Operation Flashpoint: Red River Co-Op Hands-On

We entered Tajikistan to experience the co-op gameplay in Codemasters' latest first-person shooter.

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We've been lucky enough to see quite a bit of Operation Flashpoint: Red River through development, but with the game now entering its final stretch, we've been able to go hands-on to see what it's like to play. Certainly, Codemasters' claims of maintaining the series' authenticity while making the game more accessible are backed up by what we've played so far. Our latest hands-on session allowed us to experience the first mission of the game in single-player, as well as one of the game's later missions in two-player co-op alongside a member of the development team.

Our co-op buddy for the day was Tim Browne, the game's principal designer. "Red River is completely geared around co-op," he said as he introduced the game to us. This is why the four character classes are designed to complement each other in a way that should create the perfect unit of marines, with the scout, grenadier, rifleman, and auto rifleman all having their own strengths and weaknesses. As you play as each class, you earn experience points in every game mode, which can be spent on weapon upgrades and perks, the latter including extracurricular training, such as assault or the ability to rapidly recover. The classes that you level up also enjoy the benefit of your experience even when controlled by the AI, so your teammates will get stronger as you spend more time playing in the different roles.

In addition to experience points, you're awarded with core skill points, depending on how you perform in each mission. Performance criteria include mission-completion time and whether you complete secondary objectives, which are added together to form an overall gold, silver, or bronze medal. Core skill points can then be spent in six key areas--sprint, endurance, battle readiness, assault rifle handling, assault rifle training, and tactical awareness. Thankfully, you can reset your allocated points at any time, so if your setup isn't working, you can restart from scratch at any time. Each character also has his own distinctive look, based on extensive research by Codemasters into real-life Marines. For example, the auto rifleman is the newest member of the squad, so he's physically the least muscular of the team. Codemasters found that in the real world, the newest or youngest member of a team will be given the task of carrying the biggest, heaviest gun, almost as a rite of passage, which is reflected in the game.

While one of Codemasters' key aims is to make Red River realistic, there's also a great deal of humour to the proceedings, as we found out during the game's opening animation. You're assigned to a training camp on the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan, where Staff Sergeant Damien Knox introduces you to the former country's chequered history. The history lesson is delivered using a mix of kinetic typography, video footage, and vivid iconography, including one shot where someone urinates on a bowl of cornflakes. From there, you're introduced to a training camp to learn the basics--a feature that was noticeably absent from Dragon Rising, which just dumped you straight onto the battlefield. However, it doesn't take long for the camp to come under attack, at which point you jump into one of the game's officially licensed Humvee trucks and head to the nearest town to investigate.

While the single-player introduction to the game was fun, Codemasters insists that Red River was designed to be played cooperatively, so Browne wasted no time in joining us for a co-op session further into the campaign. We jumped to mission seven of the 10-mission campaign, which sees the Chinese People's Liberation Army joining the fray in Tajikistan. After a mission briefing from actor Al Matthews, best known as Sergeant Apone in the movie Aliens, we escorted our team over to the iconic dam that's featured in many of the game's prerelease videos and into a small mountain town. We soon came under attack from the PLA, and while we were able to use the Humvee's mounted gun to see off the initial assault, we had to jump out of our vehicles to engage in ground combat soon enough.

Working with your team is incredibly important in Red River, as we found playing as the squad leader in our co-op demo. Playing on the Xbox 360, we had to use the right bumper to bring up the command wheel and then choose orders by using the D pad. Thankfully, the improved command system is more intuitive than in Dragon Rising, making it easy to tell your squad to follow you or supress a position even in the heat of battle. This is complemented by improved AI from your computer-controlled allies, especially when it comes to offering medical support. On the normal difficulty level, you slowly bleed out if you're injured, but you can quickly patch yourself up and carry on the fight as long as you find cover. If you want to fully regain your health, you need to stop and heal yourself for longer and are obviously vulnerable while doing so. Thankfully, though, if you are seriously wounded, AI teammates will attempt to come and revive you, as will your fellow players if you're playing co-op.

