Operation Flashpoint: Red River

I'd Rather Be Playing River Raid

Operation Flashpoint: Red River drowns in a sea of bad choices.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: July 26, 2011
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Ten years ago, Bohemia Interactive and Codemasters made a pretty big splash (for a niche game) with the release of Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, a punishingly realistic FPS. Laced with military jargon and allowing you unprecedented freedom in approaching missions, the original OpFlash told the tale of a fictional mid-80's conflict taking place on some fictional islands that covered a good bit of territory. Vehicles of all types were put at your disposal, so you might find yourself cruising in a jeep or flying in a chopper making your way from one hotspot to the next. It was brutally uncompromising and brilliantly moddable, and the game lived on for years thanks to an engaging multiplayer system. That spirit lives on in the Armed Assault (ArmA) series that Bohemia Interactive continued to develop after their partnership with Codemasters ended.

Sadly, the Operation Flashpoint name has since been dragged through the mud by Codemasters. Operation Flashpoint: Red River is the second game Codemasters has put out on their own in this series, following the underwhelming Dragon Rising. In doing so, they have effectively squashed the good name of Operation Flashpoint forever, so much so that BI has retroactively renamed the original game to fit in the Armed Assault series (also Codemasters probably made them do that).

From the opening cinematic blasting jingoistic slogans and, err, redneck sensibilities at you, to the trite use of "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor" in the background, Red River takes every opportunity it can to depress and disgust you. Long gone is the fictionalized conflict, replaced with a psuedo-real conflict in Tajikstan, where the "Tajis" are mainly a bunch of terrorists hell bent on putting an end to American hegemony or some other overwrought Arabic angst. Set aside is the brutal realism, replaced with extreme, but unrealistic difficulty. The old game was tough, very tough, but fair. This new game is just a frustrating mess.

Ostensibly a squad-based FPS, Red River is actually one of those rare games that does co-op in a well integrated way. You can go through the campaign as Kirby, the leader of your little group, or you can team up with up to three friends and hop in and out of the campaign at various points with them. If you go it alone, your squadmates are still there and you can dispense a decent range of orders fairly painlessly to them through the use of a tiered menu wheel. This is one of the few things Red River does right, as I never found myself unable to get the AI squadmates where I wanted them. There is also the "Fireteam Engagement" mode outside of the campaign that is reminiscent of a very bare-bones SpecOps from Modern Warfare 2 that also supports 4-player co-op. There are no competitive modes to be found though.
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