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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Shooter

 

Publisher

Codemasters

 

Developer

Codemasters

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

June 7, 2011

 

 

- Solid graphics in models and textures
- Good clear audio

 

 

- Embarrassing characterizations
- Stupid AI squadmates
- Questionable visual "style" choices

 

 

Review: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (360)

Review: Arma II (PC)

Review: Armed Assault II: Operation Arrowhead (360)

Review: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (360)

Review: Resistance 3 (PS3)

 

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Operation Flashpoint: Red River

Score: 5.0 / 10

 

operation flashpoint red river          operation flashpoint red river

 

As readers for the site are aware, I've got a great deal of respect for the ArmA series. It's the top end of the military shooter genre, more of a simulator than a traditional shooter. Yet the team (or at least part of it) got their start on a similar series, Operation Flashpoint. In the most recent chapter of the series, Red River, you're part of a Marine fire team dropped into a pseudo-fictional recreation of Tajikistan for a simple peacekeeping mission that goes sideways. Except that it's

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the game that goes sideways, trying and failing to navigate a middle of the road approach between the hardcore simulation of ArmA and the stylish action of Modern Warfare.

One complaint that really cannot be leveled against Red River is the visuals. Overall, the game delivers a high degree of visual quality and authenticity.

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Weapons and vehicles are very well detailed, characters models move fairly smoothly, and the environments are quite nice. However, one has to wonder what exactly the developers were thinking when they feel they have to put in a disclaimer about how distortion and graphical artifacts on the screen are deliberate style choices. Why even put the distortions in there in the first place? It doesn't serve the game in any fashion. It only ever appears in the menu screens and cutscenes. If they're trying to give the impression of a person watching the battlefield through a TV camera, it sorta works, but at the same time takes the player further out of the action. Beyond that, the collision detection for character models leads to some clipping issues when you're crouched or prone and your squadmates are not.

Audio quality, from a technical perspective, is also well done. Weapons fire is crisp, explosions are rolling and deep, vehicles growl as they roll along. The problem area is in the voice acting. Again, from a technical perspective and even a director's perspective, there's not a whole lot to complain about. The actors read their lines cleanly, the sound is good, plenty of inflection and changes of tone. The area of complaint is the content. While I'm not normally one to complain about coarse language and vulgarities, their presence in Red River has a tremendously artificial feel. You can tell that they're swearing only because they can, a half-ass effort at being "edgy." I won't pretend that the Marine Corps is a bastion of polite conversation in all places and at all times, but I don't imagine they're a pack of profanity-spewing adolescents with massive amounts of firepower on hand, either. What's perhaps worse is the clichés and stereotypes of the genre are being paraded about so obviously as to be painful. In particular, Red River has officially driven the stereotype of the "hard-bitten black sergeant" right into the ground. It worked great in Aliens and Halo. It was decent enough in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Now, it's over. I think it was "Floyd's Rules of War" that killed the stereotype's viability stone dead. Instead of inspiring characters with depth and texture to them, you have a collection of shallow and painfully transparent character outlines.

 

operation flashpoint red river          operation flashpoint red river

 

The game does try hard to be more than just another military themed shooter in terms of its gameplay, but like other elements, it feels hobbled and almost painful because of style choices. I prefer my shooters on the PC rather than consoles, but I know that good shooters can be on consoles, with Halo: Reach being one of the most recent ones I've played. Red River isn't anywhere near to Reach. While I can appreciate that Red River uses controls accessed through the shoulder buttons to help move your squad around, doing so in the middle of a firefight is cumbersome and likely to get you killed.

 

Moreover, your squadmates' AI doesn't quite reach the level of "barely competent." In fact, your squadmates seem to take absolutely every opportunity they can to wander into your sightlines, stumble over you while notionally relocating to another firing position, and generally figure out ways to get themselves or you killed. It gets worse when you opt to change your class from the default assault loadout, which doubles as the squad medic, and the AI who you give the job over to is too clueless to realize that you need healing until you actively call out for it. You move up, they hang back. You hang back, they stand around with their fingers up their nose till somebody puts a couple rounds into them as a pointed reminder there's a war on. For a game which extols the virtues of fighting smart on its box cover, it's painfully cruel to be saddled with idiotic squadmates like these.

 

Finally, allow me to take a moment to discuss the tone of the game. I absolutely detested the amped up Fox News-style attitudes and platitudes that pumped through this game like a weightlifter's roid rage. Maybe I'm spoiled on ArmA. Maybe I want something more intelligent out of my shooters these days. Keep in mind that I'm the last guy in the universe that could accurately be described as even remotely resembling a left-wing anti-military bleeding heart. I grew up reading Armada International, my family and friends have had connections throughout the armed forces since before I was born, and I absolutely devour all the crunchy news bits relating to foreign and military policy. And for all of that, I found Red River mired in a mindset that was stupid even when it was fashionable. That may be the game's greatest sin: whether intentionally or just ironically, it presents the least intelligent and most embarrassing picture of American military operations not as a farce but as an attempt at a "serious" game. Given that, why would anybody want to play?

After a decade of operations in the Middle East, it's understandable there were going to be games made set in that part of the world. And it's understandable that some of those games are not going to be great examples of either the genre or the setting. Red River falls in squarely in the middle of those games. However well done the game is from a technical standpoint, its actual content makes a mockery of the men and the operations it tries so very hard to flatter.

 

- Axel Cushing

(November 21, 2011)

 

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