Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad • Page 2

Stalin for time.

So why Stalingrad? Why take a game that took in the entire scope of the Eastern Front all the way up to Berlin, and reduce it to the battle for a single city? I found that Tripwire level design Ingmar Spit had the answer, though it came spiralling out of the strange statement that it wasn't the game itself that got him interested in Red Orchestra.

"I think for a lot of the guys at Tripwire, curiosity is what makes us move... we really like the game's mechanics, but what drew a lot of us to the game was the fact that it was the Eastern Front, which we don't know as much about. It was only working on the mod that I came to the realisation of [what happened] in Stalingrad.

"The Germans weren't only pushed back, they were forced to move so much of their resources to that area, and it was a slap in the face motivation-wise. They were the big country that could conquer all and it turned out that these "non-humans", so to speak, slapped their asses... It's the clash of the century. And as developers, we found that it had everything we could look for.

"Open terrain, factory environments, the hot summer of 1942, the most extreme winter in decades in 1943 - and so many battles to pick."

And he means that literally. Where other level designers might start their design work with some idea of the shape or flow of their battlefield, Ingmar first researches a real-life battle.

"At first with Red Orchestra we'd build levels with a gameplay plan, and the distances between things were relatively small - the first levels I made were kinda gamey - but as my interest in research grew, I wanted to design levels around the actual battles. You start to read, look at pictures, to see if you saw the potential. Slowly we moved to 1:1 scale levels. The first level I did that way was Koenigsplatz. I actually went to Berlin and took about 2,500 pictures of the Reichstag. And do you know, it was only after I'd designed that first level where a metre on the map is a metre in real life, where I started to really notice the difference in our weaponry, and began craving the rifle instead of an SMG."

As with everything else, for Red Orchestra 2 Tripwire are pushing this emphasis on research even harder. Never mind recreating flawless tank interiors - recently, some of the developers became the first Westerners to get inside a long abandoned grain elevator that acted as the strangest of fortresses during the battle of Stalingrad.

"It's just a bunch of big silos," enthused Ingmar. "You put grain in, and you take grain out, and there's a conveyor belt. So the Germans first ignored it, but when the Russians found out about that they went and sat in there for a couple of days. Germans threw everything they had at that building, but the concrete is a foot thick, because Russians like to build things sturdily. It's like a castle, but it's just a grain silo."

Which sounds a bit like Red Orchestra itself. It's just a ruggedly handsome FPS with great audio. But at the same time it's the ruggedly handsome FPS. A shooting game where every bullet and bayonet is a dreadful construct to be feared, where every corner is treacherous and every noise demands your attention.

The battle for Stalingrad is less than two months away now. I'm as excited as I am nervous, and you should be too.

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Quintin Smith

Quintin Smith

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Quinns has been writing about games for a decade. If you see him online, please be gentle. He'll be using a shotgun no matter the circumstances and will not be very good.

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