Operation Flashpoint: Red River, the recently released sequel to Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, is a team-based shooter that truly requires a team to shine.
The game puts you in charge of a Marine fire team taking part in a conflict in Tajikistan in 2013. You take orders from Staff Sgt. Damien Knox, a foul-mouthed platoon commander who describes the conflict — a civil war near the Chinese border — in his own colorful words. Other than Knox, your Marines have no personality or background.
Developer Codemasters tries to simulate actual objectives that a platoon of Marines might have, such as securing a village or a hill to protect a convoy. The game forgoes the corridor-style maps of most first-person shooters that bottleneck the action into predictable locations. Instead, a great deal of the single-player campaign is spent hiking through a wide-open monotone beige high desert or holding a small building against enemy advancing on the horizon. More realistic? Possibly, but not really more fun. It's actually hard to tell if the graphics are good because everything looks the same, and most of what you shoot at is so far away.
In single-player, you'll find that your subordinate computer-controlled squadmates are the most frustrating part of the game. While I was happy with the accuracy of my squad, it seemed I had to spend most of every firefight directing them about what to shoot at and keeping them from standing out in the open in the line of fire. In one instance, one of my Marines decided to jump into a river while I was telling the squad to run across a bridge.
Co-op is where the campaign redeems itself. With each member of the squad being controlled by a human in person or online, you'll find it's much easier to get by. Even better, you can open up your own campaign at your last saved checkpoint and invite friends to play with you or keep your game open on Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. The game is jump-in, jump-out, so as long as you are hosting the game, it will keep allowing people to join when others leave. But if the host leaves, your game ends.
Once you have a decent fire squad, you can concentrate on the action part of the game, knowing your fellow Marines have your back and working as a team. Each of the four members of your squad has a unique ability, so you can play as a sniper, machine gunner, rifleman or grenadier.
The missions are challenging enough and are moved along quite entertainingly by the foul-mouthed Knox. Some missions have closer-range combat than others, and some require blowing up plenty of targets with air support and Javelin surface-to-air missiles. While in transport between missions, you'll listen to some of the awesome soundtrack by Megadeth, Pantera and Fun Lovin Criminals, which took me way back, plus a bunch of great songs by more recent artists.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River is a must-buy for fans of console-based tactical shooters. Its multiplayer modes add hours of gameplay, plus map packs are available on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
As a first-person shooter fan, I thought there was just enough to the game to make it interesting. The language, although humorous, is vulgar enough to make it inappropriate for younger kids.