For those of us who prefer to play things slowly and cautiously, Red Orchestra - an Eastern Faront combat sim developed by UK-based Tripwire Interactive - is a refreshing change despite that it first appears to be just another WW2 game.
Like Battlefield 2, Red Orchestra is primarily a multiplayer title. There's a single player practice mode which is useful for getting used of the various weapons and vehicles, but once you've mastered the basics you'll get tired of it quickly.
A typical game of Red Orchestra begins with you picking your side (Russia or Germany) and choosing a class. Unlike in other games, the amount of people who can be a particular class is limited. There's usually only one sniper on each team, for instance. From there you need to work together with your team as you capture objectives and fight for the control of strategic locations such as courtyards, factories and anti-tank gun positions. While they're not as big as those found in Battlefield, the maps are open and suitably spectacular, dotted with countless trench networks, blast craters and disabled vehicles. You'll be stunned by the sheer size of the Reichstag on the Berlin map.
So far, this doesn't break too far from the WW2 shooter genre. However, it pulls away from the pack by delivering a realistic feel to every aspect of the game. The weapons, which are the most important element of any shooter, are beautifully modelled and behave just like you'd expect with regards to noise, recoil and ballistics. There are no crosshairs -- if you want to hit a target in this game you have to stop moving and raise the gun to your shoulder. Using a bolt-action rifle is particularly satisfying as you have to work the bolt between shots and manually reload. When the enemy gets a little too close for comfort, you're can attach a bayonet.
Like most online shooters of recent years, Red Orchestra has a decent collection of vehicles including armoured cars, half-tracks and tanks. The tanks are designed to serve more of a supporting role rather than an outright offensive one, and they require the assistance of ordinary grunts if they're to survive enemy ambushes.
Red Orchestra is hands down the best online shooter game that's come out in a long time. It might not look as pretty as Call of Duty 2 and its graphic violence might put some people off, but if you're after a game that feels different, requires teamwork and rewards 'slow and steady' play, you won't be served better anywhere else.
This Review appeared in the June, 2006 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine