Remember when World War 2 first-person shooters were literally everywhere? I do. Back then, one of the behemoths of first person shooters happened to be Medal of Honor. You know, before they revived the series to be a bland modern shooter. Now that everyone’s moved to this, the last few years have been saturated with modern military shooters, a concept so wrung dry many are even going into the “near future”. If you watched this year’s E3, futuristic military shooters will only increase in number as time goes on. until we hit upon the “next big thing.” With the race into the future speeding up, Tripwire Interactive decided to dial it back to World War 2 with Rising Storm. This isn’t new territory for Tripwire: every Red Orchestra has taken place during World War 2. Instead of fighting against Germans and/or Russians, the fight continues on the other side of the world- the Pacific Campaign. The scaling back to World War 2 is a refreshing change of pace from the current shooters, and Tripwire has managed to keep the series formula fresh enough to dump hours into it.
The change in pace applies to more than just the setting and the world. What comes with World War 2 shooters is a different sort of FPS where virtually every shot counts, especially when the guns are semi-automatic and bolt-action rifles. For me, it’s always refreshing to play this sort of shooter, one that rewards you for being worth your salt when it comes to pointing and clicking on enemies. It promotes a sense of adrenaline that isn’t seen all that often in games, where tension is built up with every bullet you fire. Dying is always frustrating in a game like Rising Storm, and if you are indeed coming into the series with wet ears you’re likely to die a great deal. The frequency of death and the feeling of ineptitude is something that has done wonders to drive away many prospective new players of the Red Orchestra series in general. One-shot kills are unforgiving; the weapons in particular rarely offer second chances due to the bolt-action nature of many of the weapons. If you mess up once, you’re likely dead unless firing from a well thought out position. The cruelty of the weapons does wonders to make you think on your shots, make sure your aim is true before firing that one singular shot intending for the kill. The weapons on the Allies’ side are much more forgiving, the M1 Garand being a semi-automatic and, although rare, can give the unlucky fellow who fired off an errant shot a second chance to take down their enemy.
From a gameplay perspective things haven’t changed a great deal. If anything, Rising Storm is akin to an expansion pack to Red Orchestra 2. It has all the familiar trappings in mechanics when compared its predecessor. It continues to feature a minimalist UI, as well as the commander mode not showing much change, if any at all. I still click the “artillery fire” button so fast it sounds like the beginning of a Fatboy Slim song from the late 90s. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either, considering it speaks volumes about the tense moments when trying to fire upon a marker placed on the map before the opposing forces shift sides. The real question, however, is if Rising Storm does enough to win over those who were dissuaded by Red Orchestra 2. I am talking, of course, about the fans of original game. When Red Orchestra 2 released it stayed alive for a good few months before petering off to a subpar player count, akin to a console FPS not named Halo or Call of Duty. It is completely reasonable to be fearful that Rising Storm will fall to the same fate.
Rising Storm has started off on the right foot by being offered for free to owners of Red Orchestra 2, and this helps solidify the feeling of being an expansion. To be honest though, it’s not a bad thing. Rising Storm changes just enough with the new weapons, new maps to explore, and new mechanics such as the ability to create traps with grenades. It’s not a reinvention of gameplay that everyone always seems to wait for, or even the next big thing. It’s a game with very specific ideals that caters to a very specific type of audience. If you’re looking for an FPS with one foot in simulation like ARMA and the other in the action oriented gameplay like Battlefield, you’ll have that itch scratched. I don’t know if it will win over the original fans of the Red Orchestra series, the ones who weren’t happy with the direction the second one took. I personally never took issue with the changes. One thing Tripwire Interactive has on their side is consistency, whether it be to anger their longtime fans or to make a rather good experience playing their game. That consistency is what helps them here, and the new weapons and environments may be just enough to convince giving the series another try to those who were left bitter with Red Orchestra 2. There’s no harm in a second chance though, and for fifteen dollars it’s a hard second chance to pass up.