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Operation Flashpoint: Red River Review

Few series reveal the trajectory of the console first-person shooter as accurately as the long-running Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six franchise. Once a tense, protracted, tactical sim on the Dreamcast, (admittedly, a port of the PC title) over time the series morphed into a simplified, cover-based shooting gallery which surrendered many of its strategic elements in favor of accessibility. Following this trend, gamers have seen the proliferation of ‘pick up and play’ FPSs, while more analytical simulations have woefully fallen out of favor.

One of the few exceptions to this rule was 2009’s Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising– a gratifying playground of war-porn which didn’t neglect a constituency who cared about bullet drop. Amidst a wave of corridor shooters, the title’s thorny firefights and ambitions for realism were a refreshing reprieve. Regretfully, reports of the game’s difficulty became exaggerated, relegating Dragon Rising to following the fraction of the Modern Warfare audience. With the release of sequel Operation Rising: Red River, developers Codemasters sustains the franchise’s fighting spirit, while making a handful of accommodations in hopes of luring in newcomers.

Following a opening cinematic which explains al-Qaeda’s geopolitical trajectory via a jumble of video clips, flashy graphics, and irony (War’s 1975 hit, We Can’t We Be Friends? adds the incongruity), players find themselves deployed to Tajikistan. As the lead on a four-man fireteam, Red River initial missions involve hunting down any insurgents who have recently fled Afghanistan. Tensions mount as China sends its own troops across the border, initiating a conflict with the People’s Liberation Army, the force player’s battled in Dragon Rising.

Cleverly, Red River abandons much of the requisite tutorial associated with tactical FPSs. Beyond a brief stop at the rifle range and a pithy introduction to the title’s Quick Command Radial (a menu system which allows the players to issue maneuver, tactic, suppression and directional orders) most instruction in indoctrinated through Staff Sergeant Knox’s Ten Commandments. Delivered through mid-mission dialog, the NCO tenders a set of tactical rules which follow basic combat protocol while improving a player’s chances of success in the game. From keeping a full mag ready, using suppressive fire, to firing in short, controlled bursts, Knox’s knowledge won’t be revolutionary to military sim vets, but it does deliver tactical info in a convincing manner. The downside is that players who replay a campaign mission have to hear the whole expletive-filled spiel all over again.

Although some might not appreciate Sgt. Knox’s lewd loquaciousness, the character’s anecdotes and explanations embed Red River with a personality which was largely absent from Dragon Rising. Credit should be given to the voice-work from Al Mathews, best known for his role as Sergeant Apone in Aliens, who delivers a spot-on performance. Knox is an ever-confident, seasoned leader, but despite his course talk, there’s a hint of patriarchal pride stowed away in his heart.

Less credible are the men on your fireteam, who execute orders serviceably, but display a serious lack of autonomy. Habitually, your squad will stand around idly after completing an objective; at one point my team stood motionless in the middle of an engagement, refusing to take cover.  To balance things out, enemy AI seems consistently uneven, with foes taking the same path of a freshly-fallen foes. Overall, enemies tend to display less adaptive behaviors than Red River, with fewer antagonists digging deep into well-protected positions. Additionally, the game plays an oddly tranquil Tajik dialog sample when players get within 25 yards of an alerted foe, which sounds like a last minute afterthought to warn reckless gamers.

While enemy behavior remains hazy in the game’s cooperative campaign, allied AI ceases to be an issue. With up to three online players, Red River truly shines, with gamers working closely to accomplish their mission objectives. With each of the game’s 10 stages taking close to an hour, skulking through towns and performing overwatch duties can result in a uplifting sense of espirit de corps when the mission is finished. Additionally, parties can take on Fire Team Engagements, which bypass Red River‘s storyline to deliver Spec-Op style challenges. From the horde-mode like Last Stand, where teams defend against wave of encroaching baddies to Rolling Thunder a tense convoy escorting exercise, these variants are pleasing. Although each of the four modes only has two playable maps, expect Codemasters to rectify this shortcoming through future downloadable offerings.

