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Operation Flashpoint: Red River Review

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Cry us a river...

★★★★

Capturing a feel that’s more Generation Kill than Call of Duty, Codemaster’s latest offering in the Operation Flashpoint series is undoubtedly one of the most realistic – and frustrating – military shooters you’ll play.

Set in 2013 at the dawn of a civil war in the landlocked nation of Tajikistan, your staple group of chiselled US Marines move in to ease the conflict. Though the game’s opening sequence – heavily inspired by The Kingdom, a fast-paced burst of graphic design and artistic headlines detailing the history of the region – seems to promise the kind of frenetic gameplay that most first-person shooters butter their bread with, you’ll soon find it to be quite the opposite. Like it’s predecessors, Red River forces a thoughtful approach, strategically issuing commands through a simple menu accessed via the D-pad. Outside of the scripted training sections you’ll be left to your own devices as to how best deploy your forces.

This is the real crux of Flashpoint’s gameplay. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to get into firefights yourself, but enemies are often so distant as to be mere specks on your display, even through a scope. It’s a game that rewards patience, planning and precise aim rather than bravado-fuelled gun-toting, often requiring repeated approaches to succeed. The lengthy story – about ten to 12 hours – is bolstered by a series of challenges, such as accompanying convoys across hostile terrain, and the prerequisite co-op mode.

While Red River can certainly be praised for authenticity, the reserved approach to the gameplay seems contrasted with its more jingoistic ‘HOO-RAH!’ elements. Whether you’ll want to praise the dialogue for gritty legitimacy or condemn it for the frequent bursts of racism and homophobia is down to you, but it might make it uncomfortable entertainment. Despite some small frustrations – a mandatory console install that does little to reduce load times, and a curious distortion of the screen to deter early progression – Operation Flashpoint: Red River is actually a supremely enjoyable, if exceedingly challenging game. Those able to modify their expectations of shooters will be well rewarded.