Operation Flashpoint: Red River
The time that realistic FPS games could only be played on PC is long past us. Amongst others, Arma and Operation Flashpoint brought the experience to consoles. Of those two, the latter has a new episode with Red River, but it’s equally clear that the genre still has a long way to go before we can truly talk about a perfect balance between realism and game fun.
You’re part of the Bravo team, a small squad of US Marine that need to track down a couple of escaped terrorists from Afghanistan. The story isn’t all too original and doesn’t take this opportunity to deliver a deeper and emotionally loaded war game. This gets emphasized even more by the characters who act a bit too tough still. However, it’s more than enough to make you give the feeling that what you do makes a difference, and that you’re in the middle of a bigger conflict when China starts interfering with things.
That’s also the idea behind the wide and open surroundings. These are unusually large scale for a shooter and you feel like a soldier in a real world, helped by enjoyable voicing and a decent atmosphere. Choosing for such a setting is right for this kind of game, but it does come with a few disadvantages. The detail and textures aren’t always equally appealing and you can question whether the current generation of consoles is powerful enough to offer the freedom we want in combination with the graphical beauty we’re used from more linear shooters.
But – and everyone will probably agree – overall it’s about the gameplay and that’s very addictive, if you forget the lesser parts. The missions are extensive and deep, making you immerse in your role and good military tactics are rewarded with success. Don’t go head-on with your enemy, but study the situation, attack from the flanks and don’t choose predictable routes. Also it’s refreshing to be confronted with bullets that are deadly, even from long distance, and situations that change rapidly or can escalate with deadly end as result.
Those who want to get everything out of this game I suggest to turn off the aids. Eventhough you’ll feel naked at the start and helpless without radar, mini-map and strategical tips, your satisfaction will be a lot higher when you come out as winner after an analog battle. Unfortunately, also your frustration will be bigger.
A large part of that has to do with commanding your team. Giving orders goes smoothly and there are plenty of possibilities to have your squad do what you think is the tactically most interesting option. These vary from simply walking around to performing artillery attacks; the biggest problem, however, is with what your team mates do when you’re not giving them orders. Just like in the OFP from years ago, they still run in your way or test the presence of enemies by catching a bullet when they should be hiding in cover.
That’s frustrating as in this game it doesn’t suffice to sit down a bit to heal. You first need to stop the bleeding of team members that got shot after which you can heal the wounds. And this process is one that requires time and cover, which often results in your death and you getting to restart the too long periods between checkpoints. “Why?” I always ask in such situations. It’s not that difficult for a developer to temper such frustrating AI with a more forgiving save system.
Don’t despair, though, as those with friends can avoid this through co-op. The campaign can be finished online with up to four players. The satisfaction is all the greater in that case and the game plays a lot smoother. Also you no longer have to worry about stupid artificial intelligence, unless your friends are morons.
Sweet, that co-op, and those who are fed up with the singleplayer can also have fun with the seperate co-op challenges that give you specific missions like protecting a convoy or saving crashed pilots. Also Red River has a persistent character which you can improve with experience points in four different classes. In exchange for these XP points you get certain perks, new possibilities and of course unlocked weapons and upgrades. The good part is that you get points in all the modes, but I personally didn’t find this necessary for this game.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River is a challenging shooter that’s quite alright in the basics and mostly shines thanks to its heightened reality and need for tactical thinking. You feel like you’re in a real battlefield, but unfortunately get torn from that illusion too often due to lacking AI. Luckily there’s a very decent co-op that makes up for a lot and which makes this game one we would definitely suggest for those who look for more than a linear shooter and can convince a couple of friends to join him/her.