The realistic WWII shooter that should have been huge, Rising Storm is a standalone expansion to Red Orchestra 2, Tripwire’s realistic World War II other first person shooter. (In a neat twist, though, Tripwire actually allows owners of Red Orchestra 2 to play Rising Storm maps, but only as a specific class with stats that do not save; but still, it keeps fragmentation down.) I say “other” because I like to imagine that the original Red Orchestra was never created.
Set in the Pacific Theater of World War II, Rising Storm pits the Japanese against the Americans in a medium-sized, open map game filled with innumerable, irritating hidey holes.
An interesting thing about Rising Storm is that the campaign is simply the multiplayer main mode with simple cutscenes in between, weaving the story of either a Russian or a German soldier into the same maps and mode one plays online; the only real difference is in the bots, which suck. A lot.
Territory is the main mode here. It’s a capture-based mode where your team must capture the various sets of points in a specific order. Defenders cannot recap certain zones after the attackers have finished those zone’s whole set. Spawn tickets are taken from each team for every death, even if it is from a teamkill. Add realism to an eerie level, an atmospheric soundtrack, and you’ve got yourself a masterpiece of a shooter.
There is a campaign mode played online where each player stays on the same team–Axis or Allies–and fights through a war. At the end of each round, totals are calculated into a point value. The team with more points is allowed to choose to attack a territory of the enemy’s or defend one of their own. A team wins the war by capturing all of the territories or draining the enemy of overall points to 0.
If you’re a tactical person, then you’re gonna love Rising Storm.
Rising Storm is not a game for COD-heads. It’s slow, it’s brutal, and it’s a game of patience and communication. Some matches can be pretty lengthy at around 30 minutes, and others can go in a heartbeat. It’s a game made to played smart, with a squad-based system that actually encourages following the squad around: each squad member gets a specific class with just a few options to customize and plays a role. Half the players on each 32-man team are riflemen and carry a bolt action rifle, a pistol, and grenades, although you can pick up the weapons from dead players. A few are marksmen, some are machine gunners, some are squad leaders (SL) with SMG’s and smoke grenades, and still more are engineers, etc. What’s nice about this selection is that you can play a simple rifleman and just listen to your team leader (TL), the commander of the whole army.
The result is a lot of communication, mainly from TL to SL over voice chat that everyone can hear. TL’s send squads to specific locations, SL’s pop smoke to keep attackers at bay and mark points for artillery, which is then called in by the TL, who is also in charge of forcing respawns for those desperate moments when more soldiers are needed in the cap zones, and of aerial recon. There’s a lot of following directions from [generally skilled] players and attempting to make it through the next wave of reinforcements. There are a lot of moments where I just held my breath along with all my teammates as we awaited a horde of Japanese soldiers–and when they came, my TL screamed “fire!” and 32 different rifles, submachine guns, mounted machine guns, snipers, assault rifles, and anti-tank guns went off and you could see the enemies dropping. On the other side of Rising Storm battles, attacking is one of those situations where you are prone to dying a lot just to get ten feet. With realistic fear and suppression mechanics, along with incredible damage models, Rising Storm is not for the faint of heart.
Looks and sound
Well…there’s certainly something left to be desired. A major CPU hog, Rising Storm is neither optimized nor attractive, even at max graphics settings. Models are low poly, poorly shaded and textured, textures are low resolution, effects are shabby at best and very cheap-looking. Seriously, it’s not pretty, although some recognition goes to the gory dismemberment feature (which can be disabled, if you like). This is really quite frustrating though, its lack of beauty, because it’s running on the Unreal Engine, which is typically gorgeous and optimized.
But the audio is fantastic. Bullet sounds are varied and intense, along with the effects for when they land nearby or whiz past your player’s head. Tanks sound like menacing giants and incoming artillery really does fill you with dread. The soundtrack is a masterpiece, easily alongside Mirror’s Edge in quality. Voice overs are gruesome; wounded players who are blacking out, moments from death, often scream dreadful things such as, “No…God…please, no!” as you hear them choking and dying. And there’s nothing you can do. It’s horrible, it’s gruesome, and I’m glad they included it. Seriously, audio team deserves some major recognition.
If you like tactical FPS’s, then get it. But make sure you’ve got a beefy CPU and a strong stomach; it ain’t gonna be pretty–in any sense of the word.