After playing through Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising like a fiend when it came out in 2009 and ending up with chronic muscle ache in my shoulders as a result, I was overcome with a mixture of both glee and hesitation when Operation Flashpoint: Red River was announced. On one side I really wanted to throw myself back into that tense warfare situation which, so far, no other game has really come close to matching. But on the other, I knew my body wouldn't really thank me. Oh well!
Operation Flashpoint: Red River takes place in the country of Tajikistan; a country which borders both China and Afghanistan. Continuing on with their War on Terror, the United States military moves its operations to Tajikistan and find themselves squaring off against a rag-tag bunch of insurgents known as the ETIM. It isn't too long until the People's Liberation Army (PLA) get involved though and these become the two main antagonists for you in both the single player campaign and the Fireteam Engagements (FTE).
We're going to focus on FTEs for this preview though as they represent the new multiplayer focus in Red River. Gone are the PvP elements that appeared in Dragon Rising, now it's all co-operative PvE. The theory was that there are already too many games that tackle the PvP space, so why not cater to the game's strengths with 4 player co-op?
There are numerous types of FTE, with the hardest being CSAR. This charges you with trying to rescue a downed helicopter pilot and extracting with everyone in one piece. You will need supreme teamwork and co-ordination to pull this off
- even the developers struggle. It's pretty plain sailing until the pilot is acquired, but then everything goes to hell. If you can last a few minutes you've done well; if you can complete the mission you may well be in line for a real medal.
In each of the four FTEs, and indeed the single player campaign, there are four classes you can use: rifleman, scout, grenadier and auto rifleman. By playing as each character class, you can unlock a few new weapons and some attribute points which can be used cross-class. Codemasters were keen to stress that they don't want anyone becoming a super soldier. They feel the points add a natural level of progression. For example, you can increase your character's stamina slightly.
You'll want to adjust these depending on the mission type you play as, for example, having increased stamina on the Last Stand FTE isn't very useful. Instead, increased awareness might be useful so that you can spot enemies slightly easier as they encroach on your defensive position. The again, Last Stand is an FTE with unlimited amounts of enemies, so that extra stamina might come in useful when you decide to run like crazy for the extraction chopper.
The two remaining types are Combat Sweep and Rolling Thunder. Combat Sweep charges you with clearing our a designated area, while in Rolling Thunder your mission is to protect a convoy as it proceeds through hostile territory. Each mode has been carefully crafted and focus tested and it shows. It looks like there will be plenty of fun to be had here, and of course, plenty of rage too if things don't go to plan.
After playing through all of the multiplayer options that Red River has to offer, it's easy to see why Codemasters made the decision to ditch PvP. And when's the game launches in April on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, you will be able to see for yourself why.