Genre: First Person Shooter Developer: Publisher: Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 21st Apr 2011 Platforms:
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Operation Flashpoint: Red River is an FPS game with four-player drop-in drop-out coop throughout the entire 14-ish hour long campaign, a persistent leveling system across four different classes and system link coop for those who aren't rocking a Gold account.
Oh, you need to know more than that? Because if someone told me the above before I played it, you can bet your arse I'd already be sold.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River is the third game in the Operation Flashpoint series, but it's really the second game from Codemaster's internal development team. The first game in the series was by Bohemia Interactive - they've moved on to make the ultra hardcore ARMA series, while Codemasters has taken the OpFlash series across to consoles (to some extent simplifying the series as a result).
The series is known for delivering solid combat in a modern setting, though some will argue that OpFlash: Dragon Rising made a departure from tradition thanks to wonky AI and awkward vehicle controls.
Red River took two approaches to mitigating these complaints. First, it improved the AI (though anything would be considered an improvement) and vehicle handling - drawing on experience gained while bringing the game's EGO engine from version 1.0 to 2.0. The way 'high mobility vehicles' handle in particular is good.
The other approach is the previously mentioned drop-in drop-out coop. I've never appreciated a game for its coop more than I have in Red River, because it's executed nearly flawlessly. The coop party system is present from the very first menu in the game, so if you see anyone on your friends list (yes, I played on 360) playing the game, you can join them and you can work out how/where you'll kick some arse.
Speaking of kicking arse, Operation Flashpoint is keen to represent things as realistically as possible, but it also paints a picture of US Marines which appears to be based entirely in the realm of fantasy.
The broad vision for Red River has been to paint a picture representing the Marine Corp in a similar manner to the way it's represented by movies like Jarhead and HBO's excellent Generation.Kill.
In these instances the United States military is represented primarily like any large business/corporation might be - filled with inept bosses, confused/concerned worker bees and downright incompetent management structures.
Naturally, the situation for military personnel is made drastically more dangerous because everyone involved is armed.
Red River doesn't go to great lengths to demonstrate massive amounts of incompetence within the US Marine Corps - instead it's content with simply portraying the boots on the ground as foul-mouthed borderline racists/homophobes. Super-soldier foul-mouthed borderline racists/homophobes.
Your group of 13 (there are three squads of four, plus a Staff Sergeant unashamedly ripped from Jamie Foxx's performance in Jarhead) will finish the game having killed hundreds of Tajikistanis and PLA troops - all while demonstrating a significant amount of ignorance and contempt towards the people who live in the country you're invading.
The problem isn't the language, nor is it the attitudes presented. It's realistic and to some extent understandable that the Marines involved in the invasion of Tajikistan would push themselves to dehumanise their enemy as much as possible. It's a well-documented coping mechanism.
The problem is that while the portrayal of Marine's mannerisms and attitudes is realistic (to the best of my knowledge), it's not terribly common for a squad of 13 guys to take down literally hundreds of enemies. At one point you and your team are being overwhelmed by dozens of PLA.
You realise you can't hold the position you're in, so you 'bug out' - but in the process you kill stacks of them. Once you make it to your rear base you then fight off/defend against Armored Personnel Carriers and Tanks, plus another three score or so of troops.
This is where the real disrespect comes in - Marines aren't super soldiers. Your character isn't even a member of the special operations group in the Marine Corps - you're a regular joe, and there's even an air of 'I'm not even supposed to be here today' about the entire campaign.
By attempting to create this authentic sense of realism and then undermining it by putting you in the equivalent of Restrepo as recreated by Michael Bay, Operation Flashpoint: Red River demonstrates almost contempt - not just for the Tajikistanis and Chinese - but for the real life Marines who put their lives on the line every day.
At the end of the day, nobody winds up looking good. The enemy forces look somewhat weak, the Marines look like racists/homophobes, Codemasters looks bad and the game seems juvenile.
Happily, while you can't turn off the inane dialogue you can ignore it - and that's exactly what I'll continue to do. As a coop game experience, Red River is too good to miss just because it suffers at the hands of poor scripting/characterisation.
The campaign missions are mentally exhausting - you constantly find yourself leaping from the frying pan into the fire, only to then find yourself diving into lava. Each one takes about an hour a piece, and it's a fantastic experience with friends (providing you ignore the poor writing).
The enemy AI still isn't great, and there are some amusing bugs present (as a Scout I witnessed quite a few instances of enemies doing an awkward rendition of the worm dance move) but what you get is a fun shooting gallery, and some outstanding game modes otherwise.
Outside of the campaign you can do a number of pure 'shooter' type missions - no story or exposition, just you and three mates completing a set of objectives, chasing a high score.
The variety of missions takes you from defending positions to clearing out an area (against the clock) - and some of these side missions are actually fairly harrowing. Rescuing downed pilots gives you a proper understanding for the term FUBAR - you bust them out of their zone only to have dozens of enemies roll up on you... and your only real choice is to run.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River as a single player experience is a tough sell. You won't get a better hardcore experience on console, but if you have a PC you'd be a lunatic to not check out ARMA 2 first. If you're interested in story and character development, OFRR will disappoint you heavily as well.
That said, if you do have friends with the same console who are willing to pick up a copy of the game, it's a no-brainer. In terms of execution, Operation Flashpoint: Red River demolishes all comers - and thanks to a heavy dose of replayability, I'd even recommend it over Portal 2's coop.