down on….dead

    You get the idea.

    Its a hard hard hard game but very rewarding when you get it right .

    • Rian Snuff says:

      Some people forget the game is designed and maps designed to simulate real battles.
      How many people were actually lost. It wants you to understand how brutally hard it was for those men.

      To win this game, you have to die, a lot sometimes. HAHA!

  5. laijka says:

    “Where I am? Is this the direction the enemy is at? Seems to be, everyone else is running that way..” *boom* dead.
    “Ok, lets not run blindly in that direction. Maybe if I go..” *boom* dead.
    “Ok..” *boom* dead.

    I want to like this game. I really do. But my experiences so far pretty much boils down to confusion and death. A lot of death. I’m usually more or less fine with this. Shits unforgiving and logic says I’m up against some veteran players this late in the games life. But damn, it never feels like I improve or even know what the hell I’m doing. Death just comes too rapid for there to be any time to improve.

    • Folly Incorporated says:

      The single player campaign helps with that. (who knew it even had one?) it takes it’s time and introduces the games concepts to the player over time. just don’t expect the AI to be too amazing.

      The other option is to join a server with 0-3 players and a bunch of bots.
      the bots are good, but slow shots usually. and tend to have trouble finding you at longer ranges. I think.

      • silentdan says:

        The single player campaign helps with that. (who knew it even had one?)

        *spit-take* *sputter* *cough* Wait, what? I bailed on that game because I was getting my ass handed to me too consistently and my buddies were all playing something else. It has an SP campaign? Sweet! Thanks! Gonna log into my home PC and get that download started now. If memory serves, it’s not a small game.

        • pixelbaron says:

          The SP campaign is absolutely horrible and the bots that populate it and the multiplayer servers are also absolutely horrible. Unless the developers pulled some kind of miracle and actually made it worth playing.

          • silentdan says:

            Oh. Well, at least I can use it to re-acclimatize without embarrassing myself in front of actual people. Thanks for the heads-up, though.

          • klops says:

            Single player is still horrible. Bots are better nowadays but still bots in a multiplayer game.

            Despite the single player being horrible, I suggest new players to play through the training missions to understand the general concept of the game. Nothing annoys more than a team leader who does not know how to call artillery strikes or sqauad leader who picks the role because of the smg.

    • Stardog says:

      M for map.

    • Rian Snuff says:

      What would help this guy is a fancy little button called “M”…

      It’s your map.. Of course it will take a few rounds to start learning maps.
      But it will be a lot easier if you just get used to looking at it, a lot.
      OR you can cheat and hold T and it will literally tell you where you should be going.

      That simple.

    • bktor says:

      You have inadequate patience and/or sophistication.

  6. hewhosayszonk says:

    I’m grateful that this game doesn’t tally deaths on the scoreboard.
    I will probably never be any use as a sniper but I can nail a guy at 200m with a K98.
    I’m concerned about the person inside me who comes out when I am playing with the flamethrower.

    Wonderful, wonderful game. It’s worth the learning curve.

    Oh, and that flamethrower is legitimately the only flamethrower in any game I’ve played that is actually scary.

  7. Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

    RO2’s fun even if you’re rubbish at it. I mean it’s Stalingrad and you’ll probably have a bolt action rifle, it’s basically your job to die fruitlessly having achieved nothing. Hiding behind a tiny pile of rubble slightly smaller than you are is just as exciting as machine-gunning waves of enemies. If you’re new to it, this list should be your priorities in descending order.

    1) Stand in the cap zone.
    2) Shoot roughly in the direction of the enemy.
    3) Shoot towards individual enemy soldiers.
    4) Worry about actually hitting anything.

    If you only ever get the hang of 1 you’ll be way ahead of most RO2 players.

    • Folly Incorporated says:

      Not dying fruitlessly is a tricky thing. I think too many would rather stay back then try and die where it counts. yah know what I mean?

      • silentdan says:

        Ever listen to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History? The reverence with which he speaks of those who lost their lives at Stalingrad sticks with me. I intend to sell my pretend lives every bit as dearly as the real soldiers sold their only real lives. So help me, I will die somewhere that matters!

  8. SanguineAngel says:

    God this game is such fun when it works. However, i think it is best experienced with some voice communications. If everyone’s deadly silent it becomes quite confusing (less so in the Rising Sun maps). Usually you can tell if they’re all talking to each other on a private server based on how coordinated they appear to be.

    Bots are actually the weirdest thing – on the one hand it’s good because it keeps a map populated but on the other it’s a weird and lonely experience when there’s a lot of them on the map.

    • Synesthesia says:

      I believe it’s another of those games, like dayz, that often get ruined by standard, ingrained habits of multiplayer. It’s a shame.

      The few times i’ve had a team that understands the nuisances of the gunplay, artillery, and positioning, it surpasses anything i’ve ever played. The other 75% of the time i just look at 40ish lemmings run to their deaths over, and over, and over again, learning nothing.

    • Rian Snuff says:

      A few of the hardcore groups that manage the often fully populated servers are amazingly good at taking over their proper roles on the team and using the mic to communicate orders, co-ordinate artillery and such.

      Sometimes it’s awesome to go play with them, they take it right seriously but still are having fun.
      Sometimes, I like to blast Cannibal Corpse and just be an epic sniper.. Heh.

  9. WiggumEsquilax says:

    One of the most important things is to know where enemies are, WITHOUT having to see them. Check your map, all the time. If your team keeps getting cut down in the same general area, then you have found the enemy.

