OpFlash Red River: Our Verdict

By RPS on May 3rd, 2011 at 11:02 am.


Jim and Alec have been dipping their toes in the Red River. This second Operation Flashpoint from Codemasters’ internal studio once again returns to sprawling landscapes and manshooter action, but this time seems a little more refined. That said, critical responses to the game once again seem negative. Is that justified? Or is there some value in this desert manshoot? Read on for manshoot eludication.

Alec: So Red River is the second game in Codemaster’s ongoing attempt to reboot Operation Flashpoint, a game whose soul remains in the possession of original devs Bohemia Interactive’s ArmA, but whose name stayed with the publisher. It’s a modern combat shooter set in a place which sounds like Afghanistan but isn’t. How much have we both played?

Jim: A tutorial mission and an hour or two of co-op for me, so not much, but I also played the previous game pretty extensively.

Alec: I’ve played most of the campaign, a few hours of co-op and most of the bonus Fireteam missions. Let’s concentrate on the co-op we played together. Did you feel like a soldier, or a superman?

Jim: I felt more like a paintballer with a sniper-paintgun, perhaps. It lacks the bombast of our manshooter mainstream, while also lacking the army-feel enormity of the ArmA games. That said, it’s a pretty awesome paintballing session, in some fantastic scenery.

Alec: Yes, it starts off forgettably deserty but swiftly grows to include pretty spectacular mountain ranges and stuff like water cascading down a giant dam. But it’s very hard to place as an action game. It’s sat on the fence between CoD and Flashpoint actual, which means you get stuff like involving intense firefights where you have to be super careful but feel like a hero if you make it, followed by ludicrous long runs where nothing happens. I can’t make my mind up if it would have been better off leaning towards Flashpoint or to COD. There’s actually room for a COD game that isn’t totally silly theme, and there’s room for a Flashpoint that average humans can play.

Jim: I think I said this as we romped across some big beige hillside, but my feeling is that these are the continuation of the Delta Force games. So they are neither CoD, nor Flashpoint, but a kind of super-shooting gallery in big terrains – just as the old voxel-based Delta Force games were. It has pretensions towards realism and detail of Real War, but actually it’s pretty light, and more about just being able to gun people down from far away. That’s no bad thing, I think, but it does feel sort of old and under-developed in these times of high-bluster.


Alec: It’s more about the soldier fantasy than the soldier actuality, but in an opposite way to COD.

Jim: Yes, absolutely.

Alec: Its fantasy is that of brotherhood rather than lone hero – a bunch of guys toughing it out together

Jim: More running long distances, more worrying about rangers and ammo, but no real simulation.

Alec: Hence the long jeep rides staring at the floor together while nothing happens apart from your sergeant ranting away how inept you all are but secretly he loves you or whatever.

Jim: Well that’s where it differs from the old Novalogic catalogue, it lays on the Men Shouting About War stuff pretty thick. I mean I only saw a fragment, but does that last for the whole game?

Alec: Oh, there’s a lot of shouting. It thinks it’s Aliens, basically, hence the dude who did Apone voicing the sergeant.
Jim: I think some Codemasters PR type actually said in one of the press releases that they thought it might be the sweariest game of all time. Just in terms of pure weight of profanities.

Alec: I dug it for a while, as there was personality and invention, not the bland, po-faced heromen, but it just got incredibly boring. Like a lottery machine that randomly rolled body part + action and made a man say the appropriate phrase angrily. It didn’t strike me as obscene, it just harked on too much. What’s a shame is that stuff is concentrated into a guy that you don’t actually interact with – your squadmates are all but mutes, other than robo-barks about what they’ve seen or killed. It could have stood to be more of a Brothers In Arms thing, where you give a hoot about the three guys you’re ordering around.

Jim: So it’s just Apone monologuing the whole game?


Alec: There are other guys in the mix, but he’s the lead. But there’s sense in that, given the other guys in the squad are ideally controlled by humans

Jim: “We’ve got Apone from Aliens! Give him all the words – and make it sweary!”

