Title: Rising Storm 2: Vietnam
Developer: Tripwire Interactive, Antimatter Games
Release: 30 May 2017
Time Played: 30 Hours
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Concept and Execution
What do you get when you combine napalm strikes, fully automatic weapons, simplicity, artillery barrages, and a whole bundle of tense moments? You get Rising Storm 2: Vietnam. This game is the sequel to Red Orchestra 2: Stalingrad/Rising Storm, which were Tripwire’s second and third respective ventures into highly realistic first person shooters. Rising Storm specifically focused on the US versus Japan front of war in World War 2. This game takes a look at an all-too-familiar war about twenty five years later.
Rising Storm 2: Vietnam has no single player campaign which, will be explained shortly. The game is completely multiplayer, and consists of two main game modes: Supremacy and Territories. Territories was in the last two installments and required one team to attack pairs of objectives to advance while another would fend them off. In Supremacy, you play a conquest style game where you score points based on how many successive objectives you control outside your “home” objective. However, if the successive chain of objectives is broken, you cannot score.
If this game had a multiplayer campaign mode like Red Orchestra 2 or Rising Storm did, it would make the game feel more complete. In the previous two titles, the multiplayer campaign focused on a regional map with many adjoining territories with control split between the Soviets and Germans. Each team would take respective turns in attacking or defending a given territory. The overall objective was to capture all the territories, but that was doubtful given the length of matches. Each territory on the map had two or three various maps to attack or defend on. This game could easily achieve that in time, and we can only hope for it to appear in a later patch or DLC.
The Red Orchestra/Rising Storm series has been known for mechanics that mimic reality as close as possible such as suppression, bullet velocity, bullet drop, blind firing (where you peek only your gun over cover), and so much more. One thing that really came through in this game is the asymmetric gameplay across all the maps and modes. You may ask yourself ‘What is asymmetric gameplay’? Simply put, it’s where neither team has exactly the same utility. For example, in franchises such as Battlefield, Call of Duty, Titanfall, etc. each team (and player) has equal access to a specific role, class, weapon, or power up which can lead to an entire squad of people with anti-tank rockets, or a Russian combatant using an American-issued gun while their napalm strike hits the enemies. In Rising Storm 2 each team has a different set of armaments to choose from. Moreover, each team can have a specific number of certain players while a “basic” class can have as many players in it as they want.
Rising Storm 2’s game modes provide a lot of entertainment. Granted, it takes dedication to complete a lengthy match, but you get back what you put in. The simplicity of the game is good because it keeps the focus on a few key points like the teamwork and gameplay rather than a lot of extraneous components.
Concept and Execution Score: 22/25
This isn’t an average FPS with a short learning curve and not much in the way of skill based gameplay. Nor is it one that can be played as a lone wolf. This game takes you from your comfortable seat in your home and pushes you right out the door of the transport Huey helicopter. Or, it pulls you out of the underground tunnel, throws a gun in your hand, and tells you to follow your teammates and slay the enemy. The guns in this game have an incredibly realistic sway to them that most other games like Call of Duty and Battlefield do not, even the simple M1911 and Tokarev TT pistols are not safe from copious amounts of weapon sway. The more you sprint around the more the gun will sway. Compared to previous endurance systems, it is watered down a bit. Nevertheless, it still requires careful management. Along with sprinting messing with your accuracy, there is also a suppression system that the players experience several times per game by either incoming fire from ground troops or fire from above. When you are dodging bullets from enemy troops the worst that happens is your aim is penalized a little, your gun jerks suddenly when a shot passes by, and your vision gets a little blurry. But this all changes when artillery comes in. When artillery is called down, you know. Not only is it loud, you will also get incredible screen shake and weapon sway like nothing else in the game can provide. If the artillery is called down directly on top of you there’s nothing to worry about because you will be blown to kingdom come in no time flat. If the artillery is called down a good distance away from you, you will hear the shells flying through the air and impacting with a deep thud that echoes through the landscape.
Guns in this game are realistic in their handling and in the way they damage other characters. A single head shot from any bullet will be an instant kill, and by that, I mean you won’t get a gentile fade to black screen like you would if you were shot in the chest. Your screen cuts to darkness sharply upon the moment of impact. If you are wounded in a way that isn’t immediately fatal you will begin to bleed, which you will need to stop and patch up with one of two bandages you spawn with. Bandaging is a process that requires sitting still for at least ten seconds. During this time, a progress meter can be seen displaying how close to fully bandaged you are and conversely your screen will begin to fade to black depending on how much you have bled out. On the rare chance you are not instantly killed or begin to bleed, you will just be slowed once wounded, and therefore become an easier target to your enemy. I like this over what was in place in the previous installment of the series where even a wound to the forearm could cause you to bleed out. Granted, these were easier to bandage it was still annoying you would have to completely remove yourself from combat to patch a relatively small wound on your arm. While this bleeding mechanic is in place, it can still seem like it takes a solid three or four shots to take someone down. The bullets to kill have slightly risen in this game over Rising Storm, though that is reasonable because everyone in this era of combat has automatic weapons as opposed to 1944 where they were less frequent. Believe me, just because guns can kill in one shot does not mean you are going to have an easy time hitting what you’re aiming at and holding down the trigger, especially if moving. I have to say they did an excellent job of balancing the fire rate, damage, and handling of all the guns to make it fun and challenging to use a weapon successfully on the battlefield. You certainly cannot pick up a fallen player’s weapon, go on a ten kill streak, and rake in the benefits.
