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Try to Get Past the Setting
Published on March 15, 2006 By mittens In FPS
My original plan for the day was to skip Spanish at 2:00pm today so that I could be at my computer exactly at the time which Valve/Tripwire unlocked Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 (released through Steam -- and here is the game's Steam site). Unfortunately, due to the fact that I had to write a few papers before 4:00pm, that was just an impossibility. I still skipped Spanish, mind you, but it just wasn't quite as warm and fuzzy of a skip as it could have been.

Anyway, once I got back to the house today at 4:30pm, I managed to play this incredible game for a few straight hours before I realized I was hungry. I then found satiation, took a shower, and then played the game for the rest of the night. It's currently 3:01am and I, just recently, decided to quit out of the game for the sole purpose of writing this article. I'll probably sleep after this, but that's just the weakness talking.

I probably wouldn't have really given this game a try whatsoever had it not been for dslyecxi (I've typed this a few times, and still have yet to be able to spell it correctly from memory) from The Shack. The guy came out with one of the most well-done previews I've ever seen, which attracted me to the game fairly quickly on its own accord. You see, Shackers, as a rule, have good taste in games. So it would follow that when one of the more well-respected and well-known Shackers comes up with such rabid enthusiasm for a game, a lowly Shacker like myself is forced under penalty of mental anguish to listen up. I checked out the preview and, I'll be honest, the first thing that caught my eye was the guy in white spitting up blood. After that I just read through the text and looked at the purdy pictures. What really solidified my purchase of this game, though, was the same guy's incredible five-minute video.

And I know, I know: we're all sick of World War II-era games (by we, I don't actually mean me, by the way), but hear me out for a bit longer on this one, you'll be glad you did.

Red Orchestra is done by the same team responsible for completely dominating the field in Epic's Make Something Unreal Contest. In winning, they got themselves some cash moneys and, more importantly in terms of context, a license to the Unreal 2.5 (and 3.0, I believe, but that doesn't matter at the moment). And since then, the development team has coined themselves Tripwire Interactive and fancied themselves an indie mod maker-turned-commercial game development studio. And this, to me, is one of the most important aspects of the development of Red Orchestra: you can tell this game is a labor of intensive love and care. Unlike other big battleground FPSs, this is a game that you can simply know will receive all the patches, updates, and improvements that the community yearns for.

And, oh, what a game it is. I enjoyed games like Day of Defeat: Source and Battlefield 2 for the people playing them before, but Red Orchestra is the kind of game I just enjoy playing so far. After spending a good few hours on the Shackbattle server with all my good friends from the site and Counter-Strike: Source, I jumped on a random Red Orchestra server and had just as much fun playing with complete strangers as I did the ever-awesome Shackers. The game is simply fun to play -- which is saying something, because it's far from being a simple online shooter; in fact, while the game doesn't reach Operation: Flashpoint levels of complexity and realism, it is one of the most complex online shooters I've played in recent years. What's really cool about it, though, is that it's one of the more realistic FPSs I've played, yet it still manages to be a real blast (quite literally, in fact) to play. It's nice to see a developer that won't underestimate the average PC gamer to the point of console-esque simplicity.

Red Orchestra isn't for everybody, though. Something that will greatly turn off a lot of players is that the game lacks any sort of crosshair on the HUD. Players will need to rely on either blindly firing from the hip with very little indication as to where the bullets will fly or bringing up the iron-sights (which are very accurate, historically and in terms of their in-game aiming). The sniper rifle scopes are also done in full-3D, rather than a typical texture overly with a zoomed in perspective -- it's just all sorts of pretty. You can also say goodbye to blindly charging into enemy territory. Without teammates to lay down cover fire or some backup snipers to help pick off any enemies you will almost always be mowed down in your run towards cover closer to an enemy location. Going into the game, I had feared that the players would ruin this kind of gameplay, but over the course of the night I've seen quite the opposite. Even on the general pub that I played on towards the end of the night the players were all fairly good in terms of leading the team and supporting specific assault squads.

And, being that I'm fairly tired and this article isn't exactly a polished piece of writing excellence as much as it is my rambling first impressions of the game, I'd just like to close in saying two things. First, the graphics in the game are the best I've seen from the Unreal engine up this point (screenshots of the Unreal 3 don't really count). Hell, when I showed the screenshots I had taken through the course of the day to some friends, everyone simply assumed I was linking to a gallery of Call of Duty 2 screenshots. This kind of off-the-cuff comparison says a lot about just how polished this game really is; it may be a "budget title" at the price of $24.95, but this game is really a very well-done commercial title deserving of your attention.

Oh, and the second thing? The game has gibs. It's about goddamn time. I'll probably write more on this game once I've had far more time to play it. So, you know, lots of research in store for me. Work, work, work...

on Mar 16, 2006
Sounds very nice, but I dont get what Steam and Unreal has to do with each other. Isnt Steam a device for streaming Valve products?

Anyway, I've played BF2, nice graphics, but otherwise completely unpolished.
And I hate the amount of aerial dominance in that game... So I might give this game a try.

Tell me though; does this game incorporate any kind of anti-lag system? I usually stay away from games where your bullets hit 200ms behind your target...
on Mar 16, 2006
Steam is valves digital distribution system. Many developer small and big are signing up for it. It will deliver whatever files they want it to deliver. It's not just for valves stuff. When it was first released it had issues. but now it works great as far as I can tell.

Steam authenticates the software when you play it. It's not intrusive, but some people don't like the fact that they have to be conected to the internet for the authentication to phone home. 56kers need not apply, and because of this Steam can't reach all your potential buyers. (this is the current weakness of digital distribution in general). Oh and steam doesn't run in the background if you don't want it to. When it's running it uses about 16mb of memory for the client.

Red Orchestra is an awsome mod for the unreal engine. I'm glad it was made into a professional product. This new version of the game is many times better than the mod and the mod rocked. If you like realism, tactics, and the best tank warfare ever made then get this game.
on Mar 16, 2006
Yeah, Octavius took care of the Steam thing nice and well. It's basically Valve's new publishing platform for their own stuff and other smaller games (Space Empires IV, Darwinia, Rag Doll Kung Fu, and so on). I really don't have many complaints about Steam, though I was never really one of the people who disliked it from the beginning in the first place. It does its job fairly well for my purposes. I can definitely see why modem users wouldn't like it, though. It's a pain in the ass to try and play games in "offline mode;" seems to me that players shouldn't have to authenticate online just to play the single-player portion of the games.

As for Red Orchestra, yes, it awesome. And now that you mention the idea of lag countermeasures I find myself surprised. I honestly have not paid attention to my ping in Red Orchestra whatsoever. It hasn't been lower than 110 for me, and I'm still able to shoot with pixel-perfect accuracy. Generally, if you can get someone in your crosshairs, you can kill them (it's not wonky, like Counter-Strike). You'll have to take into account the distance from the target (the game models natural projectile trajectories, so you'll have to account for bullet drop over length), but there aren't any weird anomalies that I've noticed.
on Mar 18, 2006
I think I'll give it a try then.
Im just a bit worried about finding servers (without idiots) here in EU.
But I guess I can play on US servers if there is anti-lag...

Ps. Not that EU players are stupid, just fewer players available.