New to Red River is an Player Progress system, with a functionality which recalls Call of Duty perks and unlocks. Depending on what class the player chooses (picking from rifleman, auto-rifleman, grenadier and scout disciplines), rewards are distributed for mission completion, as well as for performance superiority. With experience new weapons as well as accessories open, giving your player a serious tactical superiority over a stagnant enemy. Less the title become too easy, there’s a Hardcore difficulty which eliminates much of the HUD info, forcing players to identify navigational waypoints and friendly locations on their own, while increasing the accuracy of opponents.

Visually, Codemaster’s EGO engine is undeniably starting to show it’s age. On open vistas, the game can struggle to maintain a refresh rate of 30 frames per second, while attempting a wide flank which transcends the title’s fringes is met with an instant death. Still, the occasional wash of sun or rivulet which cuts through a dusty landscape articulates the unlikely beauty which occasionally pokes through the hostile landscape.

Whether prompted by an unforeseen attack which ruptures  the tedium of a desert hump or the thrill of calling in an devastating airstrike on a quarrelsome encampment, Operation Flashpoint: Red River delivers the type of thrills absent from most first-person shooters. Skillfully straddling the space between detached hardcore simulation and narrative-based action game, the title comes recommended to anyone who has ever scoffed at the improbability of a contemporary military title.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. Jeezchrist, Deagle. Freakin’ epic review. Got to get this.

    • ya every review pulls in its flaws and this and that, this review was good. Game got its flaws and sometimes occationally not so pretty visuals, but ive seen some pretty occational PRETTY visuals in this game aswell, for some seconds i thought i was playing farcry 2 -and that is not bad 🙂 afaik norwegian net-shops sells the pc version for half the price of what it costs in the store, could be the deal in other countries too ,so make sure u check the net first:) Anyway, recommendable for people that want a bit more realism and IF u got some friends to coop with ,then its a must. Coop campaign is DAMN cool.

  2. No surprise here, as you constantly talk about how good Operation Flashpoint is.

  3. “One of the few exceptions to this rule was 2009′s Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising- a gratifying playground of war-porn which didn’t neglect a constituency who cared about bullet drop.”

    Pure cold-blooded poetry Deagle.

  4. I have to ask, can you play as the opposing force in MP?

  5. Give this nut a sniper rifle and let him fight for his country.

    (…and then make a game about it)

    I didn’t understand all the lingo, and it’s probably not a game for me, but I can appreciate the review.

  6. I don’t think I’d like this at all. Realistic army games are kind of boring. I remember Full Spectrum Warrior was the dullest game I think I ever played.

    No offense, I hope.

  7. So this has bullet drop in it? What about wind?

    • There’s drop, its one of Knox’s rules. But no wind. Dunno about elevation, but I doubt it.

  8. Interest in this game just increased dramatically. Sounds very cool especially online.

  9. I hear the game is set in 2013 and Osama Bin Laden is still alive. Oops.

    Maybe they’ll give up a DLC mission at the mansion.

  10. ProGamesProduction

    Nice review, a bit long but pretty informative.

  11. Stretch Armstrong

    I can’t see myself paying $60 for a FPS. They’re like 8-10 hours of play tops, right?

  12. Jessica Simpson is Having My Baby

    I guess this is cool, if you’re into that. I always meant to try MAG but then PSN went down.

  13. So do you drive vehicles in this? I see the hummer there.

    Aircraft too?

  14. Insert Full Metal Jacket quotes here…

    Sound cool, is there a demo by chance on XBLA?

  15. I haven’t picked up Alice: Madness Returns, maybe I should use my credit for this.

  16. nice long review Deagle. With writing like this you’re bound to get invited to MS’s conference one of these years. 😉

  17. Do you know/care that not everybody is into military games. Besides that you can’t step into a store without tripping over five.

  18. dah-yum, you guys get a lot of comments. How do you do it? let me know your secrets.

    • Play games for 30 years straight like Deagle. Write like a madman. That might do it, right? 😉

  19. One of the better reviews Ive read for the game. Sounds like it’s pretty fun.

  20. Wait this has no Japanese purple-haired teenage girls who save the world and you liked it?

    J/K- Glad there’s a FPS for nuts like you.

  21. Get some!

    Sign me up, this shit looks hot.

  22. I cant wait for a price drop.

  23. I miss the old R6 games. I used to play the Xbox ones for hours!

  24. How deep does the simulation go? Do you have to make your bed?