Codemasters worked out the control systems’ shortcomings for Red River, and so deliver a more convincing tactical shooter than Dragon Rising. Red River is still difficult, but less frustrating thanks to the somewhat toned down gameplay. It’s a more immersing experience despite the bland looking gaming world. Best experienced with three mates in the four man co-operative mode, you play as marines versus the Chinese enemy. Good game but not without shortcomings.
Developer: Codemasters Publisher: Codematers For fans of: Shooters, war simulators, tactical gameplay Reviewed on: Xbox 360 Also available on: PlayStation 3, PC If we had to give it a numerical score: 7.5/10
What I liked:
- Slightly toned down realism and therefore more playable.
- Outstanding co-op mode.
- Improved combat.
- Improved controls.
- Knox, your commander can be hilarious at times.
Not so much:
- Lacks polish.
- Dialogue annoying at times.
- No versus multiplayer… seriously.
- A fair amount of bugs.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River is the second title in the current-gen series, and a somewhat toned down military-sim compared to Dragon Rising. It’s an improvement on its predecessor because of the improved game mechanics and the generally better missions. Set in Tajikistan in the near future, your fictitious war is a geopolitical one against the Chinese PLA. Red River is set over three huge districts where you can tackle alone or the much better option, drop-in-drop-out co-op.
Unlike most shooters, the Flashpoint series is a slower paced series – favouring caution, a technical approach and teamwork over total carnage. Red River is a game of long meandering treks, be it on foot or on the famous American military vehicles to areas that you must either clear out, contain or carry out similar missions. The game does very well to portray the raw panic or desperate anxiety soldiers must feel on the battlegrounds, like very little other titles do.
Gameplay and Features
When going at it in your four-man squad, you are assisted by the ‘charlie’ squad who carry out some missions adjacent to you for the same overall goal. You are constantly receiving commands, directions but it’s still your choice on the direction you take to get to your mission’s objective. You to can give out commands, more than with Dragon Rising, to assist you and your squad. Commands like flanking, healing, to holding ground or moving forward amongst others.
You have an extensive arsenal of weapons, attachments and equipment which you need to unlock by leveling up. You have four soldier types to choose from: Rifleman, Auto-Rifleman, Grenadier and Scout each with with their strengths. You can use the extensive arsenal convert your primary discipline – I primarily used a Scout [a sniper] but eventually got him to a handy machine-gunner to.
The controls have been improved and are easier, less clumsy than with the previous installment. You have loads of actions to contend with and your entire controller’s buttons are used, but it’s easy to manage once you get the hang of it. The vehicles are easy to control which is also a step forward from Dragon Rising.
The missions are generally long with checkpoints along the way. After the first few hours the missions become arduous, requiring concentration on what is being shouted out by your team or commander just to know whats going on, but so to the enjoyment and intensity grows.
Besides the campaign, you can also play through the ‘Fireteam Engagement’ missions. You play through four different types of missions, asking you to defend positions, rescue downed pilots, protect convoys or eliminate enemy enemies, all general activities echoed from the campaign. These challenges are complete with leaderboards.
Graphics and Sound
Red River was definitely not a love at first sight. The visuals do little justice for the game, with a list of negatives to report. Low resolution textures and pop up issues are common, as are annoying visual glitches. The game’s world looks great in the distance and the soldiers look good up close, but everything in between looks drab with not much detail.
Then there are some very disappointing visual aspects which I found almost unacceptable: one frame in and out of vehicles in this day and age is really weak. The soldier is in the vehicle and in the next frame out, no animation climbing out, nothing. The soldiers are also never standing on the land, they are just above it. When your soldier or weapon drops to the ground it levitates just above. When I would spawn back in to the game, my weapon would not appear in my hands which look like they are holding the gun, I could even fire away before the weapon would show up. The facial animations are just acceptable but not super realistic like many modern titles. The soldiers actions, running etc. were very well done though and look very realistic.
The presentation is neat and acceptable, not outstanding. On non-hardcore modes, your HUD’s are user friendly and extensive keeping you well informed. In hardcore mode you will need to press button to access some HUD’s, the compass etc. You have way less information on hand, there is no HUD to tell you the enemies position so the difficulty is truly ‘hardcore’.
The sound, again is not going to win any Grammy’s, but was overall acceptable. While running around the battlefield, as one can expect in the real life situation the game portrays, there is little sounds besides the marines communications, footsteps and the firing of weapons. The weapons themselves sound pretty good as does the soldiers shouting of commands. My only real complaint with the sound was ‘Knox’, your commander. Knox goes on and on with his pep talks before you enter your mission and he can be a little obnoxious at times, but has some redeeming one-liners.
Fortunately in some missions [in co-op mode] I could go into the pause menu and listen to the hard modern rock soundtrack which was exactly to my taste. Then in other missions I could not, so since you can’t skip the cut-scenes you have to sit and listen to Knox’s banter. If you are easily offended, the anti-Chinese ‘diggs’ and constant foul language may offend you.
I believe there is room in the crowded shooter market for the Operation Flashpoint series – the more tactical approach over fast and furious action will appeal to the military-sim lovers. Red River improves on its predecessor in some important areas but I was bitterly disappointed that the visuals were still very weak and I cannot say any better than Dragon Rising. If you can look past its flaws Red River offers a deep, tactical and satisfying military experience that is best experienced with three mates.
Personally, once I got over the poor visuals and we were in the thick of things on the battlegrounds, I enjoyed the intensity of the military-sim experience. It was a world apart from the usual corridor-shooter that I am used to.
Read about our ratings.
For more information about Operation Flashpoint: Red River see the official site.