The Red Orchestra series has always been an oddball, hasn't it? It exists as a game that holds the middleground between a hyper-realistic shooter such as Arma and action heavy shooters like Call of Duty. It gained a cult following, however, like Killing Floor, Tripwire Interactive's other title. Still, Red Orchestra is a very different experience, and it takes a lot of time and patience to really get into it. Let's face it, if you have no experience and you're jumping into a Red Orchestra game there's going to be lots of dying. It'll be frustrating and it takes patience to drop into the series.
Rising Storm doesn't necessarily reinvent the wheel with Red Orchestra's basic ideas. All the familiar mechanics are present, even with a few new ones sprinkled in along with a new setting that takes place during the Pacific Campaign in WW2. Along with the new setting there are new weapons to toy around with, the most notable being the flamethrower on the Allies side and the light mortar on the Axis side. The flamethrower, for lack of a better word, was incredibly fun to run around with. Finding the backdoor to a building with Axis hiding out in and lighting them all on fire like a lunatic made it a satisfying weapon to use. The Light Mortar on the other hand takes a little more finesse. After learning the trajectory of the grenades it becomes a very useful tool for flushing Allies out of their cover, while racking up kills in the process.
The most interesting thing about Rising Storm is the leveling system they have implemented, in an attempt to solve the aforementioned steep learning curve and assist new players easing into the game. No one likes dying in a video game countless times unless you are setting out to do that in the first place. Being outclassed isn't a fun time especially when it's a foregone conclusion, so Tripwire's answer to that was to keep new players out of the more advanced Realism servers and beyond, as the gamemodes unlock as you progress in levels. The first gamemode unlocked is Action, still a far cry from the chest-thumping first person shooters with much more emphasis on how fast you can fire a gun. There's less of an insistence in taking cover and moving deliberately, theoretically allowing players to learn the game.
The question presented, of course, is will Rising Storm bring fresh faces to the franchise? It will be difficult indeed to bring new players into the fold even with the changes to the ranking system, not to mention the new system having the potential to cause uproar in the current playerbase. As Counter-Strike has taught us, sometimes fanbases hate change, as unfamiliar territory is unwelcome and more of the same is preferable. In the current PC gaming market where players are more concerned about how different a shooter is compared to annualized beasts such as Call of Duty, it may prove difficult to convert current and even potential new fans with any semblance of streamlining being introduced. Of course this may just be the vocal minority, but those loud voices very often can be the final say as to how a game will fare in the long term.
Rising Storm will head into release offering gameplay familiar in tone with previous installments of Red Orchestra with a few twists thrown in, most notably maps and weapons. Those already indoctrinated into the ways of Red Orchestra will have no problem loving Rising Storm, or at the very least having fun with it. New players, or those on the outside looking in may find the changes to be just what they needed to break into the series. Beta keys are being handed out almost daily and if everything mentioned above is something you're interested in by all means, grab one and try it out. It offers gameplay from previous iterations while streamlining the leveling process to directly effect the server browsers, which may be just the thing to get the budding novice off on the right step.