Operation Flashpoint Red River is a squad based first person shooter that is a lot more realistic than any other FPS game on the market. It is flawed though by a number of small graphics and game play faults that mars an otherwise perfect game.
This is the second Operation Flashpoint game to come out on the PS3, and it seems that the designers have learned from mistakes made in the first game. If you have played the first Operation Flashpoint game you will be pleased to find that Red River is a lot more streamlined and accessible. The graphics are much improved, there are no ten mile foot hikes between missions and there are no impossibly difficult missions.
However there are problems with this game, including some graphics glitches which may or may not be fixed by later patches. These may result in flickering in some parts of the game and buildings missing details close up. Despite this I liked the look of the game, it's probably not as pretty as say Call of Duty, but the area of Tajikistan that the game is set in looks true to life. The marines and their weapons are very detailed and there are some nice effects for explosions and other weapons. You can affect the environment with weapons fire, although the effects are fairly limited.
More worrying still are some problems which affect the game play. These include a regular problem on FPS games when you try and shoot through a small gap between two objects and the game does not recognise there is a gap there. Looking through your sights you have a clear line of sight but all your bullets end up hitting into an invisible barrier as the game cannot recognise the small gap you are firing through. I've seen this problem in other games so Operation Flashpoint is not alone here, but it is still irritating.
Overall the AI in the game is pretty good, which is important as the game centres around your four man squad of marines and much of the time the other three marines are played by the AI. What is impressive though is the multiplayer options that allow you to take the game on line and fill out a four man squad with other players rather than relying on the computer. While the AI controls your squad you give them orders using a radial menu and pointing them in the directions you want them to go. Most of the time this works very well and you get the feel of working as part of a team, rather than being a lone wolf as in most FPS games. There are faults in the AI though, most notably when I was firing I found other members of the team occasionally wandered across my field of fire. Crossing in front of where someone else is aiming is something no trained soldier would ever do, and can result in you shooting members of your own squad by mistake. Another problem I encountered with the AI came with the healing system. On the whole this is a good system with each hit being recorded on a different part of the body which needs either yourself or another to actively patch the wound to stop the bleeding and then treat the wound itself. Unfortunately though the AI controlled marines in the squad are obviously so tough they don't bother to heal themselves most of the time and wander around wounded. When you try to heal them another problem arises as they are obviously programmed to keep their spacing, so as you approach they move further away sometimes leading to you chasing them about trying to heal them.
Although this is frustrating this is still a decent damage system. Wounds affect your performance depending on what part of the body they hit. If you do not stop the bleeding you will eventually pass out. Also some hits will kill you outright depending on where you are hit, by what weapon and what range. This is one of the elements which makes the game much more realistic compared with other FPS games where you shrug off bullets, pausing only to duck down for a few seconds to automatically regenerate after any hits. Operation Flashpoint is more deadly and more realistic as a result. You do worry about getting hit and if you want to get anywhere you have to use cover and suppression fire to your advantage. Combat feels a lot more like the depictions of modern combat you see on CNN or on the documentary channels. You call out targets, keep your head down and try very hard not to get hit.
As previously mentioned the game centres around a marine squad in Tajikistan where you have been sent to deal with "insurgents". This quickly devolves into an all-out war as China gets involved. There is a great deal of gung-ho macho talk by the marines in the game as they step forward to fight the good fight. However I do have some problem with the morality of games like this. Although I enjoy playing FPS games I do wonder about the ethics of a game that uses a real country not currently at war and imagines a scenario where the US invade in yet another peace keeping exercise. By the time China gets involved there are numerous racist slurs about the Chinese which the game doesn't even apologise for. The plot also makes no sense - you enter Tajikistan to deal with Muslim extremists, then communist China comes in to help them out ? At the beginning of the game it tries to summarise the last fifty years of world politics in an introduction that is as inaccurate as it is worrying. I couldn't help thinking throughout the game of the movie Team America World Police. In the end it was clear that it didn't matter in the game why you were there but you were going to shoot everyone they told you to. If you do have a problem with recent US foreign policy I would strongly suggest avoiding this game ( although this could also apply to other recent FPS games like Medal of Honour ).
Unfortunately I've not been able to play this game online yet as the Playstation network has been down ever since I bought it. However the multiplayer scenarios can be played with one player and three AI marines just like the campaign game which is a nice touch. There are only a few scenarios included with the game but others can be downloaded ( once the PSN is up and running again ). It's clear that the multiplayer focuses upon you developing one of four classes - rifleman, grenadier, scout and support gunner. Each class has its own selection of weapons and skills to gain access to, and experience can be gained through solo play as well as online play. As a result multiplayer gaming is much more about using the right skills and tactics rather than other games where it's all about elite players with access to the best weapons.
Overall then, despite all its faults, I would recommend this game to anyone who wanted a more realistic FPS game. This is about as realistic as you can get while still being playable as a game. Despite its poor grasp of world politics it seems to have a very good grasp of military weapons and tactics. The game world is a much more open environment giving you more choice as to where you go and how you complete your mission. Between each individual scenario there is usually a long boring introduction explaining the mission parameters, but this only plays once as there is a checkpoint at the end of it. And despite being so over the top pro-American you do get caught up in the enthusiasm and professionalism of the marines involved. As you engage enemies at long range using the realistically modelled weapons and tactics you get a feel for what it must really be like in the combat zone. This is a game which I think I will keep coming back to as it stands out so well against so much other competition in the FPS market. If only they could have ironed out the few bugs there are this would be the perfect FPS.