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Operation Flashpoint: Red River review

Decent
AT A GLANCE
  • Online co-op through the campaign
  • The voice acting
  • Interesting storyline concept
  • Terrible AI
  • Jarring inconsistencies in gameplay style and tone
  • Crappy graphics

It’s always weird to see a “hardcore” PC series get transmogrified into a console-friendly title, and always a little bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s great to see new moneymaking opportunities for a quality series that deserves some revenue, but on the other, it sucks to see that same series effectively dumbed down to make it easier (or even possible) to play with a controller.

And such is the case with Operation Flashpoint: Red River. The original Operation Flashpoint was a realistic military sim that happened to be presented as a first-person shooter. Red River is a pretty arcadey first-person shooter that decks itself out with a few “realistic” elements and claims to be hardcore. Not that there’s anything wrong with an arcadey first-person shooter, of course; Red River’s gameplay is actually pretty fun, it’s just markedly different from that of the original in the series.

In the main campaign you play as one of four US marines newly sent from Afghanistan to Tajikistan in a fictional conflict along that country’s border with China. Things go from hairy to hirsute pretty quickly, and you end up fighting local insurgents, organized terrorist groups and, eventually, the People’s Liberation Army. As Red River is fully cooperative, up to three of your friends (or random dudes from the internet) can jump in and jump out of any campaign mission at any time. This sort of cooperative gameplay is great, not just because it’s more fun than playing alone, but also because Red River’s AI sucks so bad. Many was the time we’d need to end a mission by killing our AI comrades because their pathfinding algorithm got them stuck on some geometry and they couldn’t cross the trigger area to move on to the next mission. Enemies, too – although they were preternaturally accurate with their weapons – would often stand stock still on a hillside or in an equally visible location, just waiting to get mowed down by M4 fire.

In terms of gameplay itself, Red River tries hard to bridge the gap between a full-on simulation and something like Call of Duty, and while that’s sometimes fun, it more often leads to bizarre situations. For example: while you spend a lot of time sitting in the back of vehicles listening to your staff sergeant wax rhetorical about kicking ass, much as you would in the military’s hurry-up-and-wait real life, if you’re shot in the head in combat, simply use a medkit on yourself (make sure to use it twice, not just once), and you’re A-okay. It’s this incongruous pairing of two types of gameplay that makes Red River so hard to sink your teeth into. You never know quite when you can bust out and go balls to the wall Modern Warfare style, and when you’re gonna have to hunker down and rely on some approximation of real combat tactics.

Red River tries hard to make it easy to assign complex tasks to your team via its “orders wheel” interface. Pressing a trigger opens up a radial menu that you’ll navigate through (it’s got a couple of levels of specificity) to choose what team members should go where. While this is a noble idea, and works well when things are pretty peaceful (such as when you’re setting up a perimeter), it’s not very effective to be futzing around with a complex, recursive set of commands when you’re trying not to get your head blown off. Since the game doesn’t have an overhead map on which you can issue orders like, say, in Valkyria Chronicles, you’ve also got to be looking right at the target you want your guys to attack, or the building you want them to secure. If that target happens to be shooting at you, good luck not ending up with a head wound. Still, considering the slew of pure run-and-gun shooters out there now, it’s refreshing to see a console title that gives you a little bit of squad-leader-esque tactical control.

All of that said, when it works, Red River is a damn good time. Jumping online with three buddies to get through some of the tougher missions plays like a really hardcore game of paintball – you’ve all got to get each other’s backs and communicate constantly, much as you would in a competitive gaming situation. Also, the game’s voice talent is surprisingly good and it, along with equally surprisingly good writing, make for a backstory that manages to draw you in, despite its often hackneyed tropes and themes.

Red River may not appeal to everyone – our sense is that it’s too hardcore for the console crowd and doesn’t have enough of a unique identity for the PC crowd – but that shouldn’t dissuade fans of the series or of modern-warfare shooters from taking a playthrough. If nothing else, it’ll whet your appetite for the slew of AAA military shooters coming soon to a TV/monitor near you.

Jun 23, 2011

More Info

Apr 21 2011 - PS3, Xbox 360, PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Published by: Codemasters
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Language, Violence
PEGI Rating:
18+

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20 comments

  • JCBlueNose2011 - July 4, 2011 10:58 a.m.

