Going Hardcore With Operation Flashpoint: Red River

Bulletstorm showed us that first person shooters had gotten stale, and that with an injection of humour, plenty of quick fire pacing and a dash of inventiveness with regards to some tasty weapon combos, the genre was suddenly fun again – gung ho, gripping stuff that hopefully made a few people sit up and take notice.

But, that said, not everyone went for Bulletstorm’s rather unique take on the biggest selling pigeon hole in the industry – some like their shooters to involve a bit of thinking, tactics, strategy, and whilst People Can Fly’s game was great fun, it’s hard to imagine it appealing to everyone.  At the other end of the spectrum, then, is Operation Flashpoint: Red River.

[advert]To be honest, I used to love the original Ghost Recon, that was hardcore enough for me even though some will be scoffing at such an adjective.  Regardless, playing with mates over a LAN on Macs was always superb fun, it was hard enough so that you had to think ahead, and bullets were deadly enough to down you with one well placed shot.

Codemasters’ Operation Flashpoint series feels, to me at least, like the logical progression of that series – especially since Ghost Recon went almost entirely the other way, the later games don’t feel nearly as tactical to me.  Red River, the latest Flashpoint title (out today) offers players the chance to make the game as tactical as they want.

So, Hardcore mode, the key draw to something like Operation Flashpoint, attempts to put the player firmly in the boots of a US Marine, and make the game look and feel as engaging and realistic as possible – but does it work?

Kind of.  For starters, you need to play the game in co-op mode.  That’s not just because the AI is particularly frustrating (it can be) or that the game feels like you’re constantly ordering your team around (you can be) but that, and this was a criticism leveled at Dragon Rising too: from what we’ve played single player just isn’t really that much fun.

It’s like Red River is designed for four players to buddy up and form a fireteam – the distinct roles on offer cement this notion right from the off, and you can’t help shake the feeling that you’re missing out by playing solo.  Thankfully there’s full drop-in drop-out on offer (the game basically sets up a private multiplayer even in single player) so it’s just a case of pinging some mates when you’re online.

[drop]It’s all about the co-op, too – there’s no competitive multiplayer, further emphasising the developer’s goal – to bring together like minded gamers and shove them straight into this warzone.  You’ve probably heard that there’re two other fireteams along for the ride, Alpha and Charlie – you can, for the most part, ignore these and just get on with your own squad.

In addition, Codemasters have tried to up the excitement factor, whilst keeping things authentic.  In the main, this – for me at least – involved far too much time in the back of a truck listening to a foul mouthed squad leader and too short pockets of combat, but then, as we’ve only gotten through the first couple of hours, things might ramp up considerably further into the game.

But when you do get the chance to get trigger happy, in the whole things aren’t bad – medium range combat is fine, it’s decisive and immediate, but long range battles can be a bit of a chore, especially as the enemy seems to have either much better scopes or far more bullets to waste trying to hit you.  If you’re on your own, too, don’t always expect timely medical help from the AI.

But, anyway, Hardcore mode.  With most of the HUD removed, you’ll need to listen to the comms and basically figure everything out yourself – the bullets are more deadly, your tactical decisions more crucial and the tension becomes really quite impressive.  The threat of death is as real as it’s going to get in a game like this, and if that’s your bag then you’ll be happy.

But for the less enthusiastic gamer, Codemasters have dialled down the ‘normal’ mode to incorporate everything you need to just get from A to B with minimal fuss, and the ability to patch up your own wounds means that, assuming you can find cover, you’re highly unlikely to have to sit through a loading screen to try again, especially in co-op.

It sounds like I’m not overly enthused by Operation Flashpoint at this point in the game, but that’s not really true – it’s a different game to most out there now and needs a particular approach – you need to set aside a good few hours, clear the decks, ramp up the sound.  The graphics won’t blow you away (they’re frequently disappointing) and the audio’s repetitive, but the gameplay’s solid enough.

We’ll play more, and then pass on our verdict.  If you’re getting the game today (or tomorrow), let us know what you think.

15 Comments

  1. Ghost Recon on PS2 – With teams Alpha and Beta. That to war games was what Colin Mcrae was to rally games in the day.

    Absolutely loved Ghost Recon on PS2, loved it.

    Operation Flashpoint, maybe one day but not in a rush for it.

  2. Couldn’t get into the last flashpoint as it looked like Dog vomit, but I love the Ghost Recon series and am thoroughly looking forward to the new one coming out.

    • LOL – Dog Vomit, it didnt look that good?

      • Didn’t look too bad on the 360 but I got it for the PS3 and it was dreadful. I lost count the number of times my mate and I were playing co-op and we would go “is that blurry spec in the distance a bad guy or a tree?” *bullet flies in our direction, one-shotting both of us and losing an hour of progress* I’m all for tactical shooters, but the visuals made it very frustrating heh

      • I don’t think the visuals on Red River are hugely better. The lighting’s nicer, but the pop-in is terrible.

      • *Gulp* confirms my fears then. Any idea what the AI is like? That was the other thing I found majorly lacking in the last release.

  3. Not in a rush for this either, Enjoyed Dragon Rising to a point. Some killer bugs in that game. This looks and sounds much better but Its one that can wait until it drops to a tenner or so.

  4. Dragon Rising could of been a good game, but ugly textures and horrible AI let it down. I think this will be a ‘wait till it’s cheap’ game sadly.

  5. Do they let you alter the load out yet?

    I hated some of the pre weapon sets given at the start of a mission.

    • Yep, you can customise your loadouts prior to missions although some equipment is locked at the start and unlocked as you progress your character.

      • aw that’s great news, I hated the locked load out a lot. And one other I want to know is, while you’re at it :) Are the missions time based again? Really hated that too. I like to take it slow in these games.

    • That’s great to know. Thanks for taking the time to reply!

  6. They should’ve let this turd sink,the first one on the Pc was good,loads of fun but they’ve always been a bugfest.As codemasters games go i would’ve rather seen a Fuel sequel.

  7. I loved the first Ghost Recon and expansions, back in the day. I played the demo over and over and over till I could afford to buy it. Good missions, good planning, and the one hit death thing, except that you’d also be able to jump to another team member if you passed on…

    I also liked the look of Dragon Rising, but never got round to picking it up after hearing several bad opinions of it. I might grab this some point soon-ish, though. If I had a better gaming PC, I’d probably have bought day one, turned everything up to max and played the heck out of it.

    We shall see.

    Also, I’d just like to say how awesome it is that Helios read and replied in amongst the rather unpleasant imagery conjured up by people…

  8. …………Bulletstorm showed us what? How to advertise a game as different yet it be unbelievably generic, and just to loose the fight completely send it out with the worst online mode ever played…

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