The Average Gamer

Hands-on Preview – Operation Flashpoint: Red River Campaign

I got to play the campaign mode for upcoming military shooter Operation Flashpoint: Red River a few weeks back. After spending a day on the co-op Fireteam Engagement mode with other human players, moving to single-player is a bloody shock, let me tell you. This is not an easy game.

As with Red River’s multiplayer, you cannot run-and-gun it through Tajikistan. The Operation Flashpoint series requires a much more tactical approach, sizing up the landscape and assessing buildings for threat. The campaign mode teams you up with 3 AI squaddies (or online co-op friends) as Fireteam Bravo, supporting two other groups, Alpha and Charlie. If you think that sounds an awful lot like that American TV show Generation Kill, you’d be right. The entire feel of the campaign is very much inspired by Generation Kill, up to and including the shit-talking between grunts as your humvee powers down the road between missions. Rather annoyingly, you can’t skip these in-mission sequences but you can skip the cutscenes that introduce each day. At least you can switch the camera and enjoy the beautiful brown scenery while you wait.

The campaign follows Fireteam Bravo across several days of an ongoing mission. I played through the first 3 days covering basic training, clearing insurgents from a village, clearing insurgents from a farmhouse and clearing insurgents from a farming village. Yup, this is much more of a military sim than your average shooter. Mission repetition not as dull as it sounds – the range of weaponry you get to play with keeps things fresh and some tremendous sound engineering makes for a truly awesome experience on missions like calling in your first mortar strike.

In keeping with their US Marine inspirations, this is possibly the sweariest game you will encounter this year and I’m including Bulletstorm in that. I counted three whole seconds before I was called a fucktard in the very stylish briefing that introduces you to the game world. (Hint, it’s a lot like ours only with a war in Tajikistan). No matter, it adds to the atmosphere and mission briefings do feel like instructions from your sergeant instead of tedious cutscenes.

Atmosphere aside, the game is quite enjoyable. Codemasters have done a laudable job of building an instructions interface around the D-pad and once you get the hang of where each instruction group lies, it’s reasonably easy to use. The only flaw I found was extremely annoying, however. The main offensive order is context-sensitive, based on what you’re aiming at. To order your team to engage in a firefight, you have to target and maintain a lock on the enemy in question, then press Up, Up, Right on the D-pad. Problem is, the buggers keep running around and it’s not easy to keep them targeted when they’re 200 metres away. The number of times I accidentally ordered my team to storm a distant building instead of shoot the guys outside is ridiculous.

When you do get to storm a building, however, it’s great fun. You can watch your men methodically enter and clear each room on the ground floor before proceeding up the stairs with proper military-looking tactics (at least, to my movie-trained eye). Join them if you like but given the precision of their movements, I felt rather like a lumbering elephant charging through the middle of a well-executed play, preferring instead to hang back and guard the entrance against new invaders.

Other annoyances are having to walk around a a humvee and point at the correct door to enter: passenger door to ride inside, rear to ride outside and a mysteriously changeable hotspot to be the gunner. It’s a minor irritation but does get tiresome. My other frequent failure was in remembering to order my team back to the rendezvous point at the end of a mission. Yes, on numerous occasions I raced back to the evac point as ordered by my superior officers and unintentionally abandoned my team in the hot zone. Sometimes I wish they would ask why I ran away and never came back but I should probably realise that questioning your superiors is not actively encouraged in the US military.

There are times when you can totally get away with doing nothing. Your AI allies in Fireteams Bravo, Alpha and Charlie are pretty good at taking people out. Occasionally you’ll find yourself with a secondary objective to join forces with one of the other teams clear out a riverbank, for example. It’s entirely possible to just wander about taking the occasional pot-shot at the enemy for show, or in my case, shoot at entirely the wrong crowd. You won’t get the secondary objective but eventually the other teams will clear the area and let you carry on your merry way. Friendly fire is possible and given the annoyingly realistic blinding sun, you can quite easily take out Alpha team by getting a little trigger happy. Apparently the US military’s operations in Tajikistan aren’t quite important enough to warrant polarizing lenses.

Of course, this isn’t always the case or the game would be completely pointless. There are other times when you order your team to engage and they’ll run blindly in like morons and get cut to pieces. Red River has a full limb damage model, so if you get shot in the leg, you can’t run. Shot in the arm? You can’t shoot straight. You have infinite use of medi-packs that take time to patch you up and you can use them to revive unconscious team mates but once your team mates die, they’re gone for the mission. Treat your buds with respect. You need them. Instead of always going for the frontal assault, use tactics like ordering the team to hold a protected position and draw the enemy towards you or better yet, play the campaign in co-op mode. Dying isn’t so bad though – checkpoints are frequent enough that it’s not really an issue unless some poor sod is in the room when you’re on a terrible run and has to listen to same snippets of dialogue over and over again.

Operation Flashpoint: Red River is a nice alternative to your common shoot-everything-that-moves game. It’s scheduled for release on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC (Games for Windows) on 21st April and I’d heartily recommend it, especially if you like cooperative play. Check out our multiplayer hands-on preview as well.

4 Comments

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  3. Rob

    3rd May, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Unfortunately I preordered this game and now wish I didn’t.
    1. You cannot manually save games on a PC which to me is just an extraordinarily stupid idea. This is the same as in Crysis 2 which is one reason why it was disappointing.
    2. You must be connected online even for the auto saves to work.
    Why don’t the developers state this up front before the game is released? I would not have bought this game on these two factors alone.
    The opening scene to set up the story is just regurgitated propaganda about the “War on Terror”.
    After 10 minutes of play the whole bonehead grunt, redneck dialogue was too much, I could play it anymore.

    • steve

      18th Jul, 2013 at 3:22 pm

      Dude..the dialogue was the best about the game!…