    I think some people don't like this game because of how challenging the missions are but then again I played the first one and even though it was the hardest war game I've ever played it was realistic in some ways in the fact that if you got shot you had to heal yourself where as on CoD you just have to take cover. I think there is room for improvement in this game but it's more realistic than any war game I've ever played but I do prefer CoD simply because its easier you don't need to be very strategic and the zombie maps are awesome
  • milicilic - June 24, 2011 10:18 p.m.

    One thing that you didn't mention is the ability to either crank up, or turn down the difficulty depending on how you want to play the game. It's still pretty hard even with everything like the hud and other popups on, but the real challenge is playing without any of them and with the difficulty turned all the way up. I personally have played better games, but i think this one deserves a look from anyone who wants something tactical like Socom on the 360. I think that this game was an attempt to make it more fun than Dragon Rising while trying to keep the realism factor there. I think it deserves better than a 6 as well, but you guys are the ones who write the reviews, not me.
  • crumbdunky - June 23, 2011 10:47 p.m.

    Meh. There IS no perfect place be it console OR PC for a ealistic shooter in this day and age. It's true, as people above have said, that the issue is making realistic warfare actual fun when it clearly never is and very few people like the idea of you having just one life in a shooter where you'd also be learning skills as you went along(unless you give a TRUE military sim and have six weeks minimum basic training?)-imagine putting thirty hard, concentration fuelled hours into a game only to be shot once by superman AI(or worse, one of your own team)and it's all gone. THAT is what war is like but in gaming terms i8t's BS and you cannot close that divide and for most gamers that's where the issues would b and what gamers devs wanting to make a realistic shooting experience based on warfare. As for the console/PC thing I don't go in for there being this supposed super gaming race that only plays on PC and put 99% of game sdifferences down to control input differences and the different options available when you game on PC compared to console. To me it can go either way: I USED to play ALL my shooters on PC(lost my life, at one point to CS!)but sacked it a while back fir various reasons. Firstly, while I agree that K/M is a more efficient and effective control method for shooters I doNOT thnk it's inherently BETTER. I fiond it TOO good and makes a human character feel superhuman, it's troo easy and makes you too good for SPcampaigns. In MP I, also, feel console gaming is a little better for me as it'sa more level playing field no matter whether you prefer a K/M or a pad. Fo me a console shooter online offers me a gaming experience where nearly everyone is on the same page, with the same tech and most of the time the exact same controller. this isn't the case on PC(and even ignoring things you can do via console mods like painting out backgrounds to show enemy players better and other cheaty tips)where I still find myself unsure as to whether I got where I am via skill or tech balance etc. Sure, I'm not saying cosnole gamers are more or less mature than PC gamers as I don't believe you should make the observation without proper evidence and neither should eliminate any game type based on that kind of thing and the lack of "real" shooters is just as much down to the fact that Real" is bog all fun when you get to the sharp end. Whatever, I think the speed of aim with K/M allows more freedom to devs on PCshooters(it gives more tie for more control options which can be hot keyed on PC too)but that should NOT be the governing factor over co sole oly gamers getting dumbed down pors every time. Also, I didn't see more than THREE actual gamers who thought BF3 was ever gong to look the exact same on console as on PC. Seriously, saying console gamers,in any great numbers, thought that is showing you want to believe console(or S3) gamers are stupid for your own agendas.99.9 per cent of gamers know exactly that six year old console cannot match brand new C and pretending the tech clueless among us are the majority is just a daft as they are. Anyway, this franchise is stuck between two stools on console and on PC and needs to stick or twist imho.
  • Stabby_Joe - June 23, 2011 10:34 p.m.

    I'd just wish they had offline co-op. It still confuses me why developers leave it out, the worst being Black Ops that had four player deathmatch but only two player zombies offline.
  • asspills - June 23, 2011 9:58 p.m.

    I really really want a realistic title for the consoles. I don't like consoles reputation as a launch-bay for everything too simple-minded for the superior forces of PC gamers. Give us a good, quality, realistic shooter, and I will buy it. And I will play it all the time. The only reason I play Call of Duty is because I don't have any other good options. Except Battlefield, which I do play religiously. It still doesn't scratch that itch though.
  • Darkhawk - June 23, 2011 9:54 p.m.

    Where's my Shadows of the Damned review?!
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - June 23, 2011 9:52 p.m.

