Operation Flashpoint is something of a unique series. The first game was developed by Bohemia Interactive, the developers that then went on to develop the ArmA series after some legal disputes with Codemasters. Then Codemasters, seeing a bit of a market for the series, decided to resurrect it with 2009’s Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (of which I enjoyed, as mentioned in my review). Now, on consoles alone, Dragon Rising has sold now around a million copies a piece for each console, and an unknown amount on PC, the system which had the best version by far of the game. That’s pretty good, in my opinion, especially considering how the game didn’t exactly target a huge portion of the market. Codemasters then decided that it’d be a good idea to make Dragon Rising’s executive producer the creative director of Red River. That was, shall we say, not smart. The man publicly stated that, “[Military simulations] are immersive, they’re realistic, but I wouldn’t call them fun.” Ouch. He even advertises ArmA, saying, “If you want simulation, then it’s out there; go play ArmA. We wanted to do something different, in our own space, and we don’t want the Op Flash brand tied down to simulation.” The most damning thing for Mr. Sion Lenton to have said, as far as I’m concerned, was, “As great as PCs are, from a sales point of view, it’s not the market.” Yes, you read that right. The system the previous game’s best version was on and likely did quite well on was just kind of brushed off. Let that particular quote set the tone, because that quote explains a lot of things.
Now, before I go on to talk about the gameplay, and Lord knows there’s plenty to say about it, we must get the first part of this review formula I have out of the way because, dammit, I have OCD and for the life of me, I MUST CLING TO THIS. *ahem* Anyway, the story, aha. Wow. So, you know how I complained of Dragon Rising having a bad story? Red River’s no different, it just pushes the story in your face a bit more. The US Marines (I mean, who the hell else would you be?) have to infiltrate the not-so-fictional-and-actually-actual country of Tajikistan to kill some of ‘them thar turrists’ because, you know, the terrorists were being terroristy while the Marines were being Marines in Afghanistan. So they just feel the need to take a step over the border to give ’em a wild haymaker to the face, I suppose. But, egad! The Chinese PLA are giving the Tajiks a bit of a dicking too after the very much fictional assassination of the Chinese Olympians in the 2012 Olympics in London (not even joking. I’m still astonished that someone actually incorporated the fucking Olympics into the plot of a first-person shooter). After the Marines brutally destroy the terrorists, the PLA start invading and it’s up to ‘MURICA to kick them sumbitches back to Riceland or whatever… And that ‘Riceland’ comment would have fit in perfectly, considering how ludicrous the dialogue in this game is. Immense amounts of profanity? Check. Silly references to films (which I appreciate, mind you)? Check. A concerning amount of racial slurs? Check. Seriously, this game’s dialogue is awful and as racist and try-hard as it is, I found it hilarious. I’m just not sure if I found it hilarious because I have a crude and politically incorrect sense of humor or if I just loved how bad it is. Maybe it’s both. Whatever the case, you’ve been warned.
Alright, now we can talk about gameplay. As you might have guessed… the game’s been simplified. Enemies are easier to spot due to a cleaner visual style and a flatter, desert setting. You can sprint faster than in the previous game. When shot, you can not only stop the bleeding, but holding the button down longer allows you to heal your injuries, making this just a manual regeneration system is which you can’t move while it’s happening, really. Enemies go down faster. The inventory system is even more simple and you can’t carry two guns with a sidearm, instead giving you a two-weapon system. Bullet spread is also almost nonexistent. However, let me defend the game a little bit. Is this a good sequel to Dragon Rising? Uh, not really, no. It doesn’t keep enough of that game’s edge and takes itself much less seriously. This is clear in the game’s faster (but not exactly Call of Duty kind of speed) pace. It’s more arcade-like without being too arcadey. The weapon spread being gone is bad if you’re looking at this as something a lot like Dragon Rising. If you’re not, you can enjoy it. It allows you to stack up headshots from different ranges as long as you’re good at compensating for bullet drop, giving you a different, but still satisfying and fun system for gunplay.
Not all changes have been to simplify, however. The game has 4 classes for you to pick from in the campaign and each are leveled up individually, unlocking new weapons, weapon modifications, equipment, and perks for you to equip yourself with, allowing for pre-mission customization that I really wished Dragon Rising allowed. In a single playthrough, you’ll likely max out a single class, so the game clearly wants you to replay it. To support this, you have another system that allows you to put points into passive skills that go across every class like greater accuracy with American guns, being able to sprint longer, sprint faster, spotting enemies on your compass at greater distances, and other such things. You get the points to put in these by doing optional objectives and going through the mission quickly. A bronze medal will award you a single point, a silver will give you two, and gold will obviously grant you three. In total, there are 54 of these points to get to max out your characters, 30 of which from the campaign, and 24 from ‘Fireteam Engagements’, which are single missions that are completed more quickly than the campaign missions, and task you with clearing out all the enemies, defending a position, defending a convoy, and rescuing downed pilots. These quick missions add further gameplay to a campaign that lasts you longer than the previous game’s did. While I completed Dragon Rising’s campaign in a total of around 6 hours and 45 minutes, I finished Red River’s in 9 hours, and putting another 2 or so hours into the Fireteam Engagements. There’s a decent bit of content here, and the drive to do better on missions is a legitimate reason to replay the game if you have fun with it. That’s necessary, seeing how they removed the mission editor, thus preventing you from creating your own missions. Multiplayer is a curious thing, though. You see… they removed all PvP from the game. You can go through the entire game and the fireteam engagements in coop, however. And that’s basically it.
The game at least looks better than its predecessor, which is nice, but I also wasn’t getting the 80 FPS minimum that I got from Dragon Rising, with the game dipping down into the 40s in some fights. I’m going to assume that it was the shadows, which I had at 1024×1024 resolution (and you can go up to 4096×4096) at high quality. Character models look rather boring, but that’s expected. Weapon models and textures are good, but they aren’t exactly Battlefield. Draw distance is a curious thing. I’ve seen a number of people remark that the draw distance is very low, but I never once had a problem with it and could see enemies a good 600 meters in some instances. The overall draw distance is still good with a lot of the map looking very nice for distant mountains and such. While the vistas aren’t pretty for the same reason they were in Dragon Rising, this game does have impressive looking areas where the draw distance very easily pays off. As for how it sounds, I can really only echo what I said in Dragon Rising’s review. Weapons sound good, voice acting is decent, the music is above average, though not memorable… It’s serviceable. Simple as that.
Is the game worth it? If you’re willing to deal with the different experience, the terrible writing, the sections of levels where you’re sitting in a humvee because they took out the ability to do anything with any vehicle except the humvee, and just be willing to have a bit of fun, possibly with buddies, then yes, I’d say it’s worth it. It is $15 on Steam, just like Dragon Rising, and it’s really a pretty reasonably fun time with some good incentive to replay it. Just don’t expect much more from the series in the near future. This game sold piss-poorly and the series is on indefinite hold after the particular developer was shut down and merged. Also, the Games for Windows Live implementation is questionable. A lot of people were unable to play this after getting it from the recent Humble Bundle. GFWL is also to be scrapped in June or July or this year, so it remains to be seen how it will affect the game. Have some fun with this while you can, I suppose.
–This game was reviewed on the PC platform.–