Warfare History Network » Game Features: History and Red Orchestra 2’s Battle of Stalingrad
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Game Features: History and Red Orchestra 2’s Battle of Stalingrad

Military Games

Game Features: History and Red Orchestra 2’s Battle of Stalingrad

The combat conditions in Red Orchestra 2 provide a real sense of the adversity of urban warfare faced by infantrymen in World War II's Eastern Front.

The combat conditions in Red Orchestra 2 provide a real sense of the adversity of urban warfare faced by infantrymen in World War II's Eastern Front.

by Patrick Feng

The battle of Stalingrad is perhaps one of the most notable episodes in World War II history due to the sheer magnitude of combatants, numbers of casualties, and its particularly brutal urban warfare. It is also a potent symbol of the struggle for survival against the unstoppable Nazi Blitzkrieg that had destroyed and captured large numbers of Red Army formations; if Stalingrad fell, the Soviet Union’s prospects for victory would all but vanish. The decisive Soviet victory in February 1943 and the surrender of over 100,000 German soldiers and officers of the German Sixth Army was also the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front.

In the West and especially in the United States, people know very little about the Eastern Front its destructiveness and its heavy influence on the war’s outcome.. Stalingrad is one of the few Eastern Front battles that received some treatment in popular culture, most notably the movie Enemy at the Gates and the Soviet campaign from the Call of Duty series. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad is one of very few gaming titles to undertake the retelling of the epic struggle for Stalingrad.

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Urban Warfare and Gritty House-to-House Fighting

Red Orchestra 2 is a first-person, tactical shooter that emphasizes the importance of the infantry and small-unit operations in achieving objectives, and their crucial role in the overall battle for the city. Contrary to the blitzing armored columns seen in the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa, Red Orchestra 2 hammers home the gritty house-to-house fighting that came to characterize the Battle of Stalingrad. Many of the structures in the city had been reduced to heaps of rubble from prolonged bombardment and fighting, making it ideal for the Soviets to conceal their defenses, which in some cases included using the the sewers. This made the battle more vicious and close-quarters.

The structures that remained intact became strategic focal points for control by both sides. Battles for buildings such as the Stalingrad Central Rail Station, the Dzerzhinskiy Tractor Factory, and Pavlov’s House—named for the Soviet platoon commander Junior Sergeant Yakob Pavlov, who held the crucial four-story building against German attacks from late September to late November 1942—take center stage in Red Orchestra 2’s gameplay scenarios.

The battle for Pavlov’s House is represented in the game’s two campaigns, based on accounts from German and Soviet soldiers. German soldiers and officers came to characterize the operations against the Soviet defenders in the city’s ruins as Rattenkrieg or “rat war.” This description is appropriate: both sides fought pitched battles from room-to-room, house-to-house, and block-by-block in some operations. With each advance, soldiers were uncertain what hazards literally lay around every corner.

Pavlov’s House Mission Does Justice to the Historical Record

In the Pavlov’s House mission from the German perspective, the game does a good job showing the difficulty in trying to cross open ground to attack an entrenched enemy. Sergeant Pavlov and his platoon had virtually converted the apartment into an impregnable fortress, complete with machine guns and antitank rifles covering the open courtyard, and a minefield surrounding the building and barbed wire. To facilitate supply and potential reinforcement, Pavlov had his men blow up a hole in the basement wall, which connected to a trench that led to the Volga River where Soviet supplies and troops were being ferried as they arrived at the front.

German soldiers faced insurmountable odds in penetrating these defenses despite outnumbering the small garrison of approximately twenty men. Even if the Germans had managed to punch through the perimeter, they would have faced determined enemy resistance within the four-story building complex and would have had to clear each floor (assuming that the Germans received adequate reinforcement or received minimal casualties from the initial assault).

Although it is near impossible to adequately recreate or depict the psychological trauma experienced from prolonged combat under such conditions as the fighting in Stalingrad, the combat conditions seen throughout the level designs in the Red Orchestra 2 campaigns provide a sense of the adversity of urban warfare faced by infantrymen in World War II and its potential repetition in future conflicts.

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