Reviewed on PC, copy supplied by publisher.
Helicopters touch down hard in a rice paddy, rocking the G.Is inside. As they rush out into the open landing zone the jungle around them erupts with gunfire. Body parts explode in clouds of crimson and dying moans fill the air. Pinned down in a bunker and awaiting reinforcements the commander desperately radios for Napalm in the tree line so his men can keep the hill. As the tides turn, screams of Vietcong fleeing the hell-fire mixes with smoke to create a consuming wall of noise and flame.
Welcome to Rising Storm 2: Vietnam, a game you play for enjoyment. Taking realism to anxiety inducing levels, this tactical online shooter isn’t for the faint of heart. The game itself may be rough around the edges, but the core experience is so well executed it’s a must play for hardcore FPS fans.
As adaptations of the Vietnam War go, Rising Storm 2 very much captures the bleakness and brutality of a technologically advanced army combating determined guerrilla fighters. Not taking a political viewpoint and focusing on the combat, it’s easy to sympathise with each side as you guide your avatars through living hell.
As a multiplayer only game, each side is balanced, but distinctively different to play as or against. Playing as the US you’ll have the advantage of helicopters, a vast range of weaponry and napalm strikes, but you’ll be butting heads with an army that has a dominating knowledge of the terrain and ability to spawn closer to objectives, stretching your advanced firepower out to breaking point. The North Vietnamese are able to put pressure on points via squad tunnels, whilst the US rely on helicopters for mobility, giving the Vietcong a strong advantage in numbers, but the sheer ferocity of napalm and air strikes make for some tense moments.
Successfully playing the game will come down to communication and some tactical reserve, if you try and play this like other large FPS game where you can run in solo, you’ll have a terrible time. You need to be prepared to move slowly through dense terrain, keep your head down, listen to your commander, and work with your squad. One bullet can end you, and it will do so, a lot.
When caught in a bombardment or under fire, the screen goes grey and disorientated, the first time I was stuck in such a position I had no idea what to do. The sound of shells exploding around you and distant screams is overwhelming, and the futility of surviving such moments to only be picked off by a sniper seconds later shows how bleak war can be. The fact that kill cams aren’t a thing leave you wondering how you died more often than not, but add to the overwhelming experience on offer.
The learning curve is pretty tough for those unfamiliar with hardcore shooters. You can’t go blasting your way to victory, friendly fire is at play, so identifying targets is key. Even when you have sighted an enemy, popping up for a shot puts you at severe risk, so you need to ensure you have a clean shot. There’s nothing worse than hitting a tree as your enemy disappears, only to be picked off as your shot revealed your squad’s position.
Each weapon and class has a unique loadout with multiple weapons available. As I said previously, the US have some more options to choose from, but when one bullet can kill, the guns in use aren’t so important. The UI is minimal, leaving bullet count and ammo reserves up to you to manage, which makes storming points chaotic at times. Of course ammo can be replenished at caches and if squad mates chuck you a magazine, but that doesn’t always pan out.
If this sounds like a difficult game to navigate, it shouldn’t be if you have a team that communicates well. The beauty of Rising Storm 2 is the feeling of military rank as one player takes control of the commander, who is responsible for leading your team to victory, designating landing zones or spawn points, and calling in tactical strikes. A strong commander with equally strong squad leaders can make a well oiled side nearly impossible to beat.
For instance in one of the better rounds I played, we had a commander calling out to each squad and providing clear instructions, designating which units should be holding points, which should be sweeping the jungle for enemy tunnels, and which should be putting pressure on the front line. Although we all still died our fair share, the designated roles helped us to rally and gain a sense of purpose, which overwhelmed our poorly organised opposition.
With up to 64 players in a server, things get tough. Fortunately the number of classes are locked per side, stopping everyone going sniper or from wielding an RPG. Although this can be frustrating if you’re itching to get your hands on a scoped weapon, the benefit is that it forces you into roles you might not be initially comfortable with, but helps you learn the ropes of the game.
Learning these ropes is very much a baptism by fire routine, with the tutorial being relatively unhelpful and only good for showing the artillery off. There are videos to show you how to play certain roles, but in my experience I preferred to just jump in and discover things for myself. Fortunately for me I found the community really great at initiating new players, I just recommend wearing a mic and joining the chatter.
As with most point control games, the maps are varied and each come with distinct advantages and disadvantages. In city maps I found holding chokes to be a massive advantage with automatic weapons being key, but in maps with open spaces, single fire rifles come into their own with range.
Customisation is an incentive to keep playing, with cosmetic items and weapon/ammo variants unlocking as you progress. From what I experienced so far none of this provides a win advantage, but it’s good to have the options readily available. For example different model AKs will have different sights, but function more or less the same.
Technically speaking, Rising Storm 2 looks outdated and has some rough draw times, with patches of grass randomly appearing on occasion. But the overall gameplay, terrifying audio effects and realistic experience make that all forgivable, even more so when you consider the low retail price of the game, at just US$24.99 ( Currently AU$32) on Steam.
Rising Storm 2 is a great title for those craving realistic FPS, and definitely one for fans of Red Orchestra. Although it can be frustrating at times, it’s really satisfying to play once you have your bearings, and makes for some tense moments that are unlike any other game I’ve played in the genre.