Our co-op battle was understandably challenging, as the mission took place in the latter half of the game. There were times when we were overrun with PLA soldiers who were being delivered by helicopter; when we had to run away from rocket attacks; and an explosive finale, where we had to jump in a jeep and drive to the helicopter extraction point. In all, the mission took us 42 minutes to complete (not including time spent retrying certain sections), which is in line with Codemasters' claim that it will take an average of one hour to complete each of the campaign's 10 missions. There will be a hardcore difficulty mode for those who want the ultimate challenge, and the removal of checkpoints from this mode means that if any of your team members die, then you will have to restart the mission from the beginning. Unlike in the previous Operation Flashpoint, though, achievements and trophies won't be tied to difficulty levels, so playing on hardcore won't score you any bonuses other than a sense of personal pride.

Codemasters also ran us through the Fireteam Engagements mode, which is essentially Operation Flashpoint's skirmish mode where four players can club together to complete assignments. Fireteam Engagement includes four game modes with two maps each. Last Stand is effectively Gears of War's Horde mode with a twist--you face increasingly difficult waves of enemies and decide when to bank your score by calling in a helicopter to extract your team. However, when you do decide to call in support, you have to wait a couple of minutes before the chopper arrives, so you have to call at the right moment to bank your score. Combat Sweep sees you clearing compounds of insurgents and searching out weapons caches--the more you find, the higher your score. In Rolling Thunder, you have to escort a convoy and protect it from randomly placed insurgents, who'll fire rocket-propelled grenades at you and your escort. Finally, Combat Search and Rescue is what Browne calls the "Black Hawk Down" mode, where you have to extract fellow marines from a downed helicopter, with bonus points awarded for blowing up the vehicle to stop it from falling into enemy hands. We, unfortunately, didn't get to play any of these modes at this stage, but they will be revealed shortly.

Operation Flashpoint: Red River is being released on the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 on April 21 in Europe and Australia, and on April 26 in the US. We'll hopefully have more on the game soon, but in the meantime, be sure to check out our latest video feature to hear from the developer and see the co-op mode in action.

Discussion

134 comments
Aria1368
Aria1368

i told you brother the game suck ... u don believe me !? take a look at different reviews from any websites

usermikey
usermikey

As always looking good. I loved Dragon Rising for PS3, lol for those who don't know the preorder codes are the same for everyone. Just look up the codes online and there is some extra free missions for you :)

Cortana101
Cortana101

The voice acting is a bit cheesy but hopefully this will be a good game.

nivek_nailgun
nivek_nailgun

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

isnot-important
isnot-important

@nivek_nailgun - http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Arma+2 Basically, it's what Dragon Rising (and Red River) promised to be - The true successor of the Operation Flashpoint series. With a robust editor capable of making battles ranging from small infantry engagements in a small town, to battles all over the 250 sqkm island involving all sectors of the military (air/land/sea). It has a massive modding community who has produced more content than the entire CoD series put together (in terms of units/weapons/islands and missions) not to mention all the total conversion mods (WW2, Vietnam, and many more in the making) and they support their fans unlike Codemasters who, as you discovered, abandonned DR shortly after release. It's made by Bohemia Interactive, who also develop Virtual Battlespace Systems (VBS) a tool used by various armies/military organisations around the world such as USMC/IDF/ADF etc..Even the US secret service are now training with it. They've got the experience Codemasters claim to have, and develop a product for a niche audience rather than catering to the general public purely to get more money. Arma 2 uses the same (only updated) Real Virtuality engine as VBS2 so things such as ballistics, weather and AI are all properly simulated and if it's good enough for a proper army, it's good enough for me. TL;DR - ARMA is a better game.

nivek_nailgun
nivek_nailgun

At the risk of criticism, what is ARMA? That said, I really have high hopes for this release. The last one could have been great but was very buggy. My weapon disappeared at times and the controls in multi were awful when trying to conduct your team. Instruction book didn't help. Yes, I knew how to control the individual squad, but the entire army would follow the orders I gave rather than just the individual squads....but I digress. Point being is that not only was it buggy, but the issues were never fixed up until a year after its release (when I finally traded it in). Hope support sticks around this time, as it is completely different from simply run'n'gun which has been done to death at this point.

