Sep 012011
 

Now that September is here, the holiday game rush is upon us.  It’s also back to school season, back to serious work season and before you know it, the actual holidays themselves will be here, all resulting in limited gaming time.  Lots of games plus limited time equals important decisions to be made.   Let’s take a look at three of the more notable multiplayer shooters that will hit the PC over the next month or two and examine what will be worth your time and money.  Each one is a sequel and each has an appeal to a specific market segment.

Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad

The first of our 3 games we’re looking at today will hit the virtual shelves on September 13th.  RO2 is the underdog in this fight, coming from Tripwire Interactive, who got their start as a Make Something Unreal winner with the original Red Orchestra UT2k4 mod.  RO2 is the ambitious follow up to the retail version of RO, now using the latest version of the Unreal 3 engine.  RO’s focus is on realism (relative to other games in this genre) and provides a bit slower paced, more strategic experience than the BF and CoD series of games.  Another noteworthy aspect of RO2, is it is one of the few World War II games still around, after they were totally over-done in the past decade.  That means you won’t have any high-tech gadgets or laser guided nukes to kill your enemies with, which depending on your point of view may or may not be a good thing.

Price:  It will be the least expensive of the 3, with a MSRP of $40. Pre-ordering on Steam will knock off 10% or 20% if you own the original game.  Early beta access (right now) requires the “Digital Deluxe” edition for an extra $10.

DRM: Steamworks.  No matter where you buy this game, it will have to be activated and tied to your Steam account.  No additional layers of DRM should be present.

Summary:  RO2 will be a good choice if you’re tired of a lot of the “arcade-like” elements traditionally found in the CoD games and, to a lesser extent, BF games.  Classes and vehicles play a large role and allow you to play the game in a way that more fits your style, similar to the BF games.  Keep in mind the community for RO2 will be smaller than that of CoD and BF, so you may not have many friends playing this game, at least initially, although word of mouth could be strong.  Generally speaking, the community will be a little bit more mature than the other two games as it’s catering to a smaller, more realism based market.

Battlefield 3

BF3 is far and away the most hyped game of the three, especially on the PC side.  DICE has been touting the PC as the lead development platform and has promised key PC centric features like Direct X11 visuals and robust community and social features through their web interface dubbed “Battlelog.”  BF3 on the PC will allow for up to 64 player battles on huge maps and a few different game modes including conquest, rush and death match.  Since it’s set in a modern warfare setting, you’ll have lots of high-tech gadgets, along with lots of vehicles, including jets to play with.  While the BF series does rely heavily on team play, it does have its share of arcade-like elements and is probably best described as somewhere in between RO and CoD in terms of gameplay speed.  Lastly, BF3 will have a co-op mode that is separate from the single player story, allowing you to team up with a friend to complete missions like rescuing hostages and the like.

Price:  BF3 and CoD both retail at $60.  Pre-ordering gets you the “Strike at Karkand” DLC (basically a retro map pack) which will cost an undetermined amount of money post release.

DRM: BF3 will require you to register and associate the game to an EA Origin account.  Origin will be mandatory no matter where you purchase it from, and the game most certainly will not be on Steam.

Summary:  BF3 will have a large community and will likely be played for years to come (if it follows previous BF games).  Chances are you’ll have friends that will be playing it, and it promises to offer worthwhile single player and co-op game modes.  The upside of a long lasting game is that you could wait a bit, play one of the other games and pick it up deeply discounted at some point next year.  BF3 will be out October 25th.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 aka CoD 8

Admittedly, I’ve followed the progress of MW3 the least out of the 3.  After being an avid player of previous CoD games, the yearly iterations have resulted in a bit of a “CoD fatigue” for me.  Gameplay reports for MW3 seem to follow a similar CoD model with the usual assortment of kill streaks, perks and multiple game modes.  Also, single player will be back, continuing the saga of the previous two MW games.  Of course, your enjoyment of that mode will depend on how much time you invested in the earlier games.  Also new this year is the addition of social features for the CoD community, similar to BF3’s Battlelog.  Most parts of that will be free, although certain aspects will require a subscription fee.

