Previews// Operation Flashpoint: Red River

Posted 9 Mar 2011 14:19 by
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Codemasters is doing a bit of bandwagon-hopping with Operation Flashpoint: Red River. It’s a squad-based military first-person shooter set in a dusty Middle Eastern country with an aim to suppress insurgents that appear to follow the rule of Al Qaeda. We’ve seen it all before.


What separates this franchise from similar looking games in Medal of Honor and Battlefield is its history in military simulation - and by association, its heavy dose of ultra-realistic gameplay. After taking the series from original PC developer Bohemia Interactive Studios, Codies tried to reignite the Operation Flashpoint name itself with Dragon Rising. It tried to be all things to all military sim fanatics, and ultimately fell on its own ambitious sword.

Red River is the UK powerhouse’s second attempt at bringing a console-friendly sim experience, and this time around it seems to have traded off a few elements of realism for the sake of immersion and accessibility. Rather than a fictional location (Dragon Rising was set in an island called Skira) we’re doing battle in the actually-existing land of Tajikistan in the year 2013, and the storyline as a result hits a lot closer to home than past plotlines.

On the flip-side, the team has done away with the hardcore ‘one hit and you’re down’ feature, has rid the series of any competitive multiplayer modes (at least for the time being - all the online features involved co-op play) and refined the maps, missions and HUD to give the player a more immersive action-packed experience.

At the surface, this may well grate with die-hard fans of the series just in terms of principle. But having played a few rounds of four-player co-op I noticed that objectives were more succinct and focused, team members were able to better identify vantage points and naturally draw themselves towards them and gives you a chance to stay in the action for longer. Which actually helps keep you engrossed in the action - so maybe the trade-off in terms of gameplay will be worth it in the long run.

Although it’s difficult to tell from one dustbowl to the next, Codemasters’ EGO engine is really put to some good use here by breaking out some incredible draw distances and decorating all kinds of sandy (and not-so sandy) locations with a world of buildings, alleyways, trees and other desert foliage that work as effective camouflage for both your squad and the enemy.

You’ll largely be fighting Tajik insurgents, but the studio has hinted that the series traditional villain, the Chinese PLA, will be involved, metaphorical black cape and all. So it doesn’t look like everything’s completely changed.

I played on three different co-op missions as a four-man military crack squad. Last Stand is a compound defence level that is set in a similar fashion to the now obligatory Horde mode from Gears of War. Your job is to stand your ground at the top of a deserted hillside while increasingly difficult waves of insurgents come running from all kinds of directions.

Although gameplay still heavily encourages the squad to stay relatively close together, soldiers can break off from the team and take point at a certain position while everyone else pushes forward. The maps seem better designed to allow for a more cohesive, natural execution of squad tactical play.

The first thing you see in Last Stand is a row of walls that can help provide cover from enemies darting down an open street at the bottom of the hill. In later waves however, they start to roam through the less travelled side roads and through the countryside to attempt a full-scale flank.
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