Red Orchestra: Combined Arms

Another strong quality that this mod enjoys is the atmospheric and weapon sounds. As you make your way to your checkpoint you'll hear distant sounds of war such as the familiar machine gun "tat tat tat tat tat tat". Listen up for the whistling sounds of incoming artillery because the next sound you hear may be your last. Rifles, pistols, and machine guns have an authentic and authoritative report.

Weapons firing, reloading, and maintenance is fully animated as you would expect, and it's done with flair - another strong suit for Red Orchestra. Not being a weapons expert I have no idea how authentic they are, but I do know that that they look great. Whether you're replacing the ammo drum on your Degtyarev DP-28, preparing your Stielhandgranate 39's to toss into a sniper's nest, or just swapping out an overheated machine gun barrel, you'll be able to follow what's happening by watching the animations onscreen.

Just checking Time for more bullets

Caution: realism alert! Since Red Orchestra leans toward realism, there are a few things you need to know if you're an action junkie. Most importantly, there are no crosshairs. Why? Well, if you've ever shot a real gun, you'll likely have noticed that no crosshairs "automagically" show up in front of your eyes. It's all about Iron Sights - the actual sights attached to the tip of the gun barrel. When you're ready to shoot, you'd be smart to press the appropriate button bringing the gun up to your line of sight to allow you to aim; otherwise you're shooting "from the hip" which is not exactly accurate at medium to long range.

Iron Sights Semi-mobile destruction Where do the other 2 rockets go?

It's important to note too, that weapon trajectory is accurately modeled - meaning that the path of a bullet naturally descends at a particular distance, thanks to that little thing called gravity. You'll need to take that into account when selecting your shot. Keep in mind that certain weapons are more accurate at distance. Naturally, a shot fired while crouching will be more accurate than a standing shot and a prone shot will be most accurate of all. Beware that there is no ammo counter either - you either count or wait for the "click"; you decide.

Action fans need not be intimidated as an advance degree in trigonometry or a course in War College 101 isn't needed to operate these weapons any more than would be a real live weapon. All of this is communicated to you in the form of visual and audio clues and "feel". Run or jump about the map like a madman and you'll hear that you are breathing harder and you will notice that your weapon bobs about more when you take aim. Shoot your weapon often enough and you'll begin to get a feel for what kind of shot you can make and at what distance.

You can't afford to be too reckless because you won't find any health packs lying about (realism, remember?) so be careful. Dying doesn't last until the end of the round but there is a reinforcement timer, much like Assault but just a bit longer, so there is definitely a consequence for making a mistake.

One of the newest additions to Red Orchestra is vehicles. Wisely, the team chose to create maps specifically for vehicle scenarios rather than stuffing them in existing maps. Four different tanks and two transport vehicles are at your disposal. If you've chosen a role that can commandeer a tank, you can choose between three positions: driver, commander/gunner, and machine gunner. The driver and commander/gunner both have multiple views available and are easily switched by using the mousewheel. If you're short a person or two in your tank, don't worry, you can easily change between seats at the press of a button. The transport vehicles hold quite a few passengers and the German half-track even features a top-mounted MG34. All of these vehicles, thankfully, are simple to drive using your directional keys.

Don't think you're going to be invincible in your vehicle - there are definitely weak points for each. Tanks have thicker armor on the front and an open hatch or view ports are always susceptible to attack. The transport vehicles, particularly the Russian truck, are extremely vulnerable... so you won't be using them as a fighting platform.

Cozy-looking tank Where's the cupholder? Just need a little air Franz! Someone crack a window! BOOM Come and get it, boys! A room with a view I love this thing!

I'll be the first to admit... I like my action fast and furious. I'm not much for creeping around in stealth games and I'm not a realism junkie. The closest thing even remotely related to a "war" themed first person shooter to which I've devoted any time is Wolfenstein. But I've got to give credit where credit is due: Red Orchestra is one amazing modification. Not only is the quality of the craftsmanship exemplary, but the gameplay is solid. Red Orchestra does a great job of making the realistic war-themed game accessible to the casual player without alienating those who appreciate a certain level of authenticity. The objectives are clear and the controls are friendly. While there is still room for improvement, Red Orchestra is a polished modification with sound production values. It's easy to see why it remains one of the most popular total conversions for Unreal Tournament 2004.

Again, I urge you to try this mod out - even if it sounds remotely interesting to you. It's amazing what the UT2004 development tools placed in the right hands can do.