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Prologue: NO I IN TEAM.
Some of the best moments I've ever had playing video games came during the era of Battlefield 2 + 2142, to me, the introduction of Commanders and Squad Leaders, with points granted for following orders, was something entirely unique to me. Working in tandem with a bunch of strangers, usually without the use of a mic, with a the single goal of victory in mind, generated as great a sense of accomplishment than having a one-sided kill / death ratio. Unfortunately, as the years have passed by the player base on thes games has dwindled, along with the quality of the series. The likes of Call of Duty with its multi-platinum sales dictated the way in which EA demanded DICE produce further editions of the series. Truly there was a gap in the market, with the only alternative fps that would cater for me being Counter Strike; which in itself was an entirly different animal. There may have been alternatives I didn't know about, namely the first Red Orchesta, but his had yet to hit my radar.
Fast forward a few years and the numbers dwindled on the 2142 servers, forcing me to find an alternative. After some minor research Red Orchestra 2 appeared on my radar, and what can I say, it ticked every box including ones I didn't realise existed or even needed ticking. If Battlefield 2 / 2142 encouraged team-play, RO2 demands it; always will a well disciplined team, of average players, armed with an intelligent Commander reign victorious over a team of brilliant individualists. Of course, the game does give perks for team work, such as extra points for assist kills and defending cap zone kills etc. but lacking these bonuses, team-work would still be the back-bone of this game as the player-base knowingly understand it is the only way defeat can be avoided, even if it doesn't guarantee success, as the opposition will more than likely fight fire with fire.
General Pros and Cons:
# More mature player-base - having kids flame out on VOIP is an extreme rarity.
# Campaign mode - a more involved an enlongated way to sew map victories together, as each team vies to hold each territory by succesfully attacking and defending each territory.
# Map Design - Sure the player limit is capped at 64 & the maps are usually quite large - Bridges of Druzinha springs to mind - but the fact only one or two objectives are ever in play means the action is condensed into one section of the map. With player respawns acting as single waves coming from a relatively sizable distance away, the pace of a packed server is quite remarkable, with the controling army of each control-point always up for grabs.
# Vehicles - Despite a small few 'tank only' maps (which are avoided like the plague by the entire community) the maps only ever have one tank per side; one tank for the attacking team - to add some balance - or none at all. This keeps the infantry as the most relevant forces on the map, which should be the case in a FPS, while keeping a wild card in the pot at all times if not dealt with appropriatly.
# Team Balance - Both the Germans and the Russians have their strong and weak points. The Assault class is probably the most varried between the two armies, so I will talk about the differences a little. The PPS SMG for the Russians is unparalleled in close quarters and can take out entire squads with a rapid firing of bullets; however, when engaging anything over 50 meters it quickly becomes far less useful than the German Mp40 - access to the Mk42b assault rifle for an experienced Elite Assault class for the Germans, also provides the Germans with arguably the most balanced gun in the game overall. Like I said with pretty much every other class, the difference in guns in negligable. This minor differences means that certain maps are delibaretly avoided or chosen in Campaign mode, as it may bring out the best in a particular weapon - namely the over-powering of the PPS in the level Appartments.
Furthermore, each team can only have certain amounts of each player type, meaning that more than half of the battleground consists of regular rifleman armed with a bolt action non-scoped rifle - meaning the imprtance of knowing how to play your class is amplified.
# Fair leveling system - Most the upgrades awarded for leveling up provide major upgrades for extremely situational circumstances; bigger magazines for an smg or a bayonette for a rifle. This means that a lvl1 private entering the game for the first time doesn't have to be out-gunned while he builds up a feel and understanding of the game, while it also provides an incentive for experienced players to level all the available classes.
The only exception really comes with the sniper classes, who can swap out their bolt-action rifles for semi-auto rifles afer leveling up enough - although if it takes you multiple shots as a sniper, you're doing it wrong I suppose - or indeed the German Elite Assault class, who can unlock the games only Assault Rifle the MK42b - but on the flip side the Russians will have unlocked the drum magazine for their pps at this stage, which can inflict unimaginable carnage in certain circumstances.
# Steam Workshop - Addons provided by the community for free, what's not to like.
# Realistic damage - a positive in my eyes, but I know people have complained about the inability to fire back at an agressor. Nine times out of ten, the player who spots the enemy first will come out alive. So I guess, knowing the maps aswell as ensuring the team has secured the flanks is of paramount importance.
# No weapon points for leaving a round - Annoyingly, if you leave a game prior to the end of a round, any of the points that you would have gathered for leveling up your weapons will be lost. Not too big of an issue you would think, but maps like Bridges of Druzihna have a one hour time limit, so you could lose 45 mins of good progress because real-life kicks in.
# Steep learning curve - Unlike some games which have beginner only servers and the like, RO2 will not hold your hand at all, meaning that learning the intricacies of the game can be a grind which leaves your character in the grave more times than you would have liked.
The fact each team only has a set number of 'premium' classes also means that if it is clear you do not know how to play one of these roles, you'll be a considerable liability for your team. This means you either have to waste time on the games atrocious single-player in order to learn the ropes of each class, or spend time on a server populated solely by bots (there are many), so your learning experience doesn't hinder the fun of others.
#Auto balance - Some matches can be incredibly one sided, due to team-work over VoIP or better use of Commander or Squad Leaders, and while the game does have an auto-balance feature it rarely pans out that it gets the switches correct.
It is a delight to see that Tripwire Interactive didn't cave into the pressure that was created by the rise of the modern console twitch-based shooter, such as Call of Duty. This game is a gem, that may not appeal to everyody, but certainly fills a gaping gap in the market brought on by a barrage of sub-par fps games. Indeed since its release there have been a few other gems that cater to a similar audience, none more so than the RO2 add-on Rising Storm, which is based on the Pacific Theater of WW2. It keeps much of the same gameplay mechanics, while injecting it with a completely different pace through level-design and weapon variation; meaning it offers enough of a change to make it worth the investment while keeping enough of the original so you know you'll like it if you liked RO2. Also, check out Insurgency.
This is by someway a marked improvement from the games which I had craved, as the team-work aspect is necessary for success; you are more likely to find team driven players on any random server here than during the golden-years of Battlefield.