"How do you know about the grain elevator level?"
Such was my response from Tripwire Interactive VP Alan Wilson when I asked him to give us the 'elevator pitch' for Red Orchestra 2: Heroes Of Stalingrad. Their upcoming shooter promises to deliver authentic locations, weapons and environments (such as the aforementioned grain silo) that will give players an unflinching insight into the brutal Russian campaign of World War II - and from what I can see, this team of ex-modders will deliver exactly that. On top of some ludicrously hardcore multiplayer action, naturally.
What's more, the Rising Storm expansion pack is looking really rather special indeed thanks to Tripwire's decision to commission a small force of veteran modders and militaria enthusiasts.
Red Orchestra 2 continues its predecessor's penchant for tense, realistic multiplayer warfare for up to 64 players. Authentic World War II weaponry, vehicles and a new cover system makes for a cut-throat online experience that will offer three main game modes. In addition to more traditional gametypes, the Territories Mode tasks teams with taking and holding objectives, featuring an impressive dynamic map that expands and contracts the active area depending on the number of players connected to the server. There'll be no trudging through barren, empty maps; just furiously hardcore action from the moment the match begins.
In fact, 'hardcore' doesn't quite cut it when it comes to describing Red Orchestra 2's sense of authenticity. Rather than just taking damage and regenerating health over time, wounds actually wound you if they don't kill you outright. If you're shot in the shoulder, you can't raise your weapon. A wounded leg slows you to a crawl. And hits to your torso tends to result in a sickening, unsettling animation as the blood gushes out of your body over a period of several seconds. My advice? Don't be a hero. Not only are you a soft and easy target out in the open, but the Red Orchestra veterans never miss.
This time, however, Tripwire also plan to include two singleplayer campaigns that chronicles between August 23rd, 1942 to February 2nd, 1943 from both the German and Russian perspectives. Apparently the early Rainbow Six games provide much of the inspiration for the gameplay, which deals with small teams of soldiers with difficult objectives and an impressive degree of replayability. Wilson informed me that Tripwire were sick of the pomp and linearity of most FPS games these days, and that Red Orchestra 2 will deliver significantly more value as well as personality.
The campaigns will also help to ease players into the mechanics and teach them the skills that they'll need to survive online, and in a neat feature, will support online cooperative play to boot. Chances are that the extra gun will come in very handy indeed.
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes Of Stalingrad is set for a September 13th PC release... but we're not finished yet. Not by a long shot from a Mauser K98k. Work has already begun on the official expansion pack, which promises to be an entirely different take on World War II. Welcome to...
Tony Gillham is a man with a mission - or a mission statement to be exact. He's an experienced mapper who took part in the development of several important mods for the original game; organising excursions to Stalingrad in order to guarantee as much source material as possible. However, his remit is now far more ambitious: the creation of a full retail expansion pack that will chronicle the Japanese-American theatre of war.
To do so, he's assembled the All-Star Mod Team: a distinguished crew of outstanding bedroom developers from all over the world. Australians, Russians, Europeans and Americans are all coordinated from their Croydon HQ with different roles within the project, offering both skill and relentless enthusiasm for the project.
Gillham believes that Call Of Duty: World At War was a fun game that sadly didn't treat its source material with the respect it deserves. The Japanese aren't just a horde of mindless murderers, rather, they were all human beings who were thrust into the same sorry situation as their American counterparts. Tony and the All Stars will be bringing a profound level of historical accuracy and deep love of all things militaria to the project, which is shaping up to be incredibly ambitious.
As well as completely reskinned weapons, character models and new multiplayer maps (and even a mysterious new MP gametype), Rising Storm will also boast two distinct singleplayer campaigns from both the American and Japanese points of view. The lush vegetation and plentiful water sources of the island hopping campaign will also prove to be a serious challenge compared to wartorn urban environments. Real Japanese voice actors and character models have been sought in order to provide as much authenticity as possible, including racing driver Kazuki Nakajima and the son of famous star Keiko Takeshita (who Gillham randomly met during a paintball match, as an interesting aside). Japanese re-enactors have also been drafted on board for inspiration and uniform details.
The cherry on the cake is probably the addition of a flamethrower. This weapon often proves to be the nemesis of even the most experienced development teams because the flame effect is extremely difficult to get right... not to mention that characters and environmental objects need entire new sets of animations and sound when ignited. Gillham isn't entirely sure that the flamethrower will definitely make it into the game, but apparently the All Stars are on the case.
Developing a feature-rich expansion pack is a seriously big ask, especially for a team of scattered throughout across the globe. But from what I've seen, if anyone can do it, the All Star Mod Team will. We'll keep you updated by the wire.