It's been far too long since we last fought on the battlefields of Red Orchestra, the hyperrealistic World War II mod for Unreal Tournament 2004. Therefore, when we loaded up the Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad beta, we had a lot to unlearn. Years of regenerating health and energy shields taught us to jump into the middle of a firefight and watch the kill streak rise. In RO2, pulling a stunt like that got us shot in the face. Here, we needed to slow down and respect the fact that our character was a mere mortal--not a walking tank.
Utilizing cover was a must if we hoped to survive in the deadly world of RO2. We could snap to most walls, doorways, fallen columns, or other flat surfaces. Using the alt-fire to level our iron sights automatically drew us out of cover to take a shot. Using cover also steadied our aim, which was especially useful when using an unwieldy machine gun. However, in some cases, it was difficult to tell when we were actually stuck to a piece of cover, which led to some firing-straight-into-a-wall moments.
When it comes time to shoot another person, in the ideal scenario, you're nestled behind a piece of cover and the victim is off in the distance oblivious to your presence (while also jumping up and down and trying to find the grenade button). In practice, this was a rarity. Most firefights took place in close quarters inside bombed-out buildings or cramped hallways. These encounters were tense, terrifying, and over in just a few seconds.
There we were, jogging toward our allies at the front line. Suddenly, a man rounded the corner in front of us. There was a brief pause as we made sure we weren't about to shoot an ally. Then the bullets started flying. Two seconds later, one of us was dead. In those two seconds, our mind spun as we frantically processed gun recoil, character movement, and a half-dozen other factors in making the killing shot. The only problem was our opponent was usually a half-second faster.
Red Orchestra 2 was not the place to be a hero. We were a cog working alongside our 31 teammates in the game's massive 32-on-32 multiplayer capture-and-hold matches. Its highly lethal play style might not appeal to everyone, but it does make the payoff for good coordination and teamwork all the sweeter. After the match, the game tracked our progress with different weapons in its character progression system. It will also include a single-player mode, though it was still unavailable during our play session. Red Orchestra 2 will be released on the PC next week.