The Average Gamer

Hands-On Multiplayer Preview – Operation Flashpoint: Red River

I got my grubby mitts on upcoming co-op military shooter Operation Flashpoint: Red River this week. The third in this series of “realistic” military shooters, Red River is based in Tajikistan (yes, it’s a real country) and heavily influenced by the style of modern combat documentaries like the fabulous Generation Kill (mmm… Eric from True Blood :).

The Operation Flashpoint series emphasises survival and 4-man teamwork over run-and-gun gameplay. We posted a short Red River gameplay trailer the other day – it doesn’t really do the game justice. Much of the joy lies in coordinating tactics with your team and hunting for the enemy. You can’t just blindly barge past doorways or around corners. You will die. It only takes one shot to knock you to the ground and another to finish you off completely. Respawns are limited by your mission progress so if you get taken out early and often, be prepared to sit in spectator mode for a long time and hope that your teammates can hit the next goal without you.

We played Red River in the perfect set-up; 4 large hi-def screens and Xbox 360s in a cosy darkened restaurant booth. When it comes to co-op gameplay, nothing beats having your mates over with a few beers and taking the piss. Leaping into a humvee and pegging it down the road at full speed while your team-mate runs helplessly alongside trying to get in? Hilarious! Shooting your buddy in the ass because he’s crawling around the dirt and slowing down the team? Motivational tough love! You’ll heal him up when he agrees to play ball.Try to pull off the same moves with strangers on Xbox Live and you’re just a twat who’s ruining the game for everyone else. As is the sad current trend, there is no split-screen co-op so headset communications over online play will have to do for your average gamer.

Red River features a variety of different modes: Combat Sweep for seek-and-destroy, Rolling Thunder has you escort convoys, Last Stand covers area defence and Combat Search and Rescue or CSAR is the toughest set of co-op missions that task you with rescuing downed pilots in hostile territory. Our team proved appalling at the convoy escort – admittedly due to the aforementioned hi-jinx – but absolutely stormed it through the Combat Sweep competition map thanks to the fine leadership of Daily Joypad’s Stephen Butler.

The level design favours open maps over corridor shooters and the partly-autonomous AI behaves slightly differently every time, keeping the Fireteam Engagement (i.e. co-op multiplayer) maps fresh. Well, fresh enough that it felt different when we played the same map 3 times in a row, at any rate. Sure, your enemies will be hanging around the same places but sometimes they’ll be up on the roof, sometimes inside this building or occasionally sneaking around behind you. We gave the game a good test run, both working collaboratively and running around like headless individual chickens. I can confirm that individual attempts at heroism will really penalise your team.

There is, of course one exception to that rule. Should you find the rocket launcher, feel free to dominate the Last Stand map. The sound quality and explosions generated by that thing are just awesome.

As well as four game modes (plus the campaign), you have 4 combat classes:

  • Grenadier: short range weapons and explosives
  • Rifleman: general-purpose infantryman
  • Auto-rifleman: heavy weapons
  • Scout: squashy but fast long-range specialist

The game also incorporates a bit of RPG feel, earning experience points to rack up skills like assault-rifle training to improve your accuracy. Normally I’m against that sort of thing in shooters but in Red River’s case, it only takes a couple of hours to max out one or two specialist skills and does give you that little positive hit of achievement every few matches.

If you’re into your military weapons, Red River should keep you very happy. There’s a good range of “authentic” weaponry available in the game, inluding but not limited to…

The MP5A4, the ever-popular M1014 combat shotgun, an M4A1 carbine rifle, a Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW), an anti-tank FGM-148 Javelin, the particularly insidious M18A1 anti-personnel mines and the Mk19 Automatic Grenade Launcher.

Of course, these aren’t all available right away. You gots to earn your good toys.

Operation Flashpoint: Red River is a great experience with friends – worth considering if you’re into cooperative team gaming. It will be released on 21st April on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. Hit up the official Operation Flashpoint site for more news.

More Red River Screenshots