This review originally posted at MentalGamers – www.mentalgamers.com/game_reviews.php?r=7
I was dubious to begin with about this title as its delivery method was Steam. I know some people love it, but I’ve had no end of problems with it and I was reluctant to reinstall it to play the game. How right I was, my problems continued. It wouldn’t accept my credit card because the address check failed, and after 5 attempts it told me it wouldn’t let me use that card any more. With time running out to get my pre-order discount I eventually got a friend who had successfully purchased it already to log into my account and buy it for me then gave him the money. So it?s paid for and pre-loaded, 7pm GMT arrives and it unlocks. I click launch game and nothing. I double click the desktop shortcut and nothing. I check the forums and find a little extra information that no one cared to mention before – In Steam you need to right click on Red Orchestra, click Properties, click Local Files and then Verify Integrity of Game Cache. Wait a while and your download completion s to 80% and you need to wait for it to download the remaining 20%. In my case that took 90 minutes, so I was less than impressed having been promised “Pre-load now and play immediately on release”.
Anyway, enough about Steam… RO:OST is hyped as the ultimate in WWII realism FPS games – A mixture of infantry and armoured battle on the Eastern Front. From the blurb: Based on the most highly-acclaimed mod ever made, Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 is a full-featured, stand-alone World War II game that brings players to the front lines of Eastern European combat during the height of World War II. Players choose from 24 infantry weapons or crew one of 14 detailed vehicles on the Russian Front between 1941-45. The combination of roles across thirteen maps, based on real-world locations and battles, allows Red Orchestra to finally achieve its goal of delivering a full first-person, World War II infantry and vehicle combat simulation.. It was developed on the UT2.5 engine (Unreal Tournament 2004) and as said above, is a total conversion mod. It is a multiplayer-only game, although it does have a “practice” mode against bots.
I had a half hour against the bots to begin with, but while the AI seemed reasonably good, they just didn’t move right. They seemed to bob around in slow motion, so after acquainting myself with the controls and waiting for some friends to finish re-pre-loading we found a server and jumped in. Immediately after spawning I turned around and was about to move when another player spawned on me and a message telling me I’d team killed someone popped up. Check the scoreboard and yup, I now have negative points. Not a good start.
Let me start by saying RO:OST has a seriously steep learning curve. Even for an FPS “specialist” like me this was completely a different experience. I had huge problems determining who was friend or foe at distance, as did most of the people on the server. In the first few hours I played I saw literally hundreds of team-kills. It may be a realism game, but I feel it?s been overdone, it?s a game and the whole point is to have fun. I don’t think they’ve struck the balance quite right.
Graphically I can’t say I was all that impressed, but the game is based on the UT2.5 engine which is aging a bit now so that’s no surprise. Overall they’re not bad though. Frame rates however seem incredibly unstable. I was getting anything from 10 to 200 and because of this the game just can’t be described as smooth.
One traditional aspect of realism games is slow, tactical movement. Well Red Orchestra is definitely slow, but not just in the “running about” sense – everything seems too slow.
* Actions take an age to perform.
* I found I often needed to press buttons more than once before the action occurred.
* If I hit one key followed by another the key-presses didn’t seem to get recognised at all.
* Strangely, the prone crawl seems faster than the crouched movement.
Player movements also looked far too awkward in a lot of situations, I think the word I’m looking for is unnatural. The clipping is fairly poor and you’ll see many guns and legs sticking through walls. Another thing I noticed was that players on gun turrets don’t move with the guns they are supposedly controlling, the guns were apparently spinning about all by themselves. The only way I can describe the movement in the game is “clunky”.
So this is all pretty negative so far. Here’s a few “nice” things I noticed:
* There’s a “map” of your player’s body that shows where you are hurt, and getting hit in the legs affects your speed.
* If you get hit in the hand you will the weapon you’re holding.
* The guns sway quite pleasantly as you are aiming (although it makes the aiming harder of course).
* With the bolt-action rifles after you take a shot you have to manually re-chamber a round.
One thing I’m not sure about is whether you are able to your spawn point, I certainly couldn’t work out how if indeed it is possible, but I always spawned at the same place on each map, right at the back far from all the action. What with the slow movement that means you’re in for a long walk to the front lines, especially when there are no vehicles to get you there.
I found that most of the time when on foot, by the time I had seen a target and ped to prone, brought up the iron sights, and re-acquired my target, it was too late, I was already dead and starting the long trek back to the front line because the movements just don’t happen promptly enough after hitting the buttons. I’m sorry but I just don’t find that fun at all. Strangely though, I was constantly top of the scoreboard, but wasn’t enjoying myself. Normally if I’m top of the scoreboard that’s fun enough in itself, but not here.
The only really enjoyable aspect for me was the tanks. In Red Orchestra to be effective in a tank you need to have it fully crewed and in the case of the larger tanks that means 3 people: Driver, Machine Gunner, and Main Gun operator. This really needs good teamwork, but when you get it right it’s absolutely awesome fun and you can rack up huge numbers of kills. Even when I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to get in the tank with me and help I managed to have fun by swapping positions as needed and although more vulnerable, if you’re quick you can still do well. In fact the tanks are pretty much the only thing I will go back for providing I can get a tank crew together.
There’s not a lot in the way of special effects really, the only thing I’ll mention is the overdone tracers. They looked awesome – especially when they’re whizzing over your head – but they look more like lasers. I was half expecting to hear Star Wars style sound effects to accompany them. It’s a fantastic effect but perhaps in the wrong game. The sounds in general were good though, all the directional sounds were accurate enough and the lasers – sorry tracers – sound great when they’re passing inches above your head.
The server browser was a nice surprise though, very nicely done. Favourites, Buddies, Chat, its got it all and I have no complaints on that front. The servers themselves however seem to be rather overloaded. For a server showing a ping of 30 in the browser I could expect to add 100 to that for my in-game ping if a 32 player server was more than half full. If there were around 6-10 players online the pings were pretty much as reported. Maybe not the fault of the game but rather the server providers, but it would seem the game is fairly taxing on servers.
To be completely honest I don’t think it’s worth the £15 I spent on it. Enemy Territory was a total conversion mod that was released for free and in my opinion was infinitely more enjoyable. In fact if Steam allowed refunds I would probably be returning it. As I’m stuck with it probably only be playin
g if I can gather some folk to go rip up the battlefield in a tank. When it comes down to it, If you want realism there are better games (O:FP?) and if you want action there are better games (COD2?, BF2?), but RO just doesn’t do it for me. Some may call me harsh here, but two words: hyped. over. Rearrange them…
The Bad: Crap pings, Too much walking when people have taken all vehicles