Rising Storm (PC) Review

Rising Storm

Developer: Tripwire Interactive
Release Date: May 30, 2013
Platform: PC (Steam)

   If there's one thing that the Modern Warfare franchise is widely credited for, it's making gamers of all stripes nostalgic for the days when World War II felt overplayed (to younger gamers: remember that? wow!). Rising Storm, released in May of this year by Tripwire Interactive, is a standalone expansion for Red Orchestra 2, a team based World War II multiplayer FPS.

   Tripwire are known for making multiplayer focused games based on the Unreal Engine. Their first game was the original Red Orchestra, a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 that was given the standalone treatment not long after as Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45.

   Red Orchestra 2 was released in 2011, and continued the series' focus on a realistic portrayal of the Eastern front of World War II. The game's mechanics all contribute to an air of realism; you don't have an ammo counter but can look at the magazine and “guess” how full it is, for example. There are other minor systems like adjusting sights for range, and a shell shock mechanic much like the one seen in Battlefield 3 that has detrimental visual effects when you take suppression fire.

The scenery in Rising Storm is a
definite improvement over Red Orchestra 2.

   Rising Storm keeps the same gameplay mechanics, and replaces the Eastern front setting of Stalingrad with the Pacific theatre. Right off the bat this piqued my interest because there have been relatively few World War II games about the pacific theatre, and even fewer where you experience the Japanese side. I was also keen on seeing the way American military equipment would be portrayed in Red Orchestra's trademark realism.

Tripwire loves realistic guns, and the detail
in Rising Storm is perfect.
   The short version is largely positive: everything good about Red Orchestra 2 is still here, with a new style and theme. Rising Storm integrates seamlessly with the base game so servers can offer both types of maps side by side, and the two games use a combined launcher. Players who don't have Rising Storm can still play in the Pacific theatre matches, but they'll be limited to the basic rifleman class, and can't progress in the class upgrade system. Still, it's a good opportunity to try out Rising Storm before you buy, though if you only want to play Red Orchestra 2 you'll still have to update the game, and the Rising Storm shell replaces the old menus.

Banzai charges are fun and authentic,
but usually suicidal. Just like in real life!
   Rising Storm attempts to account for the differences in doctrine and equipment between the two sides. This means that not every American weapon has an equivalent Japanese weapon, and vice versa. Japan has a little less firepower, with weaker, slower firing weapons and no access to shotguns or flamethrowers. In exchange they get the light mortar, also known as the “knee mortar” for it's tendency to break the users knee if fired incorrectly. Knee mortars provide powerful fire support without waiting for the Commander's artillery ability to cool down.

   The Japanese also have the ability to plant any hand grenade as a booby trap, which helps them defend without the power of belt-fed machine guns or semi-automatic rifles. They can also call for a banzai charge, the mechanics of which... don't make a whole lot of sense. By holding the melee button while sprinting your character shouts his war cry and winds up a swing with his weapon. The war shout is a signal to your allies to join in, and a signal to your enemies to quake with fear. Unfortunately, instead of quaking with fear they often just prepare themselves to get a fresh batch of easy kills. There are very few situations where a banzai charge is more effective than normal fire and maneuver tactics; if anything it's just a faster way to cap a point that's lightly defended. The bottom line is that it's a nice bit of authenticity to the Pacific theatre, but it's rarely worth it.

Flamethrowers behave realistically, but
still look like Hollywood gas blowers.

   The Americans have access to a shotgun and a flamethrower, but no additional abilities. The shotgun is just for flavor since it's no better or worse than other close range weapons, but the flamethrower is satisfying and has a realistic maximum range (i.e. more than 5 feet). Sadly the graphical effect for the flamethrower looks dated, and a bit glitchy. The flamethrower troops also seem to be unaffected by their own fire, even when it hits targets at point blank, or the floor the wielder is walking on.

   In fact, a lot of the game looks dated and a bit glitchy, since Rising Storm uses the same modified Unreal Engine as Red Orchestra 2. It looks reasonably nice and is very scalable for playing on machines of different power, but the way the engine behaves is out of place. Unreal Engine's ragdoll is far too bombastic for a realistic game; the simple body physics leaves corpses propped up against walls more often than it should, and explosions send bodies spiraling cartoonishly through the air, with no real sense of weight behind them.

The light mortar can keep up a barrage of
fire, but has the potential for team kills.

   Character movement physics fare no better, and just like in Red Orchestra 2 character models seem to float around unconnected to the ground, and change direction far too quickly. When a number of soldiers are all moving at once the animations look good, but when they “snap” to a new heading, it breaks immersion. There are also continued problems with parts of characters clipping into walls and bits of cover. The weaknesses of rising storm are just the weaknesses of Red Orchestra, neither ameliorated or made worse. As additional content for Red Orchestra 2, Rising Storm is essentially perfect. It still lacks vehicle combat, but Tripwire has an excellent track record of updating their games with new content free of charge.

Foliage makes for pretty maps, and hiding places
for prospective Japanese banzai-ers.
   Still, the underlying game has some issues which don't go away just because the setting changes from Europe to the Pacific. A bunch of small individual problems add up to make the game a bit finnicky. The Team Leader position for example, is very important to the team, because he can call in recon planes, artillery strikes, and respawn his troops more quickly. The cooldown time on those abilities however starts out long, and gets longer the more times they are used. Ultimately this means the Team Leader will only get to “do something” eight times a match. When not using abilities, the TL can order troops around, but most players don't follow orders, and bots don't follow orders well. A nice incentive to add would be an “attack order followed” bonus for both the leader and the regular soldiers, like in Battlefield 3. As it stands the Team Leader can't really earn points by doing his job, aside from the once or twice a round an artillery strike is used.

Light it up, I'm on fire! (Who says I can't be topical)
   Red Orchestra 2 suffered from poor balance, often leaving the attacking team unable to make it a few feet out of their spawn point. Rising Storm doesn't have this problem to nearly the same extent, but that's only the impression I get from the new maps added to the game so far. The game itself doesn't combat this much, seeing as there are no concrete penalties for spawn killing, and no sort of team balance.

   Red Orchestra 2 and Rising Storm are still an intense experience that provides realism and intensity, even if it is so rough around the edges you'll cut yourself playing it. I hope this series stays around long enough for Tripwire to make an African theatre expansion featuring the British army. That would, in my estimation create a perfect trifecta. Considering Rising Storm's low price, unique portrayal of World War 2 and the Pacific Theatre, and the confidence I have in Tripwire continuing to support the game, I recommend it to any World War II shooter fan.

Bottom Line: Recommended!