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Rising Storm 2: Vietnam is terrifying

Good commanders are hard to find when modern artillery and air support rips through the jungle

Tripwire Interactive
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Rising Storm 2: Vietnam unlocked on Steam yesterday afternoon, and since then I’ve been putting some quality time into the game. Like its predecessors, it is an absolutely brutal experience that demands teamwork. Without a decent commander leading your side, expect to be utterly destroyed.

The game has a somewhat confusing history. The series began as Red Orchestra, a total conversion for Unreal Tournament 2003 set on World War II’s Eastern Front. The game eventually moved to Unreal Engine 3.0 and was released on Steam in 2006 as Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45. There, it became a cult classic. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad followed in 2011, only to receive an upgrade called Rising Storm.

That upgrade shifted the game’s setting to the Pacific theater of WWII, and pit period U.S. Marines against Imperial Japan in an island-hopping slugfest. Rising Storm 2: Vietnam riffs on that formula, stealing the best features of that landscape and moving the fight to Vietnam. It adds modern rifles like the AK-47 and the M-16 as well as rotor-wing air support like the AH-1 Cobra.

Tripwire Interactive
Tripwire Interactive
Tripwire Interactive

The Cobra features a canon as well as several pods of dumbfire rockets for close air support.

What makes the Red Orchestra/Rising Storm series unique is its implementation of the commander role. In the multiplayer game, only one person is the commander, and that player looks the same as the 31 other regular soldiers on the battlefield. But their skillset is completely different.

In Rising Storm 2, commanders set the pace of the battle. They are able to set landing zones for friendly pilots and spawn reinforcements at will. They’re able to call in reconnaissance assets and mark objectives. They can also mark the target for devastating artillery barrages.

Artillery strikes are a specialty for this series, and being trapped in one is a terrifying experience. In Rising Storm 2, individual rounds scream straight down on top of you and erupt with a deafening roar. Those caught in the open are torn to pieces, their allies showered in dismembered chunks of flesh. A suppression mechanic means that even if you’re outside of the kill radius, players still feel the effects. The screen goes gray and blurry, and your avatar moves more sluggishly for a time.

That suppression mechanic is also shared in part by the games’ heavy weapons. It adds definition to support roles like machine gunner and sniper. But without a commander to tell you where to go, your side is pretty helpless. For communications, the game includes a fully simulated radio system so leaders can dial across multiple channels to issue orders to the entire force or to individual squads.

To succeed in Rising Storm 2 you’ll have to follow those orders. To stay alive, you simply must keep your head down. Standing up, even for an instant, is an easy way to get it blown off. Because of this, the game tends to feel claustrophobic. The experience is further complicated by what feels like an overly rigid and clumsy movement system, one which Tripwire doesn’t seem to have made many changes to since 2011.

Overall, the game succeeds in selling its theme. American and NVA barks are delightful, while the weapons and the maps feel like they were pulled from the pages of a history book. If you’ve spent time building up a core group of players in Battlefield 1, then I highly recommend you give this game a try. It will truly put your cooperative skills to the test.

You can pick it up on Steam for a very affordable $24.99. Right now there’s even a 10 percent launch discount.