Now, dismemberment isn’t too common in games anymore (probably because a lot of young kids are playing M rated games). The last, and I think only, Call of Duty game to feature this was World At War almost a decade ago in which about the most gruesome thing you could do was blow off two or three limbs with a well placed grenade. In Vietnam, it is a little bit easier. A simple grenade can do some work on an enemy, but things like an M79 grenade launcher will tear limbs friend and foe alike to bits. Oh, but let us not forget a claymore mine which can sever all limbs from someone’s body in one blast leaving them a bloodied torso on a pool of blood. I like how Tripwire didn’t tone down the grit or brutality with the gore. It really puts you on the frontlines of the battle and reinforces the realism in the game.
The NVA get access to an RPG-7 rocket launcher which is used for attacking US helicopters or for clearing out parts of a building, but in the rare case you impact someone with it…be prepared for a shower of extremities. In the first game I played I was a US soldier crouching through some trenches and peeked my head over to see what was going on. About twenty meters in front of me I watched an ally walk towards a blown out building when all of a sudden my ally became a cloud of visceral body parts. I remember quite clearly exclaiming in the team voice chat “Holy s***, you just got blown to f****** pieces!”
Each team as part of the asymmetric gameplay has varying classes that all have different weapons and functionality. For instance, the Rifleman/Grunt classes for each team fill the role of a general purpose soldier. Neither base class gets access to flashy gadgets or special grenades; it’s a no-frills way to play. However when you get into the classes that serve specific roles you get into the variation. Furthermore, neither faction has exactly the same class or same weapons between all them. All classes are unique and cannot all be played in the same way or serve the same purpose. For instance, you wouldn’t send in a generic rifleman to lay down continuous suppressing fire while your teammates move around a ridge line, nor would you send a marksman in to lead a charge to an objective. This means players need to learn what each class can do, what it’s limitations are, and how it plays into the team. Especially if you are a squad leader; squad leaders take the role of any of the team’s classes but get a pair of binoculars and either a signal smoke for the US to easily mark a close by area for support, or a pick for the Vietcong squad leader to set up a mobile spawn point for his squad mates. Not only should squad leaders keep excellent communication lines with their squad, but they should also keep tabs on what the commander wants them and their squad to do, be it update support coordinates or move a certain way to an objective or location.
Along a similar vein, only one player per team has the availability to make use of the special abilities (radio calls) that team has to offer. In Rising Storm 2 only a commander with access to either a stationary radio or radioman can make a call for support, not like in Call of Duty where any player who gets seven kills in a row can call in a napalm strike or artillery barrage. This perfectly fits the premise Tripwire was aiming for in this game: authenticity.
Mechanics Score: 23/25
Rising Storm 2: Vietnam envelopes you in the world from the first footsteps on the battlefield until after you turn off the game and take a break. The weapons don’t sound like popguns, no. Here they sound loud, heavy, and real. Everything from a simple pistol to a helicopter minigun will make its presence known when fired. Every weapon has a unique sound to it, so even in the chaos of a firefight or haze of a smoke grenade you can identify who and what is shooting around you. By default, the game is incredibly loud, which is different from many FPS games that have their sounds toned down. Not turning down the game volume will drown out your teammates when they try to talk, especially when artillery barrages are coming down or several people in your vicinity are laying down fire.
Every time you fire your gun, every footstep you take through the rice paddies, every rotation of the Huey’s rotor as you land in a clearing to sneak behind enemy lines you will feel fully enveloped in the battle as if you were there. Not only do the shooting animations have a realistic quality to them but the reloading does too. There are no zippy animations or bonuses to be had from having an ability which is amazing for this game’s atmosphere as it adds a very obvious layer of waiting while you are so vulnerable. Will that enemy around the corner realize I am reloading and make his move? Will I be able to reload and stop the offensive from overtaking our position? Can I reload and finish off these enemies who are unaware of my sneaky position behind their lines? That all depends if you can reload in time. Also unlike Call of Duty, you don’t have unlimited magazines and a finite amount of ammo, rather you have both a defined number of magazines and ammunition. For instance, with the United States’ M16A1 you have by default eight twenty-round magazines. If you were to fire half of the magazine and reload you would now have seven magazines with all twenty rounds and a single magazine with ten. When reloading, it does tell you the capacity of the magazine you just put in which you can cycle through some more by “reloading” again. This adds a layer of strategy to the game that not many people consciously consider. When reloading, the player must be conscious of their environment and whether or not keeping a half empty magazine is worth it versus waiting to fire off the last few rounds in their magazine. Much like Killing Floor 2, also by Tripwire, when a gun fires and ejects the shells you can see them skipping across the ground and hanging out before disappearing just like your teammates when you under perform. This too signifies an attention to unnecessary detail that the developers put in that they thought would enhance the game, and it does. It’s especially satisfying when you fire all the rounds in your magazine at once and listen afterwards as the spent brass skips around on the floor.
