Operation Flashpoint: Red River

Operation Flashpoint has always been a series leaning toward the sim side of a shooter, and in the areas of methodical squad tactics and utterly
deadly enemy fire, Red River, the latest installment, is no different. However, it does attempt to be more accessible and more game-like in some ways, wherever Codemasters decided less realism would mean more fun.
Case in point: the new class system offers soldier types such as Grenadier or Scout and lets you pick modifications (think perks) based on the XP you earn during the campaign. There are also quick-play options like the Last Stand mode, which I had an opportunity to play. On paper, it’s a typical horde mode with increasing waves of enemies to fend off, but applied to Op Flash’s de-emphasis on run-and-gun action, it becomes a hypnotic ebb and flow of eerie silence punctuated by sudden firefights. The waves arrive in helicopters visible in the distance, and watching soldiers dart from cover to cover, creeping ever closer while rear support lays down suppressing fire is a tension-ratcheting experience. Before you know it, they’re on top of you.
As with the campaign, your squad is there to back you up. The previous game, Dragon
Rising, suffered from a console-centric radial menu for squad commands, and while this system returns for Red River, the improvements should alleviate fears: the radials are only two levels deep and they can be bypassed completely by assigning hotkeys. While your squad is the focus of the action, Red River wants to change the feeling of “four men against an army” and so places
you within a larger squad, increasing the sense of a real war. In the campaign mission I saw, this larger squad escorted a convoy through a village in Tajikistan, a former- Soviet country in Central Asia. Another new focus is increased verticality to level design: I watched coordinated troop movements down narrow alleys, snipers and RPG teams nesting on rooftops, and close calls where clever AI teammates took out lurkers an instant before they would’ve caused the player’s doom. 2009’s Dragon Rising, for all its flaws, was one of the best-looking open-ended
shooters I’ve played. Red River strives to be a more welcoming experience—something hardcore sims like ArmA II can’t boast. The series continues to walk a line that’s difficult to tread—aiming to please sim freaks and Modern Warfare fanatics alike necessitates compromise. Still, I’m thrilled to have another unscripted shooter marching my way, and the arcade elements that soften the edges whon’t hurt.

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