Codermasters reignites the Flashpoint series with its new first person shooter OF: Red River implementing a daring “off the hook” attitude this time around. This creates a clear image of fighting middle eastern terrorism as a whole comjoined with the comedic values associated with the likes of Battlefield 2 & 3 and improvements on previous game play puts Red River in reasonable stead to be a refreshing experience of simulated war.
Red Rivers introduction is rather blunt, Bin Laden and 9/11 get a mention in the fast paced edgy and slightly humours intro video which does slide awfully close to some already hard to approach issues but does just miss some really awkward moments using this type of harsh storytelling manner. It also, surprisingly, has a lot of bad language – trying to deliver a more gritty design to the dialogue which projects a very heavy US glory march theme through the entire game.
Prepare to enter Tajikistan, a big rocky dusty bowl of terrorist trouble. You and your team have been sent in to deal with these trouble makers and basically have to make your way through the worst of the worst which have been forced to retreat here after previous operations by American troops. Safe to say they aren’t too easy to shake hands with, the A-I does have a crazy-streak to it when it’s attacking you as the A-I can quite annoying but justifiably pop you one in the head, which is a relief to see as the A-I is a bit crumby in OF Dragon Rising. The games tutorial section which takes place at the base camp where you initially start your campaign is clear and easy to grasp, along with its mission markers, optional objectives and basic squad commands. Soon enough you’re shoved into the action when the base camp takes a royal pummelling and you and Bravo team have to bundle into the back of a transport Humvee to retaliate.
From here the game gets going and the action gets good though you may find it still takes a little longer to be able to fully manipulate the controls to rain hell on these terrorist guys which in itself is a good learning curve for harder missions and situations that lay ahead for you and your men. The physics are more on the genuine side with some weight to guns and apparel and also to your character; these can be improved upon in the games new upgrading section for the four different classes later when you have acquired a medal or two. The running has slower feel and bounce to it and some pad rumble kicks in when you’ve given it legs for too long, some tweaks and touches like this pop up during Red Rivers gameplay adding a little depth and enjoyment here and there when getting around.. However when you’re on foot or in transport the dialogue can be too full on in these in-between moments, which makes humping your ass over long distances or taking a ride to the next objective a bit too hardy.
Amongst all this the combat does stand out to be something different and gets you strategizing as much as you’re pumping away at the trigger as you have access to overhead maps, command options and some brilliant weapons (thought they are limited in number) during combat, this creates great moments when things go right and come together leaving you often panic stricken. The fact you bleed out and can become injured means you won’t just be running forward to rage fire at the A-I, you’ll normally duck and dive and patch your wounds and then get some supressing fire on the target as a couple of wrong moves and your friends get to watch you bleed out in the middle of the battlefield.
Co-op campaign is available if you have Xbox Live and can bring heaps of better engagements as you’re not constantly commanding Bravo team and you can chat freely but you can still shout things at your team mates just for the fun of it using the D-pad full of commands. You can also just work on the one class you’ve chosen safe in the knowledge another friend has another class covered and is unlocking perks, the classes go up in levels and unlock certain weapons and apparel as you go along creating a rewarding building element into Red River as you continue through it. The length of the levels and the element of Co-op play can lead the way to some great game-play in Red River and will have you interested for hours just making your way through the chaos, upgrading and picking your friends up off the ground and gloating just before you get downed too. The maps are boundless and enables you to flank your enemy, gain a height advantage or just generally create options for strategizing with what you have. The level design also blends these expanses with villages you need to seize and the mud looking huts around them are perfect for the enemy but not so perfect for you. The design of villages and these situations especially makes the action a bit harder, it gets you rapidly checking through your options and gets you on high alert because of just that. This mix creates can some hairy moments when you come toe to toe with a terrorist unexpectedly, that on edge feeling is rare to find so readily in simulation games.
Another distinguishing and gratifying part of Red River is the fact you don’t always have a clear shot, you have to take into account there’s the hills and mounds, dust being kicked up and even poor lighting to contend with, so make sure you double check who you letting rounds off at especially on the harder difficulty when your stripped of all the advantages you would normally rely on to tell apart your men from the enemy’s. RR is still as hard as its predecessor to completed but with you mates at your side becomes more of a beckoning, so light hearted gamers beware this isn’t your cup of tea by a longshot.
There are ten large levels to get through in the campaign and if you fancy something different while you make your way through it you can try the Fireteam Engagement missions. These are bonus missions to set up online or off and have four different types of objective; Rolling Thunder, Combat Sweep, Last Stand and CSAR. Also downloadable content for RR shows up here so you can set up many of these shorter games with ease, you also have multipliers in these missions as there’s points to be hand for things like headshots and destroying vehicles which with Xbox Live you and your friends or A-I team can try scramble up those Leaderboards. You can check your overall progress in the Player Progress menu and fix any Core Skill points you’ve acquired. Here you can upgrade your skills and general fitness to make you into a more versatile and deadly soldier and at the right of the screen you can check how many medals you’ve acquired in campaign and Fireteam missions.
Operation Flashpoint Red River is a definite improvement on the series in many ways and offers a more accessible game but keeps a lot of what was original from the past title. The blend between the action and the strategy is so well made and placed sometimes its creates something that engages you as much as you engage it and also builds on this to offer some more unique and interesting points to the game for example when you call in air strikes, these moments gets those hands sweaty as one wrong move and you’ve hit the wrong side. All of these things come together to create an atmosphere and image of how wars like this could take place and as harsh as the dialogue is it’s probably close to marine speak and overall is a more genuine portrayal of war.