The Operation Flashpoint series has been a presence in the tactical military shooter genre for years now, existing alongside massive releases like Call of Duty that somehow manage to hog the FPS spotlight year after year. But with the upcoming release of Operation Flashpoint: Red River, the folks over at Codemasters have made a concerted effort to tighten up the core gameplay experience while adding greater depth and realism to the overall plot-poitnts and character dynamics. Mini-series such as Generation Kill are cited as a huge influence in how the various squads interact with each other, and genuine military strategy is clearly a consideration when creating missions and mulling over the proper strategies.
Red River is set in the near future in the real-world country of Tajikisatan. Having successfully flushed a great portion of the resistance from the soil of Afghanistan, the remaining fighters have fled across the border into Tajikistan, establishing a firm hold on the countryside there. Not only does this simple premise offer up something mildly different from your standard modern warfare set-up, it also provides a visual break from the sun-baked visuals to which we’ve grown accustomed. Ostensibly the buffer zone between the sepia tones of Afghanistan and the greener, snow-covered terrains of Eastern Europe, Tajikistan offers lush valleys and sprawling mountains in addition to the more arid areas in the borderlands.
This is meant to be a cooperative experience, so much so that there’s no competitive gameplay to be found in Red River. You can play with A.I. companions, sure, but when you jump into a multiplayer match, don’t expect to be lining up head-shots against your friends. From the story campaign to the online modes, you’re meant to play this game with your buddies.
From the start, you’ll choose between four classes – Rifleman, Auto-Rifleman, Scout and Grenedier – each with their unique load-outs and possible upgrades as you earn XP throughout the game. Visually, the game doesn’t seem quite up to par with larger, more prominent shooters, but the surrounding landscape and dilapated villages in the demo we played looked fairly solid. We’re also assured that building destruction – which was not in this presentation – will appear in the final game, no doubt adding a layer of depth to the visual experience.
Your three squad mates – or your entire squad – are mapped to your D-pad, allowing for easy selection when issuing individual commands. These commands are broken up into four categories – Maneuver, Suppression, Follow and Tactics – with sub-menus for each containing orders such as rush, hold position, flank left, flank right, etc. And you’ll want to keep a firm handle on your commands because heavy fire and intense action can rattle your men, making them break ranks and act on their own. So issuing frequent orders will help keep your men focused on the task at hand. And Red River is not a forgiving game. Don’t expect to be able to take much damage and walk away. One good shot and you can be down for the count, so keeping up a solid strategy is no doubt key to making it through.
Multiplayer offers four distinct modes, namely Last Stand, Rolling Thunder, Search & Rescue and Clean Sweep. We had the chance to go hands-on with a game of Last Stand, a Firefight-esque mode in which increasingly heavy waves of enemies attempt to assault your squad’s position. Here, you’ll be able to rain down some thunder by issuing artillery commands as you earn XP and hold the line. Overall, the mode proved entertaining as we sniped down into an open field, but the spawn time was fairly long between waves in the build we played, though we’re told that’ll speed up significantly in the final game.
At the end of the day, Red River doesn’t look as if it’ll put a bullet through the head of Call of Duty, but for gamers looking for a bit more interactivity and strategy in their military FPS, it may indeed be worth checking out.