stlouiscardinal
stlouiscardinal

lol, This land has changed more hands than a dollar bill at a strip joint. lmao

leaf21nut
leaf21nut

@gretzky I was training to be in the Canadian forces, I broke my femur playing hockey so along with my hockey career my military career is down the toilet... I don't want to run and gun, I appreciate the realism of games... COD is a fail franchise, I dont remember the rest of my comment but w/e

jollybest1
jollybest1

killing 12 people in a game like arma or opf isn't boring because one kill gives you the satisfaction of 1000 kills in one cod mission, because you know you worked to get that one kill

BULLETBOY_BS9
BULLETBOY_BS9

woow looks like they polished this game up alot , looks a big improvment from the first one .

metaltorn
metaltorn

@deadkillerQX how could they rip off taliban MOH didn't invent them, and lots of games are like that. the russians, the nazis, and i suppose COD and others jacked MOH too.

andromedagalaxe
andromedagalaxe

Arma 2 ftw! Actually I enjoyed both games for what they are. Sucked that DR MP was so glitchy because when it worked right, my team had some awesome games.

gretzky
gretzky

@leaf21nut just out of curiosity, where does your vast experience on war vs video games come from? are you a soldier who's been deployed? i'm on my second tour in iraq, and while i love MW2 and the Halo series, i still liked Dragon Rising just because it was such a change of pace. it was a lot more challenging. just because you want to run and gun all day long doesn't mean everyone else does.

Destrin
Destrin

leaf21nut Its a poor show of character to be so literal. Whats fun and thrilling is knowing that you are nothing special on the battle field, and that if you dont keep your wits about you then you will fail. In this genre, whats fun is knowing that one unconsidered movement, one careless step around a corner will spell your characters demise. Some people like it. Getting a single kill in a good military sim is more rewarding than ten in CoD.

fzd88
fzd88

@leaf21nut Wow, hit a sensitive spot huh? If you re-read my post, the point was this this game claims to be a "simulator" instead of an arcade shooter. But in reality (gaming reality), it plays a lot like COD instead of a simulation game such as ARMA II. Of course a game has to be fun, but if you claim realism on your boxes and marketing, at least put some attempt into it. Yes, a single bullet can kill you (as it does in ARMA II), and sometimes you do go for 45min without shooting a single enemy (again, it's in ARMA II). Is that fun? Maybe not for some, but it is for me (when i'm in the mood for some simulation). DR doesn't even attempt to do this. It sits somewhere between COD and ARMA II.

deadkillerQX
deadkillerQX

red river enemy is copy of MOH taliban ...

Cajun_Catfish
Cajun_Catfish

@leaf21nut I know I'm part of a very small group of gamers, but I actually wouldn't mind only killing 12 people throughout an entire game :)

leaf21nut
leaf21nut

@fzd88 Realism... So you want to die getting hit with 1 bullet, go days on end without seeing an enemy only to die by a roadside bomb, and over a 6 month period kill a total of 3 enemies? Sounds like an fun game... Realism works to a point, yeah you killed 12 people in one mission, but would you really want to play the entire game and only kill 12 people? Your outlook on war vs. video games is unealistic, if you want the exact real feeling get off your ass and help our countries!

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

@calum1984 Okay so it's not as "hardcore" as ArmAII but what I mean is Dragon Rising was a lot less "shootery"

Mr_Manikin52
Mr_Manikin52

Blow ssst up with the Chinese People's Liberation Army!

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

i hope this game will be good, i liked dragon rising, but it was a bit depressing and had no variety in the environment

essstepssse
essstepssse

thats game is very nice . real action gamplay in this game

swordaxe
swordaxe

Why do people copy Bad Company... why...?

calum1984
calum1984

@Dynamo11 you just compared dragon rising to arma 2........dragon rising is no way a sim maybe a tactical "shooter" i wouldn't call it a simulator

xboxgameman
xboxgameman

"Where just sorting out some...uhh...minor bugs..." "What, bill? Oh, it just crashed? Damn."

buds228
buds228

Restrepo followed Army not Marines...

pelvist
pelvist

@Dynamo11 How is DR a tactical simulator? Its a 4 player coop first person shooter, that is all. If DR is a tactical simulator then so is Farcry 2.

fzd88
fzd88

And I paid full-price for DR when it first came out. Saw it on steam for $3 the other day! Oh well. It's a fun game, but definitely not a "tactical military simulator." Where is the sim part? It plays just like COD; I killed around 12 enemies on the first mission alone and didn't even die until the 5th (because I was on a phone call and didn't pay attention). That sounds more like Rambo to me. Anyways, DR is fun - in an arcade way.