Price: CoD MW3 has a MSRP of $60.   Expect regular releases of pay-for map packs post release.  Subscription fees for “premium” social features.

DRM: Steamworks.  Continuing the trend from MW2 and BLOPS, MW3 will use Steamworks, meaning no matter where you buy it, you’ll have to register and activate it through your Steam account.

Summary: CoD MW3 will most likely be the most popular of the 3 across all platforms.  Fast-paced shooting with minimal team-based elements.  MW3 won’t make you a CoD convert, at this point, you know whether you’re a CoD guy/gal or not.  Like BLOPS, it will support dedicated servers, so it’s not as PC-unfriendly as MW2 was, but still MW3’s bread and butter lies on the consoles.  Chances are you’ll have friends playing this game, but don’t expect this game to stay popular for more than a year, since CoD 9 will supplant it around this time next year.  CoD: MW3 will be released November 8th.

Aug 312011
 
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad

Update: To clarify a point that wasn’t clear initially, the RO2 beta is only available to those who have pre-ordered the “Digital Deluxe” edition.  Basically, you need to shell out an additional $10 if you want to play the beta.  While I am a card-carrying member of the Tripwire fanboy club, I am most certainly not a fan of these pre-order shenanigans.   Turns out I will not be checking out the beta over the weekend.

The Red Orchestra 2 multiplayer beta is now live on Steam for those who have pre-ordered the [digital deluxe edition of the] game.  I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, but am hoping to have some time for it over the upcoming long weekend.  A reminder that if you pre-order now you’ll also get 10% off, which bumps to 20% if you owned the first RO.

Check out Red Orchestra 2 on Steam.
Here’s some bonus in game video from a slightly earlier beta build:

More videos can be found here.

Aug 082011
 

Tripwire announced today that Red Orchestra 2 will be pushed back until September 13th, 2 weeks later than their previous release date of August 30th.  While two weeks isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, I can’t help but thinking this only hurts RO2’s potential uptake by multiplayer shooter fans.

Moving RO2’s release date into September means that it will directly come into competition with BF3’s open beta, which will be immensely popular.  After that, you have BF3’s official release in October, and right behind that is the next installment of CoD.  You could argue that people who play RO will have no interest in BF or CoD, but it’s hard to deny there is a lot of crossover there, and people who may have been willing to try a new experience in RO2 during a time when no other titles were competing will instead stick with the name-brands they know during the pre-holiday video game rush.

On the bright side, a large reason why Tripwire is moving the release date back is due to the overwhelming number of pre-orders, which also gives access to a beta of the game, pre-release.  They weren’t quite ready for the volume of beta users, so they need to readjust their preparations for that.  I hope that it works out for RO2 and Tripwire, but it appears that launching in prime release time might not be their best strategy for gaining a critical mass of online players.  Maybe I’ll be wrong.

Read Tripwire’s explanation for the delay, here.

Aug 022011
 

I can admit to being a bit of a Tripwire fanboy.  I constantly refer to the original Red Orchestra as one of the more underrated multiplayer shooters and thoroughly enjoyed Killing Floor with its low budget charm.  Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad promises a bigger and better RO experience that everyone can get in on the ground floor.  RO sets itself apart from other modern or WWII shooters in that a lot of the arcade like elements that players love to abuse especially in games like CoD are not even a consideration in RO.  RO prides itself on a more realistic, balanced approach which may not be for everyone — but if you find your game play experience frustrating in today’s shooters due to “cheap” game features and gimmicks, RO2 might be what you’re looking for.

The good news here is that RO2 is available for pre-order at 10% off, although you can make that 20% if you own the original RO in your Steam library.  Release date is set at August 30th.  I am looking forward to this one. Check it out on Steam, here.