Operation Flashpoint Red River Review

I’m a huge fan of military shooters and have been for a long time.  My first, and one of the most memorable, was Airborne Ranger by MicroProse that came out in 1987.   I’ve been an avid player of most, not-all military shooters since then.   My latest military first-person carnage-fest was Operation Flashpoint: Red River (OFRR) released by Codemasters.

The Story

OFRR is set in modern-day Tajikstan.  You and your fireteam, lead by Sgt. Knox (voiced my Reno Wilson) are part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed in Tajikistan to prevent insurgents (insert fake Al-Qaeda-esque name here) from gaining a foothold in the region.  This becomes rapidly unimportant.

Like any military shooter, things go from bad to holy-shit-storm after the third mission.  There’s not really a lot of spoilers available; the plot isn’t full of of twists and turns.  In case you want to read between the lines, Tajikistan is on the eastern border of China and China doesn’t like that.  Once more, like Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising things turn into a battle royale (with cheese if you’re French) with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Gameplay

The gameplay in OFRR is pretty standard fare.  The missions are based on scripted checkpoints, so if you fail you’ll go back to the last auto-save.  Unlike previous OF games, you aren’t humping 2000 m, 2 kilometers for you metric muckity-mucks between objectives.  On the rare occasion that you do have to travel long distances, there’s a HUMVEE present, unless you’re not careful and it gets destroyed.  Then  you’ll be taking the shoe-leather express, and let us hope your mission isn’t timed (which most of them are not).

Progression through the game unlocks additional levels, weapons and equipment.  As you gain levels you unlock other equipment you can use to customize what you are carrying as well as add points to attributes, like endurance, sprint speed, situation awareness (which lets you spot enemies quicker and farther), and weapons handling.  You can customize each role in your squad as well as what role you want to play.  There aren’t a quadrillion items to choose from so don’t fret.

As part of your massive array of skills (sarcasm) you can also change stances between standing, crouching and prone. Cover is available and if you attempt to use iron sights while behind a wall or under a window you will “pop-up” automatically to aim.  Taking cover will tend to keep you from becoming chow mein (see what I did there?), for the most part, but heavier ammo will penetrate walls and blood tends to obscure your view.

Graphics

OFRR is an amazing looking game.  The visuals are quite beautiful when you have a chance to look at the scenery between fire-fights.  Character models and animation are smooth and life-like.  Bullet holes appear when walls and vehicles take damage, walls explode and will break into pieces and vehicle explosions look realistic.

Operation Flashpoitn Red River
Look...Boobs!

That being said, there’s not a lot of variety when it comes to the graphics.  The PLA soldiers look identical (though I did tend to shoot them far away) as do the Marines not in your fireteam.  I did run into some issues when using the sniper scope.  Buildings that I would look at would tend to have pixellated graphics in certain areas.  Honestly, I didn’t care too much at the time because I was trying to save my ass and keep a minimal number of holes in my body.

Sound

Sound quality was excellent, though it felt more like I was using a paintball gun and less of a heavy rifle.  Ambient sounds, voice chatter and vehicle sounds were realistic.  There was variety between weapons while being fired, but they seemed to lack the “heaviness” you’d associate with firing an assault rifle.  The heavy machines do sound like you’re ripping open Hell Itself and the grenade launcher has a pretty hearty explosion and works to great effect.

Artificial Intelligence

The AI in OFRR was hit or miss.  Squad mates are controlled via a Radial Menu and can be assigned specific tasks, go here, run there, suppress THOSE guys or HEAL IDIOT WHO DIDN’T LISTEN.  Get used to HEAL IDIOT WHO DIDN’T LISTEN.  Your squadmates are useful and will put the enemy down, but from time to time they will act like morons and run between you and the enemy, particularly if you’re defending a location, and get shot for their idiocy.  They will call for help and now your corpsman will run out and get shot for being such a team player.  Thankfully, in such cases, you can heal yourself as well as your team, unless they are incapacitated aka dead as door nails.  Overall, your AI is useful 80% of the time, but you’ll get used to the radial menu after the first few missions and memorize the few keystrokes you’ll need to get them to do what you ask (or close enough for government work).

Enemy AI on the other hand, are almost all crack shots once you get above Normal.  They don’t really flank or attempt to do more than suppress you.  Those that aren’t attempting miraculous 300m headshots will attempt to run in and blast you to tiny pieces and fill you with lead.  Upon many occasions they will charge at a fixed .50 cal machine gun and then CROUCH (because I’d totally crouch in front of a gun shooting half-inch bullets at me at a couple hundred rounds per second) to take a shot.

The enemy will use RPGs and rockets on you, but only in later missions.  They can use these to devastating effect and obliterate you and your Marines in short order.  When your squadmates yell “AT Soldier at …” you should hone in quick and remove that threat.

Enemy vehicles don’t do much more than act as targets. They will shoot at you, and use their main weapon and grenade launchers, but you only run across APCs and very few tanks.  They can be dealt with pretty simply as during those events a SMAW or Javelin is available.  The same goes for any missions with enemy helicopters, there is normally a Stinger missile around that you can use.  Handy.

Overall

I enjoyed OFRR, it was an enjoyable romp playing super-soldier in a group of super-soldiers.  There’s not a huge amount of weapon variety and you’re not going to be driving any tanks here.  The heaviest weapon you will yield will be a .50 cal emplacement or hand-held weapon such as the SMAW or Stinger missile.

The game is a mix between Call of Duty style play and Arma.  It’s slightly more realistic than CoD and 1/10th of military simulation that Arma or Arma II (and expansions) is.  CoD is full of “holy crap I can’t just believe that” moments while OFRR is closer to “Jeez that was kinda hellish but thankfully I only had to reload my game TWICE that time” moments.

The voice work is well-done, Sgt Knox can be annoying.  I’ve worked with Marines while in the service and none of them had quite such a foul mouth as this guy.  He’s a little over-the-top, most of the time, and you’ll hear from him constantly.  His most endearing speech is actually delivered at the end of the game after the final battle where he finally answers “Knox’s Rules of Combat, Rule Number Three.”

Al Williams, who played Sgt Apone in Aliens voices Colonel Hardaway, who is also a bit over the top and seems half-crazy as you work your way through the ten mission campaign.

Operation Flashpoint Red River is a fun game, it’s like a summer movie you’d see just to enjoy explosions and pop corn.  It’s a mindless ride that requires nothing more than a quick trigger finger and a little tactical thinking.  OFRR appears to be a game that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, but what it does it does well.  OFRR is the bastard child of Call of Duty and Arma, and does neither of those games justice.

Overall verdict: 2.5 out of 5 whatevers.