Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is one of many new games on display at the 2011 Game Developers Conference, and in one of our many sorties to the show floor, we took the opportunity to see the game in action. As the game's title suggests, it will take place in and around the city formerly known as Stalingrad. This city is perhaps most infamous for the Battle of Stalingrad--a bloody World War II skirmish that is said to have incurred more than 1 million casualties. Red Orchestra 2 will launch with 10 different maps, four difficulty settings, and two new vehicles: the T-34 medium tank and the Panzer IV medium tank. Tripwire intends, however, to push out new updates to the game on a regular basis as soon as it possibly can. The first update will include four additional vehicles, but the studio also hopes to turn out new maps and other content after the game's initial launch.
We sat down to watch a single-player demonstration of the Danzig map--not the final name of the map (because this map, like all the others, is based in Stalingrad), though its layout will be very similar to the popular Danzig map in the original game. If you happen to be in the position of squad leader (a specialized role you'll have dibs on if you've successfully pulled off a great many kills, objectives, and other accomplishments in Red Orchestra 2--all documented and saved in your Steam profile), you can give quick and easy move-and-fire orders to your teammates. You do so by hovering your mouse over the intended position and pulling up the in-game radial menu to issue orders for movement, support, and calling in artillery. There's even an order to refuse to take that last order--this last one is available if you're not the squad leader and you…disagree with your fearless leader's last directive.
Red Orchestra 2 will ship with three different game modes: Territories, the previous game's control-point-capture mode (not unlike the original Conquest mode from the Battlefield series), which makes its return from the first game; Firefight, essentially a team deathmatch mode intended to draw in new players (realism settings can actually be relaxed); and Countdown, which is essentially a modified version of Territories that still challenges teams to move on a single series of progressive objectives but gives players only one life to live until their team reaches the next objective. Countdown has a very short timer for each objective--something in the neighborhood of two minutes or so. Thus, Tripwire hopes that this mode will be far less frustrating than in other shooters with "one life to live" modes where getting killed early means sitting on the sidelines until the entire game is over.
Like with the original game, Red Orchestra will otherwise continue to focus on highly realistic shooter gameplay. For example, taking heavy fire will still put your character into a state of suppression where your view blurs and your character breathes more heavily, causing more barrel drift when trying to fire your weapon. In addition, as part of Red Orchestra 2's new slow death system, if you take a severe enough wound that causes you to bleed out before dying, you'll still be able to reach for your gun and wildly fire off a few new shots before your view fades to black.
Perhaps most impressively, the game will have a new material penetration system that will affect whether bullets of a certain caliber and fired by certain weapons can pierce certain types of cover and strike the soldiers hiding on the other side. In addition, the new game will have destructible environmental objects that can turn temporary cover into flaming rubble. We watched a T-34, realistically modeled from the inside out (while inside the tank, you must man one station or another, such as driver or gunner, and will need to physically switch seats should one of your squadmates get killed), open fire on rickety wooden buildings in a countryside map. This partially smashed the roof with a single shot and then tore the rest of the roof, and the four walls down, with a few more successive shells. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad will add more of the realistic combat its fans love, along with new features that new players should find appealing. The game will ship later this year.