Released two years ago, Codemasters’ Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising certainly offered something different from the usual shooting fare. Instead of cramming in a constant stream of bombastic set-pieces, Dragon Rising allowed gamers with a much more methodical gaming style to get stuck into something that truly required extreme patience, and the kind of tactical nous usually required only by the most in depth of PC strategy titles.
This sequel, Operation Flashpoint: Red River, tries in some ways to open itself up to an audience more fond of the arcadey thrills of Black Ops. The opening – which does an outstanding job at giving gamers a wonderful history lesson – sets the scene for a title that still takes itself seriously, but obviously has no qualms with tweaking the old formula to make things much more palatable to the gaming majority obsessed with Call of Duty.
The inspiration of the brilliant Generation Kill – a book/TV series about the opening stages of the 2003 invasion of Iraq focussing on one US squad– is obvious as soon as you’re introduced to your in game team. They constantly chatter and bicker as real life soldiers must do, rather than being strict automatons purely focussed on sheer brutal warfare. It does a terrific job at making you care for your team, and actively sees them as human beings as opposed to hovering guns blasting away alongside you. And by golly do they swear. If you’ve ever wondered what could rival a Yorkshire working men’s club for cuss words per minute, then you’ll have finally found the match in Red River.
As the leader of the squad, you’re tasked with constantly keeping your troops well led. Utilising the d-pad, you’ve a whole wealth of tactical options to offer, with an incredible number of options to choose from. Just about every kind of tactical possibility you could conjure up as you progress through the main campaign is covered, allowing you to frequently try different approaches to even the most similar situations. A major plus point in comparison to say the GRAW and Brothers in Arms series’ which did suffer from a touch of repetition.
Thankfully the AI of your team mates is (almost) solid as a rock. They will follow your orders to the letter, which is certainly a handy aspect considering carefully executing a well thought out plan can require split second timing – but they did suffer from the odd slip into stupidity. With our group urged forward towards a waist high wall, an enemy suddenly jumped into view, what proceeded was a few brief seconds of a basic standoff at ten paces, with the enemy eventually collapsing in exchange for one dead US soldier. Perhaps it was our fault for trying to push forward at too quick a pace without scouting the area ahead, but it did cause a few curse words with one of our number now dead and buried. Considering that’s just one of two occurrences in well over a dozen hours of total game time, it could easily be an incredibly rare occurrence.
The focus on “cool authenticity” and a ban on the dreaded “sim” word haven’t done too much to change the hefty difficulty standard set by the entire series. Jump out of cover and sprint towards a half dozen enemies, and you’ll be cut down in seconds. Spend too long lining up that perfect headshot, and you’ll be on the receiving end of a bullet between the eyes yourself. Those who baulked at the previous titles incredibly high difficulty will be delighted to discover that your enemies aren’t quite the one shot wonders they previously were. But if you think the Call of Duty series on Veteran is the height of video game difficulty, then you haven’t seen anything yet.
Alas we didn’t get the opportunity to try out the drop-in drop-out co-op offered for the entire campaign, but that does sound like an incredibly inviting feature. Up to four of you can get together online and play through the aforementioned campaign, but also take on a whole heap of additional challenges to test your abilities to their absolute max.
The promised graphical upgrades have arrived fully intact, and certainly show off the large game world to a relatively high level. While it’s not got the sheer detail of Crysis 2, the wide expanses of open game world to explore and utilise is quite incredible. It all becomes quite varied too, which will be wonderful news to those that found the last game a touch bland and samey.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River certainly has all the weapons in its armoury to hit its target. Set for release during the traditional summer lull, it could quite easily be a hit with shooting fans eager for something that requires a bit more than purely an itchy trigger finger. And that is the puniest paragraph ever written.
Red River is released April 15, which is just over a week away, and of course it’s available to pre-order from ShopTo on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC now.