Tactical shooters have become something of a lost art in the realm of gaming. It makes sense: outside of Counter-Strike arcade-style shooters sell substantially better. For fans of shooters who enjoy working together with teammates and conquering seemingly insurmountable odds, this is a harsh reality.
Enter Rising Storm 2: Vietnam, a game that foregoes the high pacing and excitement of games like Call of Duty and Overwatch for something that is lifelike and heavily teamwork-oriented.
The question is, does this game represent the genre successfully, or do it a disservice?
In the same spirit of other Tripwire Interactive games, Rising Storm 2: Vietnam is uncompromisingly simulative. Recoil is harsh, and in many cases players toggle on semi-automatic for rifles like the AK-47 to avoid having to handle the seemingly uncontrollable kickback of full-auto. Players have access to manual bolt and pump action, as well as free-aim when aiming down sight.
Despite being a hardcore tactical shooter, the controls are tight and intuitive. Rising Storm 2: Vietnam is an outstanding example of why Unreal Engine is one of the industry's best, presenting everything from shooting feedback to item use in user-friendly fashion.
Though, there's a sharp learning curve here that can and will push out unsuspecting players who aren't fanatical about realistic shooters. Prominent modern FPS design methodologies such as fast-paced movement, laser-sharp aiming, and high engagement volume are tossed away in favor of something that much more closely resembles the reality of war.
Hitting an enemy from 70 yards out is incredibly tough, as an accurate shot requires the calculation of multiple variables, from bullet drop to iron sight imperfection. Helmets actually deflect bullets if hit at an angle, and explosions send shrapnel flying, instead of acting as if equipment like grenades function mechanically similar to dynamite as with most FPS games. And when you're shot but not killed, you will begin to bleed out. Make sure to have a bandage ready at all times.
During the first hour of play I found myself constantly opening up the Settings menu to change things around; this is not a game that plays similar to most games on the market. Gamers who have played titles like Red Orchestra will feel at home, while most others will have to deal with a barrier of entry that is extremely uncommon in the modern era of FPS. I also found myself constantly learning about the intricacies of the mechanics, such as how the direction of fire is altered by lateral movement.
As much as these qualities can be a hassle, especially for those who have been conditioned to modern game simplicity and fast reward cycles, there's a sense of accomplishment here that presents itself as you incorporate learned knowledge into your arsenal. It's admirable, and makes the game feel like something different.
Art of War
Tactical play is the name of the game in Rising Storm 2: Vietnam. At the end of 15 minute~ rounds, it's common for most players to have fewer than five kills. Combat tempo is slow, with most players crouching carefully from cover to cover with teammates at their side. There are many reasons for this, the most important of which is the low time to kill (TTK). All it takes is one or two shots from an ordinary firearm to send you to the grave, so being out in the open is a death sentence.
Due to this, successful teams march together like a band of brothers. Moving in on a hot location with well-executed sweeps backed by clear and concise voice communication is common in Rising Storm 2: Vietnam. As someone who uses military phonetics in FPS games and has a strong understanding of stacking and sweeping, this is a highly attractive and elusive quality. Not even Counter-Strike: Global Offensive comes close to the average social environment in Rising Storm 2: Vietnam.
A variety of classes are available, each of which vary in terms of primary weapon and supporting equipment, similar to other shooters. However, there are also highly specialized roles, including the Radioman, Commander, and Transport Pilot. Players who fill these roles are instrumental to the framework of the team, serving as a backbone of sorts.
The in-game menu provides options for executing votes to demote players in these roles, which is not only a great feature, but also indicative of how important tactics are.
Adding to this, the sense of realism is palpable. I found myself flinching the first few times I was shot in the head, surprised both by the visual and audio presentation. On that note, audio design is a surprisingly strong point of Rising Storm 2: Vietnam, from its gun sound effects to the sound of helicopters flying overhead. Artillery bombardments are perhaps the greatest example of this, producing lifelike explosions that send shockwaves through the map, instilling fear in the hearts of opponents.
In terms of the graphics, the game looks reasonably good on High and Ultra. There are some rough spots, primarily when it comes to lighting, but on the plus side optimization is outstanding. The worst element of the presentation is certainly the user interface, which somehow looks like it belongs in a cheap mobile game.
The Long Haul
Given its budget nature ($24.99), it isn't too surprising to see that there are a diminutive number of options when it comes to ways to play. Really, it comes down to either heading into a brief training scenario, or manually joining a game from a list of servers. There is no matchmaking to speak of.
As disappointing as this may be, on the plus side there are hundreds of dedicated servers—unlike Call of Duty and Destiny 2. The maps are also, generally-speaking, well-crafted. Getting 10 or more hours of playtime out of this shouldn't be uncommon.
There's no doubt about it, this game marches to the beat of its own drum, but it does understand that modern gamers expect progression. There is a leveling system that provides access to an assortment of unlockables that may serve as just enough inspiration to keep players interested in the long-haul. Through time, players can change how their character looks by equipping hats, sunglasses, clothing, and even tattoos.
Though, these unlocks are purely cosmetic in nature; you can't unlock new armaments by ranking up. This plays in favor of the game's balance, which is built to emphasize skill and teamwork over progression.
But what ultimately determines whether or not you play the game in the long run is how much you enjoy teamwork. If you're the kind of gamer who instinctively presses a talk key to make call-outs, and look for teammates to work with rather than head out on your own, then you're likely to get a lot more out of Rising Storm 2: Vietnam than you would have imagined.
Tactical shooters are often cumbersome and compromise the entertainment value that drives the very reason we play video games in the first place. Against all odds, Rising Storm 2: Vietnam combats this with cohesive gameplay and framerate-friendly optimization.
Low content quantity and some roughness around the edges might keep this game from being a premier shooter of 2017, but it's still a wonderful breath of fresh air that has arrived just in-time for the Summer drought.
Jonathan Leack is the Executive Editor at GameRevolution. You can follow him on Twitter @JonnyBeoulve.
A Rising Storm 2: Vietnam PC review copy was provided by its publisher. This game is exclusive to PC.