Alec: Forcing a character on them might be really irritating for whoever’s inside those pixel-skulls. But, yeah, there is a sort of fanboy feel to that guy.

Jim: Right, of course, that does make sense. Because, as seems to be becoming prevalent in games right now, the co-op is the best bit. Or, at least, is they way its optimal for fun times.

Alec: Yeah, a decent human partner fills in all the missing personality, the nerviness, the cockiness, the desperation. But it’s a dangerous way to market a game, and of course everyone’s going to initially experience it solo and think “what the hell’s this boring shit?”, understandably not realising the brotherhood fantasy element that’s only truly there in co-op.

Jim: But it lives or dies on the shooting, doesn’t it?

Alec: Well, it’s more about the pace and flow, how you feel about and outside of the shooting, and that’s where it labours for me.

Jim: And the shooting is just “acceptable”, I felt. Paintball. Again with the Delta Force parity.

Alec: Yes, it’s fairly popgun. The enemies get smarter later in the game, when China invades. Because what would a modern combat game these days be without a ludicrous fictional conflict with another superpower?

Jim: Excitements! It does seem like it’s significantly better than the previous game.

Alec: The PLA guys are bit less like a brainless horde charging down the hill like Serious Sam bads, but it’s hardly a world away from the insurgents. (I didn’t play the original, but it has its fans.) I’ve read a lot of criticism of the friendly AI in this one, but I didn’t suffer with it too much. If I was lazy or thoughtless they’d be useless, but by and large the NPCs were effective if I pointed them to clever places.

Jim: Well I think I prefer the setting of the original – I am not a fan of running about in deserts. But there was so much crappy design in the missions. This seemed to flow and function, even if it was totally scripted.

Alec: The missions are very samey despite changing backdrops, which possibly speaks to my spoilt action gamer nature but when a game’s that gung ho I felt it needed to go further with it. Drop something a bit more ludicrous in there occasionally. I’m fine with it. It’s the kind of thing I’m very glad exists, especially as a counter-point to the repulsiveness of COD, but it feels like it needs to be a STALKER or ARMA thing, not in terms of hardcoriness but in terms of being a passion project years in gestation, not a regular franchise trying to piggy back on current trends.

Jim: I feel like this is a game that is open to be heavily criticised, when actually it’s not so bad. Mostly average in its delivery, but certainly not an abomination. Actually, you know what I felt about it? That it wasn’t cheap. Boring and bland overall, maybe, but it felt like they’ve tried to fill a space between the linear manshoots and the big old open sims. And they seem to have put the work in.

Alec: Oh yeah, you could tell the devs were genuinely into it.

Jim: I’d much rather be playing some mad desert survival game in that beautiful landscape, but for what it is, I can’t say it felt lazy or anything.


Alec: but I could sense a sort of ceiling they couldn’t get past for one reason or another. they made a certain structure and set of systems and could go no further.

Jim: Yeah, the formula constrained it.

Alec: Anyway, best to wrap up I suspect. I fear Red River – and maybe even Flashpoint as a whole – is likely to crawl off into the desert and die, and that’s a shame. It deserves to find a community, even if it didn’t make the best of the name’s proud legacy.

Jim: And, I guess, the costs and vision, and market research and all that crap. I’d really like to see Codies put a bold mad designer at the helm of this tech and make something a bit braver. There’s more to games than military manshoots!

Alec: Yeah, as with Fuel, there’s something amazing there but it can’t quite get out.

Jim: Delta Force, Delta Force, Delta Force, I say. These kinds of games will be around forever.

Alec: And that is just and right, really. I’d rather see those trying to outdo each other than Homefronts and Medal of Honors.

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42 Comments »

  1. Nighthood says:

    I think I’ll stick with ArmA2.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Agreed, I <3 ArmA, although, I find it a bit sad that OpFlash went the way it did, cold war crisis was amazing, and without it, I probably never would of given ArmA a chance =/

      Pretty engine, also, I thought that (in the preview RPS did) The explosions were supposed to be thumpy..

