Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 review

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Red Orchestra actually started life as a community developed mod for Unreal Tournament and was so good it scooped the $1,000,000 prize money Nvidia put up in its “Make Something Unreal” competition. Not surprisingly, it’s made the transition to standalone game pretty sharpish. Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 is an online-only first-person shooter that has you slugging it out on the killing fields of Eastern Europe during WWII at the time when the German’s Nazi Eagle was locked in death’s embrace with the Soviet Bear.

Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 review

Fundamentally, the game is unchanged from its mod days: kill as many of the enemy as possible and survive. The object is to capture a number of strategic map locations and hold them for a designated period, either until the game timer runs out or one side holds all the victory positions.

Red Orchestra isn’t the first WWII massively multiplayer game to do this, but being set on the Eastern Front you get to play across settings ranging from the vast Russian steppes through to urban street combat, Stalingrad style.

Like Battlefield 1942, the game doesn’t restrict you only to infantry combat. Most maps have a number of vehicles you can drive (providing you’ve picked the right player class). There are 14 models at your disposal, from the heavy-duty early war Russian KV-1 tank through to the German Panther.

The aspect of the game that sets it apart, though, is realism. We don’t just mean the vehicles or the historically accurate range of infantry weapons to choose from. We mean the mechanics of fighting, since unlike practically every other first-person shooter out there Red Orchestra doesn’t have crosshairs.

You have two choices: fire from the hip (also known as spray and pray) or aim down the barrel using the iron sights. Of course, movement is restricted in this stance, so you’ll find yourself sprinting with your gun in one hand, then crouching behind a wall and aiming down the sights once you’re in position. And if Hollywood’s taught us anything, it’s that soldiers in WWII did exactly that (usually followed by looking at photos of their sweetheart back home).

But the game isn’t flawless. Since the developers built the game using Epic’s Unreal 2.5 engine, it doesn’t have the bells and whistles found in other games (just compare the screenshots with Prey on the opposite page). If this were a standalone game, we’d be disappointed, but for online games the goalposts shift, mainly because we’d rather have a higher frame rate than overdose on the cutting-edge eye candy.

Another factor to consider before you dash down to the shop to pick up your copy is difficulty: this isn’t a game for the newcomer. While a veteran FPS player should get up to speed after a few games, the calibre of online opponents is very high and, coupled with the whole “take no prisoners” style of gameplay, a novice is going to find being constantly killed a major turn-off.

But these are two small flies in an otherwise splendid souffle of 20th-century violence. From storming burning apartments in Stalingrad through to driving the lead tank as your armoured column charges into the Russian lines, it’s a game that will have WWII aficionados drooling in their seats and FPS junkies champing at the bit. There aren’t many games that manage to combine gritty realism with bone-crunching gameplay, but Red Orchestra does both in a cacophony of violence: superb!

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