  10. SlimShanks says:

    Chances are no one will read this, but I have a lot to say about his game, so here goes!
    I love this game to pieces(giblets?). This is one of few games that can be called a reference shooter. It was created by people for whom the Great Patriotic War is a big part of their culture, and it is meant to capture a moment in history as accurately as possible. It also tries to recreate the emotion of being in such a place. For this alone it deserves heaps of medals.
    This game effectively recreates the conditions to actually traumatize yourself. I know that sounds stupid but hear me out. You constantly scan every place enemies could come from, tense with the knowledge that a single shot will leave you dying horribly. Every shot that rings out makes you jump, explosions nearby make you want to just lay down in a hole (sometimes I do). And then there is the sound of footsteps behind you, or god forbid a grenade landing near you. Lack of constant focus is punished by gruesome deaths, of yourself and also of the teammates you failed to save, who will scream in pain while you watch. A life often ends with you cowering behind an object barely large or solid enough to help you, or crawling desperately through mud and gore to get to brief safety. The hope of an assault amidst 30 teammates is dashed as they are blown apart by artillery and MG fire. Basically, it stresses you the **** out. I had to stop playing the game for a while because I couldn’t take it.
    Aside from that the actual gameplay mechanics are TIGHT. Getting competent with a machinegun makes you feel like the hand of god, and like you are actually clinging to that weapon, not a pipe that goes pew pew and farts hitscans with laser accuracy. Even shooting a bolt action rifle feels visceral and immediate. The way pixeltruppen die is almost disturbingly realistic. If you get shot in the chest with a rifle, even if it misses your organs, the hydrostatic shock WILL kill you. High speed impacts cause bloody mists. Shrapnel causes screaming, and close explosions remove limbs and organs. Low speed rounds can bounce off your helmet. You can get shot with many 9mm rounds from long range and surive, albeit with much cursing. You can watch tracers bounce off of walls and roll down a hill. Overall, so many small touches that devs tend not to think of. Such a unique game.
    BUT!
    The damn community for this game makes me rage. Why can’t they stop screaming at me to go do something stupid and fatal? Why do they have to call everyone noobs for not charging into an open field/alley/grave at their behest? This game is hard to learn, and few veterans are friendly enough to be helpful instead of incendiary. Cool, we can see you got 100 kills last round with that sniper rifle, it doesn’t mean you are Zhukov or Guderian reborn.
    Lastly, to anyone looking to get into the game, (which you should, immediately) for the love of god leave the good classes alone until you learn (I spent 200 hours as a rifleman before anything else!), try to get to the objective, and bring a mic. This should prevent anyone from getting overly cranky at you, plus you can ask for help. Give your digital life the respect it deserves, advance cautiously, cover your teammates, and you will be immersed in the sights, sounds, and emotions of the greatest struggle that humanity ever faced.

    • bktor says:

      Agreed.

    • bravekarma says:

      As a rifleman you do die a lot, compared to a competent Marksman or LMG or whatever, but it is still the class I have most fun with. As you said, using a bolt-action rifle is so damn satisfying.

      And noone without a mic should play team leader, ever.

      • SlimShanks says:

        Abso-smegging-lutely agreed about team leaders without mic’s. Don’t be surprised if you ACCIDENTALLY get shot in the heat of combat…

  11. bravekarma says:

    This is one of those rare multiplayer shooters that compels me to play every day. Being on a bad team can be frustrating (especially since MG42 has been introduced veterans tend to stack the Axis team on certain servers) but I just love the gunplay and good teamwork.

    I also love how Rising storm (not sun) perfectly complements RO2, with its asymmetrical balance, beautiful environments (instead of decrepit buildings), flamethrowers and knee mortars (instead of everyone running around with MGs) and overall makes me feel like I am playing a different game with the awesome mechanics of RO2.

  12. saturday says:

    Sure it has it’s issues but for a real tactical fps this does the job. You don’t think , you die. You don’t work as a team , you die. Sometimes even when you do think you still die. No hand holding on the realism servers.

    It’s little things as well , been able to hunt people by the sound of their gun because each gun sounds different and you can roughly postion people by how loud the shot is. Or the fact the enemy can hear your avatar and the words are not just for show

    Oh and the supression is such a good mechanic. Can be hard to tell people that it’s not just about the kills and MG’s supress as much as anything else.

  13. zeep says:

    Longtime RO fan here. The biggest issue i have with RO2 and Rising Storm is that all admins have so many bots running around. Even when there’s like 30 REAL people connected they will still have AI mindlessly running around.

    Secondly, RO2 can very well be played with smaller teams, like 16 vs 16, but again many admins want to have at least 64 people running around in too small maps, filled with AI to the brim.

    Not my idea of having a gg.

  14. RegisteredUser says:

    I just wanted to add another comment recommending this game/game combo (RO2/RS now come as a package) to anyone who is serious about playing tactical shooters(like Counterstrike, but with a lot more meaning of teamplay and more punishing for being gung-ho).

    The vast mass of people have gotten used to combat being the COD multiplayer, but there is nothing more rewarding knowing that you can get killed in one shot, but also can kill in one shot and helping your team to victory by being part of a 30+ people push and movement toward a common goal.
    The interplay of “army bulwark”(riflemen), assault, support and leader roles is unmatched by _any_ other game, as is the amount of voice communication between team members thanks to a built in voice comms.

    If you have bailed on this game for some reason, stick with it. If you don’t have it, get it. If the videos seem meh, play it.

    RO2 is one of the very few/rare occasions where you really do realize what it means to be on the field with 60+ other people.
    I hope modern technology will let us eventually up this to 50/50 (100 people total) matches.

    • SlimShanks says:

      I agree with all of this. Imagine if there was a game which combined the mechanics of RO2 with the scale of Planetside 2. The battles would be beyond intense.
      Your post also reminded me of something. RO2 and RS come packaged together now. If at any point you bought RS then you also received RO2. However, if you showed support to Tripwire by buying RO2 when it was released, you can go **** yourself, as you will be the only ones without a free game. :( I feel punished for being supportive.