We did not like Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising . The game looked terrible and was just far too broken in regards to gameplay, which is why we weren’t all that excited to hear details on the next iteration from Codemasters, Red River . However, after seeing some footage and checking out the relevant info, one surprise became abundantly clear: rather than taking another stab at ultra-realism and hardcore authenticity, the developers are instead opting to cater to a more diverse demographic. This might not go over well with the avid followers who defend the series because the experiences are just so darn challenging, but considering the last effort, it’s probably a good move. That being said, they’re not turning this into Unreal Tournament ; you’re still a fragile human rather than a superhuman elite soldier, and you’ll still have to rely on both strategy and intelligence to survive. It might be a nice mix.
You’re in the Marines and you command a small squad of four soldiers; you observe various situations, make some leadership decisions, and issue orders. You can tell unit members to move to a certain position, provide them with the all-important “fire” order, and in general, guide your team to victory through cunning and careful execution. Also, because there are three allies with you, there’s the option of four-player co-op, which ought to be appealing to many. So no, this isn’t suddenly a run ‘n gun, destroy everything you see, shoot first and think later production. But we will get some otherworldly assistance we didn’t have before; it’s the kind of help we’ve had in other shooters: the auto-aim, for instance, which allows the aiming reticule to center on the nearest target of its own accord. They’ve also cut down on the intricacy and complexity of issuing commands, which is a huge deal because the convoluted command wheel in Dragon Rising was a serious downfall.
There’s also some leniency in regards to health this time around. In the previous entry, you were forced to stop the bleeding of an injury with a medical kit, but you weren’t entirely healed until you got to a medic. This made things overly challenging and more than a little frustrating in our eyes and obviously, Codemasters has heeded the backlash: in Red River , you will now have unlimited med packs and once bleeding has been stopped, anybody can be restored to full health. We will also get the benefit of checkpoints and in addition, whenever a checkpoint is reached, fallen allies will be automatically resurrected. Now, if you wish to switch to Hardcore mode, you’ll find some of the same restrictions we had in past titles, but at least the standard mode sounds far more accessible. Last but not least is the all new class system: you can choose to be a Scout, Rifleman, Automatic Rifleman, or Grenadier, and you equip your character and earn experience through progression.
Special abilities will also be available via experience spending, and these abilities will resemble the Perks we have in Call of Duty . You can net experience playing either solo or co-op in the Fireteam Engagement Mode and remember, Codemasters is still gunning for a realistic atmosphere. A single well-placed shot can still put you in the dirt and your bullets will be affected by distance. The AI isn’t stupid and if you turn off all the assists that are worked into this production, it probably won’t be much different than Dragon Rising . As it stands, though, the added accessibility is going to be the determining factor regarding the potential success of Operation Flashpoint: Red River . Well, that and the designer’s ability to drastically upgrade the technical lagging found in prior efforts. Cross your fingers.