Game Rant's William Case reviews Operation Flashpoint: Red River
It’s a taut wire when a publisher decides to deliver a title that captures the essence of American soldiers doing what they do best. Harnessing the core of realistic combat, the sounds, action, and interaction between squad-mates is not only a challenge but ,if not done correctly, could alienate players from an experience.
Codemasters tries to bring that type of edgy realism into Operation Flashpoint: Red River, but regrettably didn’t get enough Intel on the subject to make it through the mission.
It’s not that the game has taken anything out of context or misspoken — in fact Codemasters does a fairly good job at staying true to real-life weapons and interactions — but where Operation Flashpoint: Red River drops the ball is AI and mission setup. Strung together with a slew of swears that could curdle milk, and one of the most obnoxious COs that have ever been given a voice, the presentation takes away from some of the more refined pieces of the puzzle.
The game plays out simply enough: player’s work as the leader of an elite fire team in Tajikistan to stop Al Qaeda in tandem with two other squads. Players will have to work with the leaders of those teams, Commanding Officer Knox (whose voice may sound familiar, as he was also the CO in Aliens) and three other squad mates, controlled by either three friends or AI.
Before each mission, players can choose what role to play in the squad (scout, grenadier, rifleman, or auto-rifleman) and while there will always be squad leader, the game does give the chance to play with the roles and find the best fit for the given situation. Each mission is presented with a specific set of objectives: VIP, capture the enemy base, search and destroy, as well as others. While each mission has the player running into the lion’s den with minimal equipment (one primary and a secondary weapon) along with their battle sense, completing with high marks allows for upgrades to things like running speed, ability to camouflage into scenery, accuracy, and more.
It’s unfortunate then, that you won’t get that much of a chance to upgrade anything if playing solo. As well-crafted as the Squad Command system is, it’s almost pointless if the AI controlling the rest of your team isn't doing his job. There will be moments where the chosen sniper is needed up in a tower, only unfortunately he’ll be stuck prone behind a tree, forcing you to either restart at the checkpoint or kill him while you go take the shot. Granted, the AI will occasionally make the right decision and ignore a command (such as when told to heal a teammate while a tank is in their path), but it’s rare those moments happen.
Additionally, this isn’t a game to be played solo: it’s made specifically for multiple people with multiple points of interest. This is why when the AI does work the way they should, it’s a beautiful thing. Suddenly the paranoid world of war is there and every crack and crunch heard could be a potential enemy. Every missed shot could be a squad mate lost.
This is why playing with three other friends is where the game really excels, giving you the chance to plot and plan without a second’s worth of “point at squad member, find prone button and building, and go.” The game also gears players to work better as a team, forcing everyone to split up and plan where the squad is going to strike - rather than the usual “run-and-run” technique that games like Call of Duty have become so accustom to relying on.
Playing with comrades also helps pass the time between long-winded loading scenes before and after each mission. It would have honestly been better if they were just simple and silent loading screens. Instead, Knox comes in every mission and tells you what you’re to do, full of curses, slurs, and pointless drivel. Not only that, once Knox is done, you’ll end up seeing him again as soon as the mission is ready for another bombardment - grating nerves and patience.
Truthfully it wouldn’t be so bad if the squad didn't have to travel at least two miles (on foot) to the jeep, helicopter, or whatever to get extracted every time. The amount of walking and running in the game is exhausting, especially when the world — which is striking and beautiful — is very closed off to only the areas given. It becomes a “look but don’t touch,” sort of game, and when the end of the valley is in plain sight, it's smart to utilize that space instead of using it as a backdrop.
Though, if players get a little tired of the missions and want something a little more "action oriented," Firestorm is there to feed the urge. Set up for more quick-action missions, Firestorm gives players a myriad of objectives: clear out hostiles in a nearby village, escort a convoy, retrieve data from an enemy, and more. These give a good boost towards your skill and are a race against time, perfect to stave off any monotony that the regular missions may deliver.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River is an odd mix: it’s squad-based combat — if working properly — is one of the more refined in the genre and it pairs with the well-designed enemies and beautiful landscape. Yet at the same time, laborious issues with your squad mates and meaningless briefings cripple it just enough to make it a mediocre title. If it had just taken itself a little more seriously, Operation Flashpoint: Red River could have been something worth paying attention to.