Less than two years after Dragon Rising, Codemasters introduces Operation Flashpoint: Red River to the gaming-sphere. This new entry in the popular tactical military shooter franchise continues to bank on its ultra-realistic pedigree to attract the long-time followers, but also tries to mix up things differently in order to bring in new adepts. Operation Flashpoint isn’t Call of Duty or Battlefield and was never about foul-mouthed soldiers or cinematic cut-scenes. Personally, I never really felt the franchise needed to go elsewhere else from a presentation standpoint. To me, its important that the gaming market gets different experiences, particularly in a genre where every studio wants a piece of the sacred pie.
A three-act campaign, Red River tells the story of Outlaw-2 Bravo, a four-man USMC squad sent to fight a group of Al-Qaeda insurgents in Tajikistan somewhere in 2013. Obviously, the operation escalates to a higher level when the CPLA (Chinese People’s Liberation Army) enters the country to do some clean-up of their own. In Red River, the plot isn’t very captivating, despite the efforts deployed to make it so. With the popularity of both the COD and Battlefield franchises increasing over the last few years, its not surprising to see Codemasters attempting to inject some freshness and appeal into their tactical military shooter series. Sadly, while it doesn’t affect the realistic facet of the franchise, it does feel out of place.
Players can tackle the long campaign either by themselves as either a Rifleman, Auto Rifleman, Grenadier or Scout with the aid of the A.I (in all cases, the player will always be the squad leader) or teaming up with three human friends online. As in every military shooter, each class has their own advantages and weapon load-outs. Additional weapons will become available as the missions progress and experience points will be attributed to upgrade the soldiers’ six core skills: endurance, battle readiness, tactical awareness, sprint, and assault rifle handling/training. The experience is indeed far more enjoyable when human friends are tagging along because unfortunately, the A.I isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Often endangering the mission rather than helping, none of the CPU-controlled jarheads seem to care about the objectives, despite the specific defensive/offensive orders received via the easy-to-use command wheel. Usually when the friendly A.I is dumb, the enemy is always precise and deadly. And that is indeed the case here. Being an Operation Flashpoint game, a few well-placed bullets are enough to make you see red since the A.I won’t always come to heal you, regardless of your numerous calls for help. Pair it with a flawed checkpoint system and the same section may end up being replayed over and over again. Red River is indeed far more enjoyable when playing with online friends, so make sure to keep that in mind if the game is among your future purchases. There’s a matchmaking system in place, but I would not recommend it. Being a game where communication and teamwork is far more important than skill, jumping in a random match may prove to be problematic, depending on the type of player you are matched with. Lone wolves need not apply.
Visually, Red River isn’t the prettiest of all games. Codemasters’ EGO engine does wonders in the racing genre, but seeing it fail at delivering AAA-quality graphics in a military shooter is rather disappointing. Characters and weapons look nice most of the time but the environments lack overall detail, although they are impressive in terms of view distance and scale. Low-end textures and jaggies will also become eyesores very quickly. The series has never been recognized for its superb visuals mind you, so I’ll give them that. But seeing several great-looking games release since Dragon Rising hit store shelves, the pill is tougher to swallow this time around. Hopefully, something less dated or completely reworked will be offered in the future. As for the audio, the weapon sound effects are solid and the almost non-existent soundtrack helps capture the intense feel Red River tries to convey. Sadly, its heavily dominated by either your squad’s repetitive chatter or the obnoxious Sergeant Knox who rambles throughout the whole campaign giving orders and dropping a few slurs along the way. A weird mix that unfortunately ends up unpleasant and quickly forgettable.
Aside from all things mentioned above, there’s not much else to say about Red River. Well, maybe the developers’ choice to completely scrap its online competitive component, which might be seen as a step back considering it has always been offered in past iterations. However, having a drop-in/drop-out cooperative campaign and the new “Fireteam Engagements” mode (a selection of leaderboard-based missions playable either in solo or groups) will keep players from kicking and screaming...provided its being enjoyed with humans.
Codemasters tries to bring its Operation Flashpoint series into different territory by giving Red River a cinematic feel and accelerated gameplay mechanics that its predecessors didn’t have. It doesn’t fail completely as this new entry is serviceable enough for those who never got around to playing a single entry in the franchise. As for the hardcore fans, well, they are experienced enough to get accustomed to things, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy about it.
Release date : 2011-06-03
Publisher : Codemasters
Developer : Codemasters
Gameplay : Shooter
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