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The Slacker's Guide - A Great Labor of Love: Red Orchestra

by Chris Barylick
April 24th, 2006

Red Orchestra, a total conversion mod for Unreal Tournament 2004, is nothing less than a great labor of love. In Red Orchestra, the mod developers take Unreal Tournament 2004's core engine and wrap a near-perfect World War II environment, complete with weapons, vehicles, characters models, and other accouterments of the era around it. Granted, this is far from original, but where novelty has expired, the Red Orchestra team filled in with detail.

Advancing a flank in the Red Orchestra mod for Unreal Tournament 2004

Red Orchestra breaks from the typical first person shooter, or even first person shooter mod, by offering an environment in which the player is human, not the typical nigh-invincible first person shooter character. In this world, a player can tire, will be hesitant in the face of a nearby explosion and is affected by real-world physics, even if they may not injure him at the moment -- for instance, a nearby mortar shell will darken the player's vision as debris falls from the impact point, the blast pushing them in a given direction before the player recovers.

Real world weapons, complete with accurate strengths and weaknesses further help recreate a genuine World War II environment (there are no visible crosshairs, instant reloads or ultimate weapons here - the player must make do with the weapon as it stands).

And, of course, the player is mortal. Forget taking three rockets to the sternum, grunting angrily, then jumping into the fray to kill everything that moves in an action movie style. A well-placed round such as a head shot will instantly kill a player while a shot to the legs will place their health at critical and slow movement to a literal crawl.

Red Orchestra is the effort of a deeply devoted mod team, and the work shows. Beyond Unreal Tournament's excellent graphics, the team has knocked itself out to produce some of the most realistic weapon sounds you'll find in any game.

Pair this with a good pair of speaker and near-hits will tear through the room as convincingly as you could ask for while debris stays on the map. The game also transcends typically self-centered first person shooter gameplay by encouraging teamwork.

This isn't a game where a player can lone wolf it, as the rules provide rewards for actions such as resupplying a fellow player with ammo or providing covering fire for units charging up a flank.

A group of Germans rides towards the action in Red Orchestra.

Clever, fun stuff, even if a player finds themselves a bit weakened by not being the ultimate fighting machine the easy mode of most first person shooters convince them of being.

Red Orchestra is available as a free 714.6 megabyte download through the mighty (which has recently regained its beloved download mirrors). The program expands to occupy more than a gigabyte of disk space but includes an easy graphical installer and launcher program that can be copied to any folder on your Mac.

The game requires a 933 MHz G4 processor, Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later 256 megabytes of RAM, a 32 megabyte video card and a DVD drive to run.

One of the best mods it's been my pleasure to play, the Red Orchestra team has done its job well. While I'm not sure exactly what's left to improve upon, I can't wait to see what comes next from this group.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,


Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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