    • Jad says:

      I think I’ll stick with ArmA2.

      See, this always pops up in discussions of these games, and to that I now have an answer in Alec’s quote:

      There’s actually room for a COD game that isn’t totally silly theme, and there’s room for a Flashpoint that average humans can play

      I played the demo of ArmA2, and while I totally can see why it would appeal to some people, it clearly is Not For Me. I have no interest in flying helicopters or commanding combined arms with tanks, or the demanding realism of the combat in ArmA2. Does this mean I should settle then with the over-the-top arcade insanity of COD games? There definitely is room between the two extremes, and it sounds like Codemasters was trying to target that space. It also sounds like this game is not the best it could be, so that’s disappointing.

    • cpeninja says:

      I gave up on ArmA2 after I spend 3 hours tracking down somebody to shoot, shooting him, and then calling for an airlift and watching my helo pilot smash into a nearby tree and explode. I reloaded a save and ended up… 3 hours before that point. Apparently quicksaving every 10 minutes earned me nothing. I don’t see the appeal. I played Dragon Rising and enjoyed it, but found it too short. I never played the original, so I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be enjoying. But ArmA2 is clearly not designed for me.

  2. Chris Evans says:

    I somewhat agree with Alec with his comparison to Fuel, there is a lot of potential tied up in Red River, but it just isn’t realised during single-player, especially with the deadly boring opening levels.

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      Tunips says:

      How is Codies on modding support? Both of these games have got great big beautiful worlds, and stacks of useful assets. You could make a dozen different games set on the same terrain. On any of the recent open-world games, really. Far Cry2, AssBro etc. Heck, you could fit an icebound RPG full of isolation and madness inside a couple of Bad Company 2′s maps.
      I wonder why devs don’t do this. Follow what GTA4 has done, I mean, and knock out a few new stories onto the same terrain. Reusing assets means it’s dirt cheap, and you get full credit for artistic creativity.

    • Delusibeta says:

      Not great, I’m afraid. There’s only about half a dozen Dragon Rising mods on ModDB, of which two are unreleased.

    • triple omega says:

      I’ve had a short(~1hour) play-session with Red River and pretty quickly came to the following conclusions:

      1) The shouting/swearing/insulting-sergeant-thing gets old really fast.
      2) The long-range shooting is somewhere between ARMA and COD, and “okay”, but nowhere near as polished as either ARMA or COD.
      3) The short-range combat seems lacking. Even with an appropriate weapon it feels awkward somehow.
      4) The game is scripted as hell.(At least the sections I played) Because of this the fear that ARMA has is not present, as you know there is no risk till the next scripted event.
      5) The game is very linear.(At least the sections I played) It takes you by the hand and guides you from point to point. So there is no sense of freedom of choice.
      6) The interface and menus are very consolified. It is very clear that it was not meant to be operated with mouse and keyboard. This includes the in-game radial menu, which is operated with TAB and WASD.
      7) This might be just me, but controlling the AI-squad effectively was very hard. Most of the time I couldn’t get them to do what I wanted, or the scripted event happened so quickly that I just didn’t have time for it. It is also highly annoying that you need to have LOS to do anything. This often means popping your head up and risking death just to order your squad around.

      Overall it feels like a console game that doesn’t know what it wants to be. It wants to be open, but scripted, free, but linear, realistic, but only sometimes. They would have been far better off trying to make a more accessible ARMA in my opinion.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      “consolified” eugh, can we stop using this word? Please? *shudders*

    • bascule42 says:

      I prefer the term Jar Jar’ed.

  3. frags says:

    I want military manshoots in space! Now that’s bold.

  4. Rii says:

    “A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm!”

    What the fuck ever happened to Aliens: Colonial Marines anyway? Don’t tell me Gearbox dropped it for Duke.

