It was last summer when we first found out about Codemasters’ planned sequel to Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. Titled Operation Flashpoint: Red River, the latest installment drops competitive multiplayer in favor for full-on 4-player co-op gameplay.

In a year loaded with well over a dozen major first person titles, how will the latest Operation Flashpoint game differentiate itself and compete? Creative Director Sion Lenton chatted with CVG about Red River, to discuss exactly this.

Every modern shooter has to face the reality of competing with the industry juggernauts in Battlefield and Call of Duty. While Operation Flashpoint prides itself on offering more challenging and realistic shooters, what is it doing to compete?

“I think we’ve got a longer gameplan, if I’m being honest I’m going to step to one side and let EA and Activision duke it out.

I’m actually much more interested in being in a very different space from those guys, hence the co-op side of things and also that kind of authenticity that we have here, which is almost that reportage style, a gritty documentary style, the type of levels and missions you have in the game.”

Lenton nails it by discussion co-op as a key selling feature. Battlefield: Bad Company didn’t offer co-0p play in its campaign and even though Treyarch had co-op in World of War, they completely dropped it for Black Ops. One of the best parts of Modern Warfare 2 was the co-op Spec Ops mode, but again, it was limited and the actual campaign didn’t allow for co-op.

The Ghost Recon games are well-known for strong 4-player co-op but it’s been ages since we’ve had a game and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is still in development without a release date. Perhaps it’s good timing on the part of Codemasters as there is a clear growing interest from gamers and we’re starting to see more games push for co-op (Portal 2, Battlefield 3).

“I don’t know about you but I’ve started to sense a little bit of genre fatigue, for want of a better word, and I think – I know I am myself – people are yearning for something a little more different. Something that challenges them a little more, I think that’s the kind of thing we’re trying to offer here.

It’s a more cerebral game, you’re not rewarded for how quick you are but for how smart you are. You’re rewarded for how you remember and learn what happens and how you deal with that and you’re rewarded by teamwork, which is the bastion and central premise of the game.”

Operation Flashpoint Red River Co-op

Their long-term plan is to grow the Operation Flashpoint franchise into one of the biggest IPs in the industries. While what they’re saying and their plan to move to co-op gameplay with character progression through experience all sound good, this says nothing about addressing the serious issues of the last game (bad AI, graphical problems which hurt the ‘war simulator’ gameplay, weak plot, etc.).

Red River is described as a sort of franchise restart, “chapter one” in their plans going forward according to Lenton. Codemasters dropped the competitive multiplayer, but that’s just for this iteration as they look to perfect other gameplay elements.

The story was not one of the strengths of Dragon Rising, so what can we expect from Operation Flashpoint: Red River?

“So it’s set in 2013, two years into the future in Tajikistan and there are actually two opponents you have in the game. It’s a three act game, it starts off with a counter-insurgency operation, you’re battling insurgents which are these rag-tag bunch of guys with AK-47s, PKPs and RPGS, which is very much the bread and butter for the US Marine Corps. They feel very much within their comfort zone and we try and give that impression to the player as well.

So the first act is very gung-ho, ‘we can do this’ kind of stuff. Then the second act which is kind of the Empire Strike Back act where it all goes wrong. The US Marines find themselves right in the middle of a Chinese invasion; they’re swarming across the country.

The first mission of act 2 is probably one of the most intense games that I’ve ever played from a level point of view because you’re just holding a position against waves of Chinese and you have to fall back because you’re losing. It’s the anti-gun-ho kind of way of playing the game and I think that’s going to be really interesting.”

If you really want to see what the game is all about, check out the Operation Flashpoint: Red River co-op trailer to see why we’re interested in playing it.

Operation Flashpoint: Red River releases June 7, 2011 in North America for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

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Source: CVG