It’s really hard to do a review of Tripwire Interactive’s Rising Storm. Mainly because at any point that I could be writing the review, I could instead be playing the damn game. That being said, Rising Storm is a standalone conversion of Tripwire’s Red Orchestra 2 and puts players in the shoes of soldiers on either side of WWII’s Pacific campaign. The WWIIFPS genre has been left by the wayside in the last few years with Medal of Honor a distant memory and Call of Duty well and truly advanced to the modern age. You couldn’t be blamed for thinking that there was no new ground left to cover in WWII, but this is where you’d be wrong. Tripwire haven’t just succeeded in revisiting the WWII genre, but has revolutionized it with some clever gameplay mechanics and a clearly visible passion for the source material. The result is the most compelling FPS experience in recent memory and something that eclipses all the glitz and glamour of triple-A titles (I’m looking at you, Battlefield 4) with nothing more than a little courage and faith in their playerbase.
Rising Storm bills itself as an asymmetrical team based shooter. The American weaponry totally eclipses the power, accuracy and rate of fire of the Japanese armory. Instead, balance is achieved through clever level design and a ticket based re-spawn system that should be familiar to most FPS players. For the Japanese to achieve victory, communication is key. Luckily a smartly integrated voice chat system allows such cooperation without the aid of Teamspeak or other third party apps. Japanese players are able to bayonet charge en masse with the “banzai” ability which suppresses an enemy’s ability to aim (representing the terror of being charged by a horde of screaming Japanese soldiers) relative to distance and the amount of Japanese players simultaneously activating that ability. The mechanic is genius because it not only helps to close the power gap between the American and Japanese weaponry, but encourages gameplay that mirrors the Japanese swarm tactics of the Pacific campaign. A player may choose to be any number of roles on both of the teams, including commanders, (with the ability to launch varied artillery strikes) squad leaders (who act as mobile spawn-points) and the squad members themselves. A linchpin of the authenticity here is that there are only a certain amount of specialized weapons available. For example an American squad may only have (for example) one team leader, one flamethrower, one machine gunner and two automatic riflemen, with the other squaddies carrying standard infantry rifles. This may immediately seem off putting to some players, but the results are fantastic. Instead of an entire team being composed of snipers, the role system means that players act according to the weapons they’re equipped with and require cooperation with other specialized player classes to achieve their objectives. For example, machine gunners are best suited to cover advancing riflemen and assault troops, flamethrowers aught to advance safely behind infantry to assist clearing out fortifications et cetera.
The game runs beautifully and there are a whole host of system options so you can optimize your performance to your rig. The game itself looks gorgeous, with cratered beacheads, deep jungles and small townships that seem so authentic you need to swat away the mosquitoes. The sound design is also top notch, gun enthusiasts will love the satisfying clanks and bangs of all the weaponry and battlefields feel very much alive with characters yelling for ammo, support or screaming in agony. Tripwire have outdone themselves in creating a vivid brutal hellscape that won’t force you to buy a new PC just to experience it.
There’s honestly a lot to love here with Rising Storm. In an era of shooters obsessed with ‘player choice’ (aka, dicking around with sniper classes) and accessibility (being virtually immune to bullets) the strict hierarchical structure of the classes and brutal realism have created something really special. It forces players to become a small part of something more, rather than a one man army, and in doing so creates real feelings of solidarity and team-mindedness with your fellow soldiers. I was a big fan of Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, and I’m pleased that Rising Storm has only added to the immersive, realistic gameplay that I came to love with that title. There are some moments, like defending against an American assault as a Japanese commander, watching my comrades fall around me, wildly shooting my sidearm while calling in a suicidal artillery strike on the same position, that will stay with me for a long time.
Tripwire should be bloody proud of the job they’ve done here. Rising Storm forces you to think, adapt and cooperate in a way that, while encompassing a steep learning curve, has an absurdly gratifying payoff. Where its FPS contemporaries have aimed for top-shelf-big-dollar accessibility, Rising Storm never makes you feel like it’s talking down to you, something I feel is losing it’s place in an increasingly ‘casual’ gaming market. Oh, and did I mention it’s selling for an insanely modest twenty bucks on steam?
If you like FPS or WWII then you really owe it to yourself to check out Rising Storm. There’s honestly so much to love here and we as gamers need to send a message to developers to think smarter, not necessarily bigger and shinier. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and take this hill. BANZAI!
The short version; Rising Storm gets 4.5 Browning Automatic Rifles out of 5.