Despite having no expectations for this title, my first impression of the game wasn't good; a server browser that would crash me to desktop, and refused to refresh after a failed server connection. I gritted my teeth as I finally began loading into a local games.on.net server, and quickly crossed my fingers in the hope that the experience would improve once in-game.
After making my way in I was greeted with what I whimsically referred to as "lolgraphics" - they're bad, real bad. But that's ok, graphics aren't everything, right? There have been plenty of recent titles with below average graphics that have proven fun to play, without argument. But to give you some perspective; the animations are reminiscent of Half-Life mods, as are the weapon models and blocky environments. It's borderline insulting. Whether RO2 turned out to be fun or not, the presentation just wasn't acceptable - perhaps a PlayStation Network or LIVE Arcade title at a far lower price - not for a $50 PC title (ed: in Australian retail stores).
"You have to aim well from distance, or risk your life in a close combat quarters fire fight where a single shot is enough to kill - it can be very tense stuff."
Without dwelling on that for too long, I got playing. Despite some grievances with the effectiveness of the SMG's, the gunplay felt good. The Axis rifle quickly became my weapon of choice - powerful and accurate, I was dropping enemies from range with a single shot. "How rewarding, how satisfying," I thought. Indeed it was, and it doesn't really begin to get any less so. You have to aim well from distance, or risk your life in a close combat quarters fire fight where a single shot is enough to kill - it can be very tense stuff.
However what is almost always an 'instant-death' doesn't always create positive or enjoyable gameplay. You're often hit from across the map and prompted with a "bleed out" message, giving you the option to bandage up even though you're already dead, or a clouded black screen as you attempt to limp out of sight only to be shot again while virtually helpless.
Over time, everything that surrounds what was otherwise solid combat begins to become a severe downer. The problem isn't just the underwhelming aesthetics and environments, it's the flawed UI and cover system as well; the screen is a mess with poorly designed elements that are seemingly placed arbitrarily. While movement is mostly clean and trouble-free, the cover system is fundamentally flawed. You'll continually jitter in and out of cover-enabled fixtures, be button mashing to activate your cover, and generally become frustrated with putting it to any practical use in a firefight. The consensus with my play group was that it's better simply not to use it.
Your remaining cover option while on the battlefield encourages camping and pixel hunting, inadvertently. The consequence of the actual cover system's poor implementation is that because you can't use cover like you might in a real battle, you're left leaning awkwardly, and you can't move while leaning. Inaction seems to be rewarded with people too often pitching tents and ignoring the objective.
Ultimately the game is buggy, it's unpolished, and there are simply far too many issues to give the game anything but an embarrassing score. It's hard to believe that this is the excellent Unreal engine at times.
RO2 falls short of a combat simulation, and it's far too stiff and restrictive to be arcade. What it winds up being is a poorly produced, frustrating clunk of an alpha-release WWII themed shooter. Gameplay mechanic choices are confused and lead to an end product that doesn't know what it wants to be - let alone deliver what works instead of what seemed like a good idea over pizza and beer.