All you hear about realistic war
shooters these days are Call of Duty this,
Battlefield that, but you know what? style="">  It’s time for a history
lesson.  Much like
how Counterstrike was the mod that
sold millions of copies, there was a
mod that moved copies of Unreal
Tournament 2004.
Its name was Red

The game has always been about pure
realism.  Your
sights waver, and you can hold your
breath for precision shooting for a moment. 
If you get hit, you are probably dead.  
Perhaps most jarringly for classic FPS players, there are
crosshairs.  If you
wanted to hit
someone, you had to aim down the iron sights, a system now universal to
the modern
war FPS genre, but first introduced to the masses here.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">When the name of the game is
'one shot, one kill', you have to choose your cover and vantage point
very carefully.

So what started as a mod eventually
went full retail, and
they weren’t about to let it die there. 
Red Orchestra 2: style="">  Heroes
of Stalingrad
is more of that pure war experience. style="">  Console and twitch
warriors beware – this game
is still not for you.  But
for those of
us that prefer a slower, more deliberate and realistic style of combat,
Red Orchestra 2 scratches the itch


Realistic combat comes with realistic damage. Blood and profanity are common, and while somewhat rare, dismemberment does happen. It’s rated M for Mature and they’re not joking around with it.

Gameplay - 80 / 100

Orchestra 2

focuses on the combat experience as much as it does the gameplay itself. style="">  If you’ve never played the
original, you
might be really confused.  Your
HUD is
barren.  No health
count.  No ammo
count.  No magazine
count, no real clue as to what is
going on unless you press your tactical map or full map…. And all of
decisions are intentional.  You
have any magical displays in combat in reality, and you won’t on this

This makes every combat decision a
serious choice.  If
you’re squaring off against an opponent at
medium range and an open field separates you two, and you both have 5
bolt-action rifles, when you hear the fourth shot, do you jump your
cover and
try to make a move?  Reloading
in this
game is no laughing matter, and you are defenseless during it. style="">  But that last bullet could
be fatal even if
it isn’t a headshot.  Getting
hit in the
heart is just as bad as getting hit in the head, and I cannot believe
this is
one of the few games to acknowledge that a heartshot is just as good
for ending
someone’s life as a headshot.

Taking a page from some other
shooters, a cover system is
now in play and with it, blind fire. 
This is NOT your Gears of War
blind fire system where you can somewhat aim it with a third person
camera.  If you are
firing blind, you
have no goddamn idea what’s out there. 
Yes, you can sometimes score kills with it if someone is
charging down a
hallway, but it’s a defensive panic method instead of a viable way to
soften/kill players.  The
unrealistic thing is how fast you respawn, but staying dead for more
than 10
seconds in a FPS is a good way to make your game less fun than it
really is.

Note that there is a single player
component to this game,
but it’s…. somewhat lacking.  With
Soviet and German campaign, each mission is prefaced by lots of war
clips and
some well done accents, but the gameplay itself is nothing more than a
match of the multiplayer maps targeting specific objectives. style="">  The bots aren’t anything
stellar either—they’ll
bump into each other, charge headlong into a pair of soldiers behind
cover and…
you know, they’re just like your allies online, so never mind.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">Pictured : a squad about to be
obliterated by a grenade.  Also, we're all looking rather

This is also a game you’ll have to
reconfigure the keyboard
for very quickly.  Crouching
and prone
are very important, and some actions such as the sprinting prone dive
you to hold W, L-Shift, and then tap Alt at the same time. style="">  What? 
Who thought that was a good idea!? 
There’s even what I’d have to call a Battlefield
throwback joke with the button to replace your machine
gun drum being
6 for some silly reason.  For
those of
you too young or not in the know, the default key for your parachute
9.  Sometimes I
really think the control
layout is an afterthought in PC gaming…

Graphics - 87 / 100

Since the game takes place in and around Stalingrad, a relatively urban area, there’s a whole lot on screen at any given time. But due to the high detail of the maps, you’re still able to see that commie bastard poke his head out and show him the way to the respawn point. Character models themselves could use some work, but the level of detail that goes into the weapon animations for firing and reloading really enhances the experience. When it comes down to it though, the models themselves are meaningless. They are nothing but bullet sponges—what you end up staring at through your scope waiting for targets is terrain, and the terrain is surprisingly good!

