Operation Flashpoint: Red River is a tactical first person shooter that lets you play as an American military unit caught up in a conflict in Tajikistan.
In the world of FPS games set in modern conflicts, it is difficult to imagine non-superhuman soldiers. We mean in almost every game, one soldier is pretty much enough to turn the tide of entire battles.
Fortunately there are games out there that keep realism in mind in both their setting and gameplay. Operation Flashpoint: Red River is one such game that balances all-out gun porn with tactical gameplay – and it manages to do that quite well.
Red River is the newest entry to Codemasters' Operation Flashpoint series of tactical shooters and is preceded by 2001's Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis and 2009's Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. It has been developed and published by Codemasters.
What's It About?
FPS games are not exactly known for their story and Red River sticks to that stereotype.
While games like Call of Duty: Black Ops and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 at least have an over-arching plot-line, Red River's story is an extremely basic one that plainly describes a US invasion of Tajikistan and the subsequent (SPOILER ALERT) Chinese counter-attack on the American forces.
Irrespective of the throwaway story, Red River still has some memorable characters whose personalities become discernible during the game thanks to the often hilarious radio comm chatter.
While there is plenty of 18+ banter that goes on, no one manages to create a bigger impression than Staff Sgt Knox, your immediate superior who comes across as a combination of Halo's Avery Johnson and Entourage's Ari Gold. If you aren't a fan of crass humour, then you might get very annoyed but we enjoyed the banter as it added to the otherwise uni-dimensional characters.
How It Plays
If you go into Red River thinking you can play it like your regular Call of Duty game, you will not stay alive in-game for very long.
Instead, you will have to rely on teamwork and tactics using your teammates to scout ahead and suppress/cover you while you move ahead. The way you command your AI teammates is quite intuitive and is reminiscent of SWAT 4's command method.
However, your team members’ AI is quite patchy and while sometimes they will be able to secure a building without needing your assistance, at times they are unable to hit an enemy that's a few feet away.
Also, we noticed path-finding issues with teammates getting stuck in corners and in vegetation. The most annoying aspect of your allies' AI is the way they keep getting in to your line of fire and subsequently get shot.
Enemy AI is marginally better but they also seem to suffer from the Far Cry syndrome – that is, they're able to hit you from a mile away even if you're showing very little from behind cover. Also, the enemies only seem to be programmed to do two things - rush towards you with their guns blazing or stand still behind cover.
Still, the game is quite challenging even in 'Regular' difficulty and will need you to change your tactics every so often.
How it Looks & Sounds
While Red River looks good, it's one of those games that give you pleasant vistas to look at all muffled by a brown filter that seems to be the signature look for games nowadays. Also, after a while you do tend to get bored of looking at the same mountains, clouds, rivers irrespective of how good they look.
The game's sound design is much better and it features a pretty good reproduction of gunfire, reloading sounds and voices being carried over radio waves brimming with static.
We played the game on a Windows PC with a 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 processor, 2GB of RAM and AMD Radeon HD5770 with 1GB video memory.
We played the game at 1280 x 1024 resolution with all settings on high and 2xAA and had absolutely no issues. The load times were also acceptable.
We must confess that we’re not a fan of multi-player gaming but it's almost impossible nowadays to come across an FPS in which multiplayer isn't a big component.
Red River features a co-op multiplayer component in which you and three of your friends can form a fire-team and play across standalone maps or the entire campaign. You will need to create a Games for Windows Live account to get access to the multiplayer games.
The game has a very good matchmaking service and within moments of asking the game to automatically put us into a game, it had done so. You can also pick from servers setup by players and at the time of writing at least, there were more than enough servers to choose from.
The game should last you about eight hours in the first go and that duration will probably reduce as you get better at it. Red River has good re-playability as it lets you play through campaigns in different roles such as a Scout, Rifleman or Grenadier and you also gain experience points which you can use to unlock mods or improve skills (such as sprint, and proficiency with rifles).
Also, it's fun to try out different tactics during missions and we found ourselves replaying missions and using our team in different ways.
Plus, the multiplayer is plenty fun provided you team up with the right set of players and should keep making you come back.
If you are looking for your quick next fix post-COD: Black Ops, then Red River might not be the best game for you. However, if you're a fan of the Rainbow Six and ARMA games and want your FPS to be more realistic and tactical then you will enjoy Red River. Just keep it away from the kiddies both because of the violence and the liberal use of different words to describe various parts of the human anatomy.