    • Tower says:

      IIRC I looked this up recently, its been shifted to sometime in 2012; shame as I was looking forward to it, AvP (2010) didn’t really deliver very well on the co-op side for me.

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      lurkalisk says:

      It was postponed for Duke.
      I’m glad. I’d rather wait for Colines than lose Duke altogether.

  5. DrGonzo says:

    Oh I would enjoya new delta force with decent production values!

  6. StoneMason says:

    I don’t think ‘Apone’ voices SSgt Knox, rather the battalion commander in the briefings. It makes sense when you realise how old the guy probably is.

    I really wanted to like this game, Dragon Rising was pretty good fun but there was so much that needed to be fixed. It seems to me that rather than have a sensible look at what could be improved they just cut out everything they weren’t sure of. The result is a title just as average as DR, with a fraction of the content. Whats the point of building a big well realised map if you don’t have a mission editor… oooooh, DLC! I’d love to play co-op but if I play milsims and find it frustrating, I can’t honestly recommend it to my CoD friends (GFWL does not help).

    It does some interesting things with portrayal of conventional forces despite Knox spewing insults and moto bullshit at every turn. Bet we’ll see a torrent of ‘realistic’ Generation Kill imitation dialogue in the next couple of years.

  7. CMaster says:

    Gotta love the obsession with brown and yellow filters in millitary manshoots. Compare above screenshots with actual mountains in Tajikistan.

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      stahlwerk says:

      I guess that’s a result of meme-bleeding by 80s action movie schlock (Rambo 3 comes to mind especially) and their need to achieve “unfriendly locale” with minimal budget.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Also, just so you know, that according to season their colour can change quite wildly, I mean, in this country, everything is brown, and dead during summer with only some olive greens, but in winter everything goes a nice deep lush green.

    • CMaster says:

      Corrupt_tiki
      I realise that, (it’s rather obvious in parts of spain etc). But looking at the amount of snow left on the peaks, I’d suggest that the green real photo is in fact later in the summer than the brown OFP shot. The vegetation in Red River seems to be well, savannah-esque as well (which would be a lot yellower) while the vegetation in the photo looks more Alpine.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Mmm, I’m not quite sure how to take that, I mean, I can’t really say I’ve been to or seen enough of Tajikistan to really argue too much on it, but, I know that Afghanistan and Pakistan mountain ranges are I guess you would call it leaning more toward “Savannah” type foliage, compared to Alpine type shrubbery. -_-.

      Actually after having a more thorough look at a few pictures + googling it some more, it actually doesn’t look like they are too far off, I must say the colours do definately look tinted to some extent but as for type of shrubbery, and the overall colour look how I would expect mid-summer.

    • notjasonlee says:

      just do a quick google images search of tajikistan. there are definitely some environs that look like those shown in opflash.

  8. BooleanBob says:

    Anyone else wanting to play a really good paintball FPS after that opener from Jim?

    Just me then?

  9. paterah says:

    I was so disappointed when I heard the multiplayer was limited to co-op.

  10. Juiceman says:

    The co-op on this game is actually a lot of fun

  11. RiptoR says:

    Bought it last week on Gamestation for 15£. I rather liked Dragon Rising, so I’ll surely get my money’s worth out of it

  12. Grape says:

    Important question: Is it only you and your fireteam against the enemy, or do you sometimes operate alongside other friendlies? This is really important to me – one of the main things I liked about ArmA 2, was that the player would frequently participate in comparatively large-scale engagements without the game “phoning it in”. (Like, for example, in CoD, where they’re trying to simulate a large fight simply by having five or six constantly respawning teammates and some gunfire in the background.)

    It’s been a while since I’ve played Dragon Rising, but I distinctly remember that there were a handful of missions where you’d have maybe two or three other fireteams and maybe a vehicle or two fighting alongside you. Hardly on the level of ArmA 2, where in the very first mission of Operation Arrowhead, you and your 16-man squad would be operating alongside an entire armoured platoon, but hey.

