GREEN tracer rounds zip past your head as you sprint up a steep, dusty hill. “It’s only five guys,” you reassure yourself. Simple. Assault rifle raised, red dot sighted on the enemy’s head, you squeeze your controller’s trigger, unloading an entire clip downrange,
Things seem to slow down, in a Scarface-esque sort of manner. You’d be forgiven for laughing in a maniacal fashion as you attempt to bulldoze your way through a small village compound.
That’s when reality slaps you firmly across the face.
Not one of your bullets has hit its mark. Each of them has zipped left and right of the target.
A second later, your character is writhing on the floor with his life slowly ebbing away- much like Chelsea’s chances of winning the Premiership.
You call out to your team mates for support, only to realise you’ve left them half a kilometre away.
This is Operation Flashpoint: Red River.
Traditionally, Flashpoint games place more emphasis on military tact and cautiousness rather than full scale, kamikaze charges. Red River is no different. Running and gunning causes bullets to spray widely. Charging in head first, even in to just a couple of enemies, will result in death. Fact. Those used to the Call of Duty franchise will have a difficult learning curve to adjust to.
Red River is a game where you need to rely on your team mates for backup. Some levels are almost impossible to complete without them. You can order them around through an intuitive, wheel system. For the most part, they do what you want them to do.
So leaving them standing in the middle of the road, while you go off lone-wolfing it, is a terrible idea, and you will be severely punished for it.
Set in Tajikistan, in 2013, you are the fire leader of a four-man squad of US marines, all freshly kicked from boot camp.
It’s your job to help kick out an unnamed insurgency, that has fled from Afghanistan and Iraq, that are taking refuge in the country.
The game has a lot of potential. Yes, it can be tough. But it’s rewarding too.
Particularly during the final acts, where enemies come at you thick and fast, you’ll feel elated to have survived an attack by an entire battalion of troops.
However, it’s let down by rambling, dreary introductions to levels, normally in the back of a Humvees or strapped into the metal seats of a Chinook helicopter.
More often than not you will find yourself being lectured by a foul-mouthed Staff Sergeant Knox (voiced by the chap who played Sgt Apone in Aliens).
Initial amusement soon loses its novelty. You’re forced to sit in silence while Knox rants away about his rules of combat.
Perhaps this is Codemasters way of creating that waiting around period many marines feel before they enter a fight.
Those that have read or watched Generation Kill or Jarhead will understand this.
Sadly, for an action game, this just doesn’t work.
There are also many points where you’re forced to walk hundreds of metres, simply to reach the end of a level (particularly during the first few stages). This becomes tiresome and utterly pointless, considering it adds nothing to the gameplay.
This is not to say the Red River is a bad game. It’s really not. The campaign is a beefy ten hours long and is absolutely drenched in reply value. Enemy AI is intelligent and challenging.
Hardcore mode will also stretch genre veterans’ skills suitably enough. There’s no HUD for assistance, no checkpoints and only one life. It’s as close to the real thing as you could wish for and it’s satisfyingly punishing.
Combine all of this and Red River provides flashes of utter brilliance that will have your heart thumping in your mouth, particularly when you’re playing the online Fireteam missions, with your buddies.
It’s here where Flashpoint was meant to be played. You can run through levels working as a squad, clearing through buildings and compounds, or storm an enemy encampment.
The engagements dispense of the drawn out travel and expletive-fuelled jibber-jabber of the main campaign, instead replacing them with tighter, all-action engagements (escorting a convoy through hostile terrain or scouring through a dense village for enemy munitions dumps, while under a constant barrage of enemy fire) which rewards you with skill points, to upgrade your weapon proficiency, and league table spots for that added boasting value.
It has a different sort of pace and feel to it compared to the campaign’s lengthy engagements.
Fireteam missions often feel like a hectic race against the clock to complete. They add an extra slice of variety.
Ultimately, Red River is an engaging mil-sim with occasional blasts of brilliance. It’s a pleasant breathe of fresh air to a market which is rapidly becoming saturated with countless Modern Warfare clones. Some minor niggles spoil the game. With a few tweaks, this could have been something exceptional.
8.0 Gameplay: Slow to begin with but builds to a heart-thumping crescendo. Loading times for levels, however, can become frustrating.
6.0 Graphics: They lack the crisp gloss of the high-budget games, with textures occasionally becoming dull smears of brown. But at times they can produce pretty and expansive scenery.
7.0 Sound: A variety of rock songs help to get the blood pumping with weapons having an authentic clang. However Sgt Knox quickly becomes annoying.
8.0 Lasting appeal: Campaign missions often last more than half an hour, with 10 missions available. Online is where this game really shines, with hours of replay value available.
7.0 Verdict: An smart and engaging shooter, let down by a few minor issues. However, it’s well worth a punt.
Available on: PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360
Published by: Codemasters
Developed by: Codemasters
Review - Tom Cotterill