The fog of battle gets hectic when you play certain modes and are attacking certain objectives. During a game of Territories, we were attacking the last objective and as we pushed up to the final building we began throwing smokes to cover our advance. Not too long afterward, the enemy players began firing the smoke in an attempt to take out some of us as we ran through the corridors. We set up a defensive line and began blind firing back through the smoke. If you were caught in the smoke you could hardly tell who was who and where each side were. It was insanity. It was anxiety inducing.
It was fun.
It was something I hadn’t felt in a team based FPS in a long time. Nearly every day I have played at least one game has had a point where it comes down to the wire, or there is just the constant barking and thumping of gunfire as one team tries to push harder than the other to overcome the adversity.
One game I played was another game of Territories on the same map but with the first set of objectives. We were defending the second objective on the first set and we were holed up in the building of the objective and for at least five straight minutes there was hardly a break in the firefight. It was astonishing…amazing…frightening…and oddly satisfying to watch people fight so hard over virtual ground as to not budge from their positions for five whole minutes. That people will exhaust their non-existent ammunition supplies and not move a single foot in the game but accomplish so much while doing so.
The visuals in this game, such as the artillery effects, particle effects from gunshots, and dust from bullet impacts are something people take for granted but are given attention here. Not only does artillery produce an unmistakable noise, but it also has an astonishing display of firework-like visuals that helps make its presence known. While the gun effects and the like are something to be enjoyed, landscape can be taken in too. All of the foliage on the ground looks as if it were actual plants in the ground; the trees too look like actual trees. While those parts look great the ground is something that leaves a bit to be desired, though this can be said about a lot of games with grass and ground plants.
The voice acting in this game is nothing noteworthy. The automatic chatter between the Vietnamese soldiers does sound authentic, as do the American voices. However, the Vietnamese announcer speaking English sounds like someone doing a mediocre impression of someone from that region. I think they could have let all Vietnamese voices be in their native languages like the Japanese were in Rising Storm and used visual aides to exhibit what was being said.
Atmosphere Score: 22/25
This game is not for the faint of heart. Death is as much a part of this game as it is Dark Souls (meaning you will die a lot). If you play like a lone wolf running out and trying to be Rambo or play this like another FPS, you will not have a fun time nor will you survive long. Teamwork is a core element of this game and is necessary to be enjoyable for both you and your teammates, and to also prevent them from yelling piles of obscenities at you for not calling out enemies. If a squad can communicate well and work together to accomplish a goal then you will have an enjoyable experience. Another thing you will do a lot of is walking, especially on the Supremacy maps, so keeping yourself alive and have a responsible squad leader is a good idea. If you like a hardcore shooter and don’t mind being frustrated at the almost innumerable times you will inevitably be shot from who knows where or by you know where but couldn’t shoot accurately, you will like it.
This is a game where a match set to go a half hour on each side will take that long unless a side has complete domination over the battlefield. This causes Lockdown where the match timer goes down to 3:00 if a team has not captured an objective in a long time. This prevents excessive spawn killing or a prolonged battle with no hope for one team. This the game has a tendency to go very well or very poorly for a team based on the players, however this is more of an issue with the individual (hate the player, not the game!), but it is still something that can detract from the gaming experience itself.
One thing I would like to see is more maps beyond the seven that shipped with the game or a campaign mode like in Red Orchestra 2/Rising Storm where teams would battle over several territories on a large map with two or three maps per territory. That would be a campaign mode I would gladly welcome into this game. With that in mind I will say that I cannot play more than three or four hours in a row because of how involved this game is, especially if my team isn’t being cohesive.
Overall, I would say this is a well put-together game that isn’t for people who like a walk-in-the-park style experience that holds your hand the whole way. With friends, this game gets even more fun as you will all work together to surmount the challenges of the game, and then laugh later as an inevitably funny or amazing experience happens. The game is full of opportunity for an enjoyable time, memorable experiences, tension, and action. The experience of this game is much different than other Triple-A Titles in the way it handles its game play and executes it so well. This game seems to be in line to be a worthy successor to its predecessors, and an excellent venture into a new era of warfare for the realistic franchise.
Entertainment Value Score: 20/25
Total Score: 87/100