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

@pelvist It's a First-Person Tactical Military Simulator

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

Well after the failure of Dragon Rising I'm kinda heavily into ArmAII now, although I might give this another go after a while

jaximungo
jaximungo

Wow thats the ugliest HUD I've ever seen in an FPS in that interview vid. And they still have that retarded noob compass that shows you where all the enemies are. It's not an effin sci-fi shooter!

Altiar25
Altiar25

Just fix the AI, that's all I want.

Gameworm333
Gameworm333

Personally, I loved DR. The game in general was mediocre; but playing the entire game co-op with 3 other friends made it something else. Really looking forward to this one (as are my co-op buddies); it would be hard to make it any worse, to be honest.

AlphaWolF_J
AlphaWolF_J

I remember the last one , they hyped it so much ,having played the original and many other realistic tactical shooters in my time i really looked forward to it. What a waste of time that was it was biggest joke of a game i can remember , not even worth the disc it was pressed to . If you want a decent military shooter stick with battelfield or the super realistic Arma 2 if you can run it both piss all over this pathetic excuse for a game , codemasters just stick to your driving games its all your good @.

stan_boyd
stan_boyd

I only had one beef with Dragon Rising and that was that enemies were really hard to see yet they were always able to see you, the only way I could find my targets was by watching for their muzzle flash and then shooting where I saw it. If they can correct this problem by either making the enemies more visible or by making it so they can't see you a mile away through bushes then I will give it a shot, if not then I will ignore this title and conclude that my OpFor is probably forever dead.

alex_towli32123
alex_towli32123

dont buy this, code masters will rip you off, just like they did with dragon rising. what a massive fail. i hate codemasters and i really hate simon lenton who promised a game like bf2 x 10000000000000 but he lied and so did codemasters. f**k codemasters and dont give them your money

alex_towli32123
alex_towli32123

dont buy this, code masters will rip you off, just like they did with dragon rising. what a massive fail. i hate codemasters and i really hate simon lenton who promised a game like bf2 x 10000000000000 but he lied and so did codemasters. f**k codemasters and dont give them your money

isnot-important
isnot-important

@terror_ninja As Cajun_Catfish said, calling them "Consolemasters" was intentional. Secondly, it is entirely fair to shoot down the dev team prior to release when you consider what they did with Dragon Rising, the OFP name, and it's fans. Sure there's the tiny chance they learnt a lesson and will support Red River and deliver what they promise this time, but i wouldn't bet on it. I am going to go out on a limb here and assume you weren't following Dragon Rising prior to release? They promised the world and gave us a watered down game not deserving of the OFP title they slapped on the box to increase sales. Even quite a few Arma fans expected this to be worth following, and right up until the release had high hopes - Then upon release the list of faults with the game became apparent, it wasn't even close to what they had promised. They had no intentions of making this up to the fans and simply dropped all support. Just to sum up - I, like many other Arma fans, wouldn't have anything to complain about if they had simply released the game as a squad-based arcade shooter, not lied about features, and left out the OFP name - If they had done that, the game may have been received more positively - They dug their own grave by trying to cash in on a product they had little to no input with back in the early days.

BLADE7715
BLADE7715

I loved OPF until they took the Create a Mission out.....

Cajun_Catfish
Cajun_Catfish

@terror_ninja When isnot_important called them Consolemasters, I'm pretty sure he clearly knew that they're actually called Codemasters. Just sounded like a shot at the company to me, they ruined the Operation Flashpoint name after all. And yes, try out Arma 2 if you want scope. It's amazing.

pelvist
pelvist

Looks like Dragon Rising 2.0, no thanks CM! OFP was a great game series but DR was a console shooter and it sucked.

jnw93
