Once again Codemasters, and the EGO Engine, bring a tactical shooter to our consoles which will keep gamers within a bottleneck of intensely threatening situations and strategic nightmares. Red River is not the type of shooter where players are able to run-and-gun, and instead offers a foundation of teamwork, which ultimately makes the player more accurate and specific in the role of Fireteam Bravo leader. The whole threatening intensity is a radical change to the entire war-game genre and adds more realism and challenge to the genus. Red River is the direct sequel to Operation Flashpoint Dragon Rising, in which 220 square kilometres of adrenalin pumping battlefield was available to the player in a near free-roam, action-packed warzone. Unfortunately in this title the battlefield is a little more linear and the playing style instantly becomes more limited as opposed to Dragon Rising.
The game is set in Tajikistan 2013 where insurgent fighters whom have fled Afghanistan, the People’s Liberation Army and the US expeditionary force all lock antlers in a deadly flashpoint. Red River houses a minimal ten levels within its campaign, which appears to be short but, given that some missions can easily take a few hours to complete, the campaign is actually quite long. However, a long campaign is all well and good, but it soon becomes quite boring after spending half of said campaign sitting motionless on the back of a Humvee whilst your commanding officer, Knox, reams out countless guidelines and rules for several minutes at a time. Knox soon becomes the most spoken character in the game while everyone else, including each member of your fireteam, has little or no personality.
Once the blathering in the vehicles has been passed then the action begins and objectives will appear on the map for you to follow and complete. The HUD will display fireteam objectives as well as primary objectives. Fireteam objectives are usually distance indicators for moving around the battlefield, whilst primary objectives are the main goals for each mission objective. You also have a smooth radial menu system which allows you to convey orders to each member of your fireteam or call in combat support, such as howitzers and mortar strikes. Unlike Dragon Rising the player cannot move outside the vicinity of the mission area. This takes away the multiple options available to the player, which gamers found useful in Dragon Rising, and limits movement and tactical advantage around the map. If the player leaves the area for too long a period then the mission is an instant fail.
From the first mission onwards players are able to see how realistic this game is, with enemies deadly at 500 meters and all vehicles proving to be a threat. If you are not in cover then you are always a target and this game style forces you to think about every action you make on the battlefield. However, it is also at this point that players will start to notice how badly designed the AI is – in regards to the CPU players within your fireteam. They will relentlessly walk out into your crossfire and get shot, which sometimes makes the player fail the mission, and more often than not they will not obey your commands and end up mindlessly wandering off alone into the open. Players will also start to get frustrated early on into the game by having to spend half of the time in gunfights healing their team members as they seem to have no sense of self preservation. Once you master the adaptation of shooting and healing then you are well on your way into the world of mayhem that Red River offers. The game, through all ten missions, is pure wartime realism which gets harder the further you get into the game. You are also able to turn the difficulty levels up to remove benefits such as the crosshair and radar which give advantages to the player.
Another frustration is the in-game sound bites from Alpha Team and Charlie Team. Each fireteam seems to have a mere handful of sound clips to say over their communicators and not long into a mission these are repeated again and again. As far as the rest of the sound for the game goes it is fantastic. The gun shots sound great, giving a fantastic echo into the distance, and bomb blasts are amazing. Another great feature to Red River is the soundtrack which is pure heavy metal thunder!
Single player campaigns can bring an endless amount of joy, but the real way to enjoy this game is through the featured co-op mode, which allows you to play with up to three friends. This is the way this game was meant to be played. No longer will you have to worry about demented AI, nor constantly healing your fireteam, but instead you can all communicate over your XBOX Live headsets and really take control of the battlefield like true marines. Single player, co-op and other multiplayer modes allow the player to upgrade their soldier with increased abilities, such as sprint time and assault rifle accuracy. These all help in the game and are a great way to change the game to suit your gaming style.
Overall the game is far from the mark that Dragon Rising set and Red River seems to be a step in the wrong direction. The story line is not overly original and there is not too much variance in the missions as there are on other war games or FPS’s. The graphics in the game are fine giving that the size of the map is huge and the setting does not allow too much in the way of graphical supremacy. However the rendering sometimes isn’t as fast as the player and certain areas could have been cleaned up. The sounds can be irritating at times and the AI of each fireteam member is similar to that of a Lemming. However, not many game companies have taken the risk to make a shooter that is as near to realistic as possible, and Red River is not too far from the mark. So if you want a shooter that will challenge you then pick up Operation Flashpoint Red River and lock and load, oorah!