Sound - 87 / 100

A solid war soundtrack permeates the game, composed by the same man who gave us loads of great ambiance in the Mass Effect series. Weapons are loud and obnoxious, but that’s just the way they should be! No one likes a muffled MP40 or machine gun. My main gripe is that the commentary between the soldiers and for various objectives could use a lot more variety, or at least, a few other voice actors providing the same lines and saying them at random.

Multiplayer - 95 / 100

With huge server sizes (man, I love
PC gaming) and huge
maps, firefights break out everywhere and you are never far from your
enemy or
your allies.  There
is a feature for
spotting the enemy that killed you thankfully, so if the map gets too
sniper-heavy, you can circle around and dispense justice with the
business end
of your pistol.  The
maps themselves are
really well done and detailed.  You
tell each one was handmade with various doodads and objects rather than
copy/paste operation from other maps or other parts of the same map.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ;" alt=""

style="font-style: italic;">Buildings are typically damaged
and have lots of open space to fire into, and out of.  On the
high population servers, some multi-level buildings can turn into

Just be wary of friendly fire. style="">   Most servers
have this enabled and in a game
where one bullet kills, one bullet from a friendly will too!

Value - 60 / 100

At 39.99, you’re going to have to
really appreciate the
multiplayer and realism in order to get your money’s worth. style="">  Normally I wouldn’t be so
heavily against a
multiplayer-focused game at that price point, but we’re clearly not
getting the
complete deal here. From href="" target="_blank">the
game’s website under ‘coming after release’

“Co-op: Players can connect with
their friends and battle
AI in multiple game types including the Stalingrad Campaign, Skirmish
Mode, and

Offline Challenges: Offline
challenges such as the shooting
range and assault courses let the player learn and hone their skills to
perfection with all of the weapons and features in the game. Training
different challenges to achieve awards, win competitions and improve
skills the player can pit their best times/scores against the rest of
online gaming community.

New vehicles: We will roll out
new vehicles for the game,
including new tanks as well as armored transports.”

The hell?  All
of this should come
standard in a retail-priced FPS.  It
might be a free download at some point, but if it is released as paid
DLC, that’s
just a travesty against our wallets. 
is though, the core gameplay is probably worth $20-30 if blasting
people with a
KAR rifle is your idea of a good time every night.

Lasting Appeal - 82 / 100

The true realistic shooter is drowning in a sea of Modern Warfare clones and sequels, so we have to embrace what we’ve got here. The good news is that it’s a well executed product and has a fantastic sense of the war with great weapons, great sound, and true gameplay. Those of us that purchase it will be sticking to it for a long time.. so long as the rest of the player base keeps populating the servers and doesn’t jump to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Pros and Cons


  • Super minimalistic HUD gives combat a great realistic feel
  • Excellent presentation in graphics and sound
  • Fantastic and detailed map design for the genre


  • Single player is pretty stunted.
  • With a lackluster single player, and 'many features to
    come’, was this even ready for release?
  • Competing against a few IP juggernauts for the same player
    base, I worry for the game’s online population in a few months


Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is a wonderful game for those of us looking for a serious WW2 shooter, and mods are on the way to give us the combat from other eras as well. But with a full retail price and low amount of single player content, you have to really love the multiplayer gunplay in order to love the game. If you’re a fan of realism, iron sights, and one hit kills, you’d be well advised to pick this up immediately. For the rest of us though, let’s wait until the Soviets push out of Stalingrad with some more maps and content.

Overall 80/100 - Good

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016