    So… yeah. How does that work in Red River? The fact that there is no mission editor, (An Operation Flashpoint without a Mission Editor. Just… Jesus fucking Christ.), no competitive multiplayer, (not that I’d probably play it, anyway), and the fact that all the official screenshots so far has only showed maybe three or four friendlies on-screen at most, makes me fear that I’ll play the whole game with the only NATO presence on the battlefield being me and three other idiots.

    Please reply, as this is a huge deciding factor on whether or not I’ll buy the game.

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      PoulWrist says:

      At least in the first mission there’s all kinds of battle going on, but it’s more of a backdrop than anything actually going on. You have some other guys that are not your squad going about the village place, and there are some cars that drive along with you. Whether they shoot, dunno. It all seemed very on-rails.
      I only played the first mission till near the end, so I’ve no idea what happens further in, but it didn’t bite me at all. I would save my money and download a few more custom ARMA missions and wait for the next ARMA expansion, that they’re hyping now, were I you.

    • Stranglove says:

      You always play alongside friendlies, and a lot of the time they do actually do things. There is one mission, I think it’s the fourth, where you have to advance through a sparse canyon type corridor section on your own (with your fireteam), but that was about the lonliest you get. It definitely feels like there is war going on around you.

    • Grape says:

      @ PoulWrist:
      Wait, what? The ArmA 2 guys are hyping a new expansion? I see nothing about this on their website? Unless you’re talking about the “Reinforcements”-thing, which isn’t really an expansion, just two older DLCs bundled together in a standalone package for those who doesn’t have them yet.

      As for the rest: Well, those are good news, I suppose. Now I might actually give the game a look at some point. Just a damn shame there’s no demo.

    • Conor says:

      @Grape I think he may be referring to the recent “hack” of the ARMA 2 website, which is resulting in a lot of speculation and investigating over at the BI forums.

      http://forums.bistudio.com/showthread.php?t=118336

      I myself suspect an ARG of some sort.

    • Grape says:

      Oooh.

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    PoulWrist says:

    I thought the grafics were pretty ugly, even on max :(

    Also, it got boring so fast I logged out without even finishing the first mission.

  14. Nick says:

    Did they bother making sights for underslung grenade launchers in this one?

    • notjasonlee says:

      haha, no. you can’t even tell you have your launcher selected if you have crosshairs turned off.

  15. Stranglove says:

    It’s a very ugly diamond. The comparison to Fuel is probably quite right, I had fun with this game, and it was very lovely and quite well detailed, but it just didn’t feel completely there. It’s very fun Co-op though.

  16. notjasonlee says:

    awful, awful game. really and truly. i made the mistake of buying the last opflash and literally didn’t play past the third mission. the only difference here is that it’s almost entirely on-rails, despite appearing huge and open.

    co-op DOES NOT save this game. the horrendous enemy AI and mission design won’t allow that.

  17. foobar88 says:

    I’ve been waiting for a spiritual successor to the old Ghost Recon games for a long time now, and it seems as though this is as close as we’ve gotten yet. (the current GR developer says they are going “back to the basics” of the franchise with exoskeletons and superpowers and such). I haven’t had a chance to play the new OpFlash yet as I live in the US, but I think I will support it because the franchise does seem to be improving. Perhaps in a generation or two they will have really found their niche.

  18. miscellaneous says:

    “but my feeling is that these are the continuation of the Delta Force games.”

    Seriously considering buying this game after reading that, Im a massive fan of the delta force series

    More Delta Force!

  19. rissky says:

    I just finished the single player, and was ultimately grateful that a new manshoot actually kept me occupied for more than 6 hours. Closer to 15. And although the initial missions are a bit, well slow and dull, the final act is immense. Not sure where the ‘on rails’ comments are coming from – sure – you can follow the way points in normal more, or you could man up and play it on hardcore. The opposition AI is massively improved from dragon rising – in fact pretty much the whole game is a step up from the last outing.