Operation Flashpoint: Red River is a First Person Squad-based Tactical Shooter that shares similarities with the mint slice biscuit. On the outside it’s not flashy and other biscuits look a lot better, but inside is a cool peppermint core which some people will love to dunk in a cup of tea (I mean the biscuit goes in the tea, not the game…..anywho).
Red River was released in the USA in June but has been out elsewhere for a few months. I have held off on the review until I played the DLC which dropped yesterday. Red River is the second outing of an Operation Flashpoint game on this generation, the previous being Dragon Rising. Red River has thankfully addressed many of the Dragon Rising complaints with a more focused four-man fireteam experience. It has better graphics, gunplay and control system. Unfortunately the biggest gripe from the previous title still causes concern, the squad A.I, which is better but not great. Thankfully four-player co-op comes to the rescue across both the Campaign and the multiplayer Fireteam Missions. ‘The Valley of Death’ DLC adds to the Fireteam Missions for 560 MS Points (Xbox 360). All it does is double the maps available for the four-man missions. Essentially they consist of: a Horde mode, escort a convoy, rescue downed pilots, and sweep a village — bringing death and destruction to all.
In Red River you play a Marine squad leader stationed in Tajikistan (which is actually a real country), and you are fighting insurgents. Later, China becomes pippy, they invade, and you end up fighting the People’s Liberation Army. So, story isn’t the driving force here. You are tasked with missions with multiple phases and objectives ranging from holding a zone, clearing a region and taking out targets. The cool thing is that you can approach it any way you want, and the waypoint indicators are just that, indications only. It’s a nice change from the “FOLLOW” label that burns into the screen of many military FPS’ now days.
A mission will start with you sitting in a humvee or chopper for five minutes getting to the launch point. This is where Sgt Knox gives you a detailed verbal briefing laced with swear words and put-downs, just like the real military!! This becomes very tiresome later on, but I respect what Codemasters were trying to do by adding some authenticity. Sgt Knox still has some gems of wisdom in his briefings though, like… “Son, if you keep up your bitchin’, I will break you so hard, Google won’t be able to find you.”
Once on mission you have objectives to complete before running to extraction. You might be clearing a village, escorting a convoy or doing night time recon before calling in air strikes (which are awesome). So there is a solid amount of variation to go with all that running. The problem is that some of the objectives are a bit janky or unclear, especially if you haven’t been listening to your beloved Sgt Knox. The classic issue I struck twice was standing on top of the objective marker waiting to proceed but unable to do so. This is because a sole remaining enemy who needed to be ‘put-down’ was bloody stuck on some geometry 100 metres away.
The combat isn’t in your face like most FPS’. A lot of engagements are over 200 metres away and that’s when squad commands like suppression and flank become key. Pin them then move, this is a must on the harder difficulties where you have less, or even NO checkpoints or respawns.
You and your fireteam can play as one of four classes: Rifleman, Grenadier, Scout (sniper), and Auto-rifleman (machinegunner). Each have specific talents which combine with the leveling XP system, similar to most other games out there. The more XP, the more guns, attachments and perks to buff health, aim, speed etc… As you level up you can also spend progress points on stamina, weapon handling etc… You will find early on most points will go into the running so you can cover the huge maps on foot without nodding off, controller in hand. Overall, it’s a nice addition to ‘mainstream’ the Operation Flashpoint titles.
The audio is good, with awesome explosions and constant radio chatter keeping you up to speed on the events around you. A nice touch is tunes in the vein of Rage Against the Machine playing in the humvee when you travel. Graphically it’s a mix of nasty blurry pop-in and amazing sunset vistas. They serve their purpose, and when you are taking rounds with dirt hitting the screen, letting you know you’re in deep shite — you won’t care. That said, in this age of Modern Warfare 3 and the Battlefield 3 vids it looks ‘B’ class for sure. The weapon models are spot on with realistic bullet physics and loading animations that are a bit more sim than most. Not to the extent of previous OF games or ArmA, but combined with your limited ammo count you will be more aware of the best tactical time to reload or swap to heavy weapons.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River is a solid tactical game with minor issues. If you try and approach it as a run ‘n’ gun shooter you will end up disappointed and dead. I hate to make comparisons but I get a real ‘GRAW on Hard’ feel from it. If you like to take your time and move with tactical awareness you will have a rewarding experience. However, if you play Red River in co-op, it will become an instant favourite in your collection.