WWII nuts, OFP fans, and just anyone looking for a breath of fresh air in the FPS world - check out RO:O!
If you appreciate realistic shooters along the lines of Operation: Flashpoint, then you'll almost certainly like RO:Ostfront.
- Gameplay -
The gameplay is top-notch, after being refined over the years of the mod, it's reached a state of great balance and fun. The devs actually listen to the community, too, and have already fixed a number of gameplay issues that were generally unliked.
A few important features, before I go on: there is no crosshair. If you want to shoot at something accurately, you need to use your sights, as you would in the real world. Also, any wound that would realistically incapacitate a soldier is considered a death. A rifle round in the chest? Dead. Bayonet in the face? Dead. Use of cover is mandatory, and fortunately, the war torn eastern front is not short on trenches, craters, and debris. No ammo counter. If you're using a rifle, count your shots. Using an SMG/MG, time it to get an idea of how much you have left.
Movement is very well done, and feels quite good. If you've played Flashpoint, you'll recognize it right away. The player is relatively slow in comparison to CS/DOD, but you can sprint a limited distance if you need to quickly run to cover. Prone, crouched, and standing are your 3 stances, switching between them is handled much like OFP, AA, Planetside. Diving has been added, allowing you to dive immediately into a prone position while running, should you come under fire or need to hide from a grenade. Leaning is also in, allowing you to peek out around cover.
Another excellent feature is the iron-sight popup. Whenever you toggle the sights to aim the rifle, your player straightens up his back a bit, and exposes a bit more of his body, when the sights are down, he ducks down a bit more. This is especially useful since many of the windows, sandbags, and other cover are just the right height to use as full cover when unsighted, and to rest the weapon on when sighted.
Weapon resting is another welcome new feature, allowing you to rest your weapon on any world object to steady your aim. The best part, it's fully automatic too! All you need to do is set your weapon so it looks like it's on top of the object from your view, a second later, your aim is steady and very accurate.
Machinegun deployment has never been easier, you need only find a suitable surface to deploy on, then toggle the sights. No more getting stuck either. If the player moves, you automatically break out of deployment and you can run away.
The HUD is very simple and minimalistic, granting you a compass, "paper doll" soldier to show where you've been hit (though many hits are instant kills), stamina meter, and number of clips remaining. No minimap, player name popups, or the like that you'd be hard-pressed to relate to any sort of real world counterpart.
Vehicles are also in, and you BF2 junkies might think they're slow and unwieldiy, hate to break it to you, but that's about how fast they really moved, and how fast their turrets really tracked. They also have their armor modeled after the real thing. Angles of incoming fire are calculated to find out what, if any, internal/critical areas it would damage (tracks, engine, ammo), etc. Depending on the angle and armor, your shots may just bounce harmlessly off the vehicle, so using some smart maneuvering is quite important. There's no hitpoint system, so shooting a pistol at a tank will do exactly what it should do. Still - I can't help but feel the vehicles are a bit unpolished. Namely, the ability for passengers to immediately get in/get out, without any delay. Which has killed more than one potential tank ambusher I'm sure. However, these are about the most realistic true-to-life vehicles you'll find anywhere, so it's only a minor gripe.
There's tons of other features I could ramble on about, but I felt these were the most distinguishing and notable differences from other shooters, so I'll stop before I make this too long.
- Graphics -
The graphics are either good, or terrible, depending on how picky you are. It doesn't have million-polygon models, or normal maps on every single surface, but the artists have done a fine job with what they have, and the end result is, in my humble opinion, the second most realistic looking game to Half-Life 2.
Pixel shaders are used for the fanstastic blurring effects when bullets whiz by your head or a grenade/artillery explodes nearby. This is an excellent solution to the problem of suppressive fire - how to make the player feel in danger and somewhat hinder him, without forcing inaccuracy and such. You will have a tough time aiming when there's artillery exploding everywhere, or you're under a hail of machine gun fire, but if you know what you're doing, your shots will be just as accurate as always.
3-D iron sights and scopes are a staple of Ostfront as well, and I challenge you to find better.
A "light bloom" effect is also in, but currently has some issues which will be patched later, until then, not a great loss.
The only reason I give this a 7 in the graphics department is that it's just not up to the level of Quake 4, Source, UE3, etc., which seem to be more and more generally accepted as the "current-gen." I, personally, have no complaints at all though.
The advantage of UE2.5, still, is that it's very scaleable. Unlike some of the new source engine games, people with PCs a few generations old can still enjoy Red Orchestra to it's fullest.
- Sound -
Ahh, sound! An area where the game truly excels! Every weapon sound in the game was recorded from the weapon itself, or the closest one they could get (MG3 for MG42, for example, which are pretty much the same). Tank cannons are loud and massive, whizzes and snaps of bullets flying by, the whistle of incoming artillery shells, all fantastic, and up to par with the best games around. Distant sounds of weapons also exist, and as you get further from a weapon it...sounds different...because it's further away. I have a hard time explaining it, but it's very well done, very convincing.
Ambient sounds are used to great effect as well, with the thumps of distant cannon and the report of machine guns, it sounds just as a war zone should.
- Value -
While the true value and life of RO: Ostfront has yet to be seen, the developers are already working on new content, patches, maps, you name it. The game also has a strong community of modders from the days of old, and you can be sure that conversions and remakes of some of the community's classic maps and mutators will not be far behind.
A number of leagues are already in place for Red Orchestra, and many of them are coming over to Ostfront, including Battle for Europe, and Team Warfare. So if you're longing for some organized gaming action, you'll find it here quite easily.
Also, before I forget, the game is only $25 ($29 for boxed version), quite a steal for a game of this caliber.
- Reviewer's Tilt -
While there may be some minor (and I do emphasize minor!) issues, and the graphics may be a tad dated, the presentation and assembly of the package is top notch. All the elements work together for the most immersive, realistic, atmospheric, and fun shooter I've played in a long time. It breaks the online FPS mold again for the first time in a long while, and succeeds magnificently.
- Final Thoughts -
A truly excellent game on every level, but it may not be for everyone. If you aren't quite sure about it, wait for the demo. I've seen many players come from their arcade-style Battlefield 2 and Counter-Strike homes, and not care for Red Orchestra's style of play at all. But, if you long for realistic, intense combat - buy Red Orchestra, you won't be disappointed.