    @MancisFrorkYorgan I completly agree with you, I would love a hardcore shooter on consoles, but actually made for consoles. I think that a lot of people that are getting fed up with CoD would relish a game that has huge battlefields and is one hit/one kill. Not, Oh I just got shot a bunch of times I guess I'll go hide behind this car and the giant hole in my side will heal up.
  • JudeDude92 - June 23, 2011 9:39 p.m.

    BS! These graphics are fine. Not everything needs to be COD 'quality'. And if you really want a realistic surrounding while carrying a rifle, go join the real Armed Forces.
  • Manguy17 - June 23, 2011 9:34 p.m.

    hmm, kinda hoping for mroe from this, still sounds like alot of fun over my headset when my freinds are playing coop, not sure that I entirely trust thier judgement of whats good but I can probably get away with a substandard product at a low price, especially if theres decent coop, hard to find.
  • RicePuddingUK - June 23, 2011 9:23 p.m.

    @MancisFrorkYorgan Why is it when a group is described as bad or offensive it's a "Minority", politicals, ethnics,troublemakers, everything always described as a "minority". No it isn't, the article speaks the truth, there are no "minority" of millions of CoD fanboys who think their consoles are more powerful than PC (Battlefield 3 anyone? They thought it would have the same graphics)
  • mothbanquet - June 27, 2011 2:38 p.m.

    I agree with some of the above. Hardcore games for consoles are awesome but this only tends to be the case when they are made FOR the console. Porting PC titles is all well and good but, as we've seen in countless RTS', you can't bridge the control gap no matter how hard you try. With the proliferation and successful integration of voice commands in games the issuing of orders via a wheel is overly complex and clumsy. I should be able to look at an enemy position on screen, say 'flank left' and watch my teammates go. As a side note, what's with 'realistic' military shooters sticking you in a group of only 4 people? Platoons are usually composed of around 40 men and squads/sections at least 7-10. The original OF had you at the bottom of the ladder in a squad of a dozen men and part of the magic of that game was seeing your character work up the ranks. It was halfway through the game before you could even issue orders! Pacing like that is something you rarely see in games nowadays with the advent of lightning quick adrenaline rushes like CoD but what can you do...
  • gprime17 - June 23, 2011 10:29 p.m.

    I was all excited to get my new gaming computer and finally start playing computer games. But god damn. You PC gamers are all so damn smug. Cant even start the reveiw without reminding the world (who dosent care btw) That consoles are just "dumbed down"
  • sniper141 - June 23, 2011 9:32 p.m.

    A tad bit late dont you think?
  • Lucas - June 23, 2011 8:22 p.m.

    What db1331, said straight up.
  • db1331 - June 23, 2011 7:49 p.m.

    @MancisFrorkYorgan What do you expect when the best-selling games are all extremely shallow ones you can just mash X or RT all the way through? And then when that hardcore title finally does come along, it does horrible in sales?
  • MancisFrorkYorgan - June 23, 2011 7:41 p.m.

    'our sense is that it’s too hardcore for the console crowd' I hate this. This... this is what really, really, really annoys me. Generalisations. It's not the case that 'it's too hardcore for the console crowd'; it's too hardcore for a small minority of the console crowd. The vast majority of us are actively waiting for a hardcore title to come along.
  • DevonOO7 - June 23, 2011 7:03 p.m.

    JUST PLAY ARMA!
  • PevMaster - June 23, 2011 7:12 p.m.

    This review couldn't have come to me any later--I read TWO reviews in magazines MONTHS ago.
  • db1331 - June 23, 2011 7:03 p.m.

    I played the previous game after my buddy insisted that it was "only $5" on Steam. We played it for about 45 minutes, mainly marveling at how bad it was, then we both quit the game and uninstalled it immediately. The problem with realistic war games is that games have to be fun, while war inherently isn't. There is one thing that these realistic shooters simply cannot emulate, and that's the fact that in a real war, you can't load your save after you die. Without any real consequence to death in one of these "realistic" shooters, the game just feels boring to me. Now that's not to say I want something so over the top like MW2 that even Michael Bay would roll his eyes at. I miss games like the first two Call of Duty titles that struck a perfect balance between fun gameplay and a genuine respect for the subject matter.
  • SuspendedIrrelevance - June 23, 2011 7:01 p.m.

    Crappy graphics? Bit harsh... especially considering there's not even a word on them in the actual review, as far as I could tell.

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