Rising Storm 2: Vietnam has been in development for over three years and releases on Steam on Tuesday. While the game is a worthy successor to the original Rising Storm game that launched in 2013, it lacks serious innovation as it mostly features the exact same gameplay mechanics.
The new game is the direct sequel to the original shooter game Rising Storm that released in 2013. The original game was a standalone expansion pack for the popular shooter game Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad.
The first Rising Storm game was critically acclaimed for doing things differently to redefine the first person shooter genre in a time when the market was being dominated by annual releases of Call of Duty games.
Since that time a lot has changed. The Call of Duty franchise is not the go-to franchise that it once was and for the first time in many years there seems to be a market for hardcore shooter games again.
As such, Rising Storm 2: Vietnam aims to be a hardcore tactical first person shooter game set in the "brutal killing fields of the Vietnam War".
The game is said to be an authentic recreation of the Vietnam War, allowing players to join the fight on both sides of the war: the powerful United States Military or the fearless Vietnamese resistance fighters.
The major selling point of the sequel is clearly the game's setting. Set in Vietnam, players get to experience fierce combat in lush Vietnamese jungles, cities and the country side, and maps are based on iconic locations such as Cu Chi, Hue City, Song Be, An Lao Valley and Hill 937.
In total the game ships with ten multiplayer maps and each of them is unique enough to be interesting, yet similar enough that it easily supplements the maps from the original Rising Storm.
For Rising Storm 2: Vietnam, Tripwire Interactive and Antimatter Games have chosen to build the game on a different engine to achieve higher visual fidelity, Unreal Engine 3 to be exact. Building the game on a more modern engine allows for incredibly detailed jungles and urban cities never seen before in the franchise.
The game features all the graphical details you would expect when fighting in Vietnam, such as godrays when you look at the sun through the jungle, detailed rubble on the streets in cities, and swaying patches of grass and trees in rural areas.
Weapons also feel a lot more authentic because the sun reflects off the models, making every dent and scratch look far more realistic than it did in the original game.
The new engine allows for a wide range of advanced graphics settings to be tweak in the game's settings menu, including World Detail, Character Detail, Texture Detail, Shadow Quality, Particle FX, Anti-Aliasing, Post Processing Quality, Lighting Quality, Foliage Detail, Bloom, Light Shafts, SSAO, Depth of Field and Framerate Smoothing.
While these are all settings one would expect from any self-respecting first person shooter, too many titles still lack many of these options, making it worthy to point out that all of the expected graphics settings are indeed available.
The game also features an interesting Post Processing Style setting that can be used to tweak the game's colorspace. The problem with this setting is that most of the options look and feel very similar, making it almost worthless to have in the game at all.
The gameplay experience is very similar to the original Rising Storm. Those who have played the original will feel familiar with the way the game's weapons handle, how the game's spectator mode functions and how user interfaces are set up.
This is mostly because all of those elements seem to be identical to the original. It is almost as if large portions of the game's original source code were ported to the new engine to be tweaked slightly to fit the new setting.
Gamers who loved the gameplay of the original game will praise this new game for it, but the original had some issues that in turn remain unaddressed.
The most frustrating issue is that players are sometimes forced to run long distances before they reach any combat at all. This can make death extremely frustrating as it can take too long before you get back into the action. This can cause impatient players to run into enemy infested areas which can only result in more death.
Confirming kills is also still just as difficult as the original as the kill log that is visible on the right-hand side of the screen lags behind actual combat by at least five seconds. While this is done on purpose to make confirming kills more difficult and "hardcore", the biggest problem with this is that it actually just artificially slows down gameplay.
The solution to this problem would be the use of the game's squad system to scout enemies and to confirm kills, but the system is still clunky to use and as a result isn't really being used at all when you join a random server.
The squad system not being used to its full potential is by far the biggest issue that prevents players from joining a match for a quick play, and this is probably why Tripwire Interactive considers the game to be "hardcore".
The new spawn system that is linked to the squad system is also interesting to say the least. While US troops and allies will spawn within 5 meters from their Squad Leader, North Vietnamese troops are able to use tunnels placed by their Squad Leader.
This is an interesting and authentic mechanic but it is also poorly executed. Tunnels are just a 3D model of a tunnel hatch and players will spawn on top of it when they join the game. It would have been much more engaging and rewarding if players spawned inside of the tunnel and had the ability to climb up the ladder to reach the top.
Then there are also many small details that can make it frustrating to play, such as weapon swaying that is still as over the top as Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad and not being able to distinguish enemies from allies at a moments notice because player nametags are hidden most of the time.
The game's graphical features can also be a source of frustration as the game includes a suppression effect that blurs your entire screen for several seconds with no way to turn it off as well as several game-breaking issues that occur when alt-tabbing out of the game and back in.
Control wise the game leaves much to be desired because it features the exact same issues that were also present in the original Rising Storm, such as clunky and glitchy animations when jumping, leaning and going prone.
The in-game voice-overs that signal objectives being captured are also average to say the least. They do the job just fine, but the Vietnamese voice-over speaking in broken English is just so bad that it becomes irritating, and at that point it really doesn't matter if it is an authentic representation of how North Vietnamese troops actually spoke the language, if that is even the case.
That doesn't mean it is all bad, however.
When you do happen to find yourself joining the right server that consists of players who know how to properly use voice chat, the game will become much more entertaining.
This is largely due to the ability to work together as a team by using voice chat, which makes it much easier to scout enemies, to confirm kills, to stake out locations, and to clear buildings.
Map and sound design is where the game really shines. The multiplayer map designs are superb and the maps are detailed enough to make it easy for enemies to hide in bushes or in the shadows. The weapon sound design is so on point that it easily beats that of many other shooter games currently on the market.
The combination of actual teamwork and the game's amazing map and sound design allows players to experience the Vietnamese war like very few other first person shooter games have been able to capture.
The introduction of helicopters also positively influences gameplay. This was essential to include in the game because helicopters played a pivotal role in the Vietnam war.
Flying helicopters and shooting from it feels rewarding and mastering it will take a lot of time. Helicopter controls are best described as a combination of arcade controls and the type of controls featured in the unofficial Battlefield 1942 modification Desert Combat that was released in 2004.
Most helicopters will be used to transport troops to the combat location, though you will also see the occasional combat helicopter taking you out from the skies as you will find few places to hide.
To pilot helicopters players must select one of the two pilot classes, one specializing in transport and the other in combat. Players who have not selected one of these two classes will not be able to pilot the helicopter and will thus only be able to ride as passenger.
Limiting helicopter piloting to these two classes, and limiting the amount of players per class, ensures that helicopters are a good addition to on-foot combat as only a few people will be able to use them.
The game also features customization options that allow players to customize their character by unlocking hats, vests, camouflage and even tattoos. Accessories are unlocked as you level up by playing, and some of them will take a long time to unlock.
The customization screen allows players to customize their character per army and per role, making the system flexible enough to tune characters to fit your play style.
That being said, the customization options are limited and the whole feature doesn't seem to enhance gameplay in any way, so it doesn't seem likely that many players will be using it at all.
To summarize the experience: Rising Storm 2: Vietnam is defintinely a worthy successor to the original Rising Storm, but too many gameplay elements feel identical to the original title.
Those who have played the original will instantly notice the way weapons handle, the way the game's spectator mode functions and the way menu's and user interfaces are set up.
While some of these elements definitely aren't bad and didn't need changing to begin with, a lack of serious innovation overshadows the other selling points of the game, such as its Vietnam setting, its maps and the new graphics engine.
Having been in development for over three years one expects the game to feature more significant gameplay improvements. Gamers who pick this title up are in for more of the same, and that is why Rising Storm 2: Vietnam will probably not be as popular as the original.