Rising Storm – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: Nails the difficult task of giving players a balanced game in an asymmetrical fight among combat troops in the Pacific Theater. Beautifully rendered battlefield maps from thick jungle combat to close-quarters combat in buildings.
Failed Inspection: There are only 6 maps, which leaves players wanting only more! Thankfully, the developers have said new content is on the way.
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This summer, Tripwire Interactive’s Rising Storm picks up where the Red Orchestra series left off last year with Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45. The new release covers the brutal and desperate fighting in the Pacific Theater of World War II. This is a nice change-up from the European fighting we’ve seen lately from first person shooters, and it tackles the sometimes difficult task of creating a balanced game between American and Japanese forces. The stand-alone expansion is available on Steam and is a fully modified game of the Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad first person shooter, taking gamers to the beaches and jungles of the Pacific as well as revisiting the Red Orchestra 2 predecessor. The game was released as a beta in May 8, 2013 and was officially released May 30th.
The Battlefields in Rising Storm
Players can take on roles within the United States Marine Corps, the United States Army, the Imperial Japanese Army and the Japanese Special Naval Landing Force. Each of these fighting groups will face a unique set of challenges on each of the six maps: Kwajalein, Iwo Jima, Saipan, Hanto, Peleliu, and Guadalcanal. Iwo Jima is one of the most infamous land battles of the Pacific War, and Rising Storm pulls no punches when it comes to this hellish and brutal fight. The American Marines start off on the beaches with only a beach ridge and barely any brush to conceal their position. Those who progress inland will find better cover and concealment, but the Japanese players will have a field day as their snipers and machine gunners wreak havoc on the Marines’ attempts to advance. Guadalcanal pits the Americans against a nighttime raid as the Japanese fight to overcome Marine defenses around the highly prized airfield, and Saipan is a gruesome fight of close-quarters combat in a factory, with small to large buildings and downstairs-to-upstairs combat.
Visually, the game is immersive as players walk through the thick foliage of the jungle. At times it can become disorienting for a player who suddenly runs into the jungle only to find a hail of bullets zipping by. Be forewarned, players have to learn the little nuances of the maps to know where their figures cannot go prone, which may not always be obvious. “Going prone” can be limited by rocks, trees, rubble, structures, etc. This certainly doesn’t break the game, but players should be aware of some limitations when playing.
American and Japanese Weapons
Weaponry of the combatants in the Pacific Theater was very asymmetrical. The Americans are given weapons such as the M1 Garand semi-automatic, the Thompson submachinegun (for squad and platoon leaders), the Browning Automatic Rifle, the M1919 machinegun, the flamethrower, and the Springfield sniper rifle. The Japanese are armed with the Arisaka Type 38 and Type 99 rifles (scopes for the snipers), the Nambu Type 100 submachine gun, the Type 99 and 96 light machineguns, and the Type 89 grenade discharger, also known as the knee mortar. While a Japanese rifleman is outmatched by the American semiautomatic M1 Garand’s rate of fire, Rising Storm tries to balance this difference by giving the Japanese two on-the-field tricks.
One nasty little trick the Japanese can use against the Americans is the Type 97 grenade, which can be buried in the ground as a small mine. This works great for covering entrances and narrow pathways on the battlefield. The other is the knee mortar, which acts as a very short range artillery piece. This alone can clear out a heavily concentrated group of Marines hiding in the brush or in the ruins of a building. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the enemy rush out of a building or fly out from the explosions from this handy little knee mortar. Much of the time I discover I’m actually sending mortar shells at my own guys, though—the terrain diminishes line of sight and the fog of war means a player might not know there are friendlies in the targeted area; also, accuracy diminishes as range increases.
Finally, one of the biggest advantages the Japanese side has over the Americans is the Banzai charge. If coordinated and done right, the Banzai charge has the Japanese troops initiate a screaming attack that causes the Americans to become suppressed and ineffective in defending or attacking.
Just like the Red Orchestra 2 predecessor, Rising Storm allows for online play (up to 64 players to a server) where players assume the roles of riflemen or provide support as snipers and machine gunners; there are also a fixed number of squad leaders and commanders. This setup, just like RO2, provides for coordinated efforts to attack and defend positions. The Iwo Jima map can give the American squad leaders and commander the satisfaction of calling in a naval artillery bombardment to rain down on stiff Japanese defenses, but it can also give the Japanese players a quick laugh if these shells suddenly rain down on the uncoordinated Americans. In-game voice chat provides for team coordination, which is especially helpful as the offensive and defensive lines shift back and forth. Rising Storm continues to use the RO2 weapons experience for gamers, which unlocks ranks and achievements. Players will also find that suppression fire still plays a crucial role in RO2 combat, particularly from machinegun fire, artillery, and the feared Banzai charge.
This is by far one of the better quick-action, first person shooters of the Pacific Theater. The maps are beautifully detailed to immerse players with the sense of being on the islands and in the jungles of the Pacific, and the cracking and thumping of rifle fire and heavy weapons sound effects gives you the sense that you’re actually in a firefight. Unfortunately, players can quickly go through all 6 maps, on both sides of the fight, and play can become a bit repetitive; however, Steam workshop allows for custom mod support and the developers have said that new map content is on the way.
Overall, Rising Storm is a breath of fresh air; we rarely see the Pacific Theater represented in first person shooters. Its focus on authenticity of weapons and combat dynamics like the Banzai charge immerse the player in this war. Players will find attention to details throughout the battlefields—such as tripping a wire of pots and pans on Guadalcanal—that spice up the atmosphere of combat. This is a great addition to the Red Orchestra 2 series that should satisfy players looking for more variety in World War II gaming experiences.
Armchair General Rating: 88%; would be higher if more maps had been part of the initial release
About the Author
Ed William is completing his Masters in Library and Information Science degree, while currently working in public libraries. This allows him access to databases of historical content while reviewing boardgames, specifically wargames. He took an interest in military history and wargaming as a teenager after discovering that one of his hometown heroes is General George S. Patton. Ed is the author of an article that explains how to convert interactive games in Armchair General magazine to PC scenarios using the Combat Mission series.