With a focus on being the most realistic military shooter on the market, Operation Flashpoint: Red River offers fans a far more strategic alternative to their typical Call of Duty. With its modern-day setting and team-based gameplay, the game aims to make you feel like a marine.
- Excellent cooperative play
- Huge missions with scoping vistas
- Plenty of scaling options to make the game as blisteringly realistic (or not) as you want
- Graphic glitches and low-res textures
- Frequently buggy and terrible AI
- Absurdly clichéd dialogue and overlong between-mission sequences
- Poor checkpoint layouts
Operation Flashpoint: Red River Review:
Operation Flashpoint has always had its eye set on being as realistic a portrayal of war as a video game can be, and that focus definitely hasn’t changed in Red River. Whether that’s a good thing is up to personal preference, but if nothing else, it’s easy to respect the level of effort that went into creating a virtual battlefield that feels even somewhat realistic. Granted, what that really means is damn hard.
The Current Events Battleground
Operation Flashpoint: Red River doesn’t break any new ground with its setting or storyline. You take the role of the leader of the four-man Fireteam Bravo. Sent into Tajikistan to join the marine squad already entrenched there, your squad’s mission is to hunt down insurgents fleeing Afghanistan. As the story moves along, however, things get a lot more complicated when the Chinese army moves in to hunt down the insurgents who have been attacking their border.
The game’s cinematic sequences are a nice mix of game engine sequences and actual news footage, and provide some interesting history lessons about US and World operations in the Middle East. Unfortunately, once in the game, the pacing is frequently impeded by ponderous interludes where your sergeant blathers on in inane, profanity-ridden movie speech. There’s little value in these sequences except to apparently point out that any attempts at characterization end in blatant cliché and stereotypes.
Tactical Gameplay… Blithering AI
The core of the game is the team-based play. Much like SOCOM, you’ll be tasked with issuing on-the-fly commands to the other three soldiers in your squad. Indeed, proper usage of tactics is imperative to survival in Red River. Flanking enemies, taking tactically superior positions, creating choke points, and other strategies are absolute necessities when one bullet can kill you. Codemasters clearly went out of their way to make the gameplay more tactical and less shooter, but in the single-player game, this sort of gameplay is only as good as your team’s AI.
It’s here that Red River falters the most. The allied AI is borderline broken. It frequently takes several attempts to get them to follow orders, they don’t stay put or find cover like any reasonable soldier should, and end up just running into the line of fire way too much. Even their attack instincts are flawed, as they don’t always respond to enemies. This means you’ll have to spend far too much time babysitting them and healing their wounds—which is more time consuming and complex than other shooters—and end up getting killed as a result.
The level of frustration the bad AI adds to the game is almost enough to write off the single-player campaign entirely. Ironically, the enemy AI is, on the whole, smarter and meaner. They’re also deadly accurate. Other flaws abound as well. The graphics are a mixed bag. The huge, open vistas of the maps are impressive and character models are well done, but individual landscape textures look low res. There’s also some graphic clipping and other visual glitches.
Quick, Soldier, Get Some Friends!
The difficulty level is jacked up further thanks to incredible stingy check points. This means dying well into a huge battle forces you to start the whole sequence over again. On the plus side, Red River offers an impressive array of options for jacking the overall difficulty and realism level up or down. Game assists like radar, objective icons, path routes, and other features can be turned off to make the game more challenging. Also, your character progression occurs across the board, so you can gain XP, weapons, upgrades, and other perk-style enhancements whether playing single or multiplayer.
Multiplayer is the great save for Operation Flashpoint. The main campaign can be played entirely online with three other players, and its here that the game shines. With the AI out of the way, players are free to enjoy the truly tactical nature of the game. For fans of SOCOM and Rainbow Six, Red River offers a first-person alternative that is more difficult and realistic. In addition to the campaign missions, there are a series of standalone Fireteam Engagement missions that offer story-free objectives for quicker rounds.
Take the Hill
Even with its frustrating issues, Red River’s tactical gameplay is interesting enough to be worth a look for single-player gamers who need a military shooter fix. Just the same, the game is definitely far more worthwhile as a cooperative endeavor. Stripping out the terrible AI puts the focus on the challenging tactical gameplay. Unfortunately, the overall lack of polish still keeps Operation Flashpoint: Red River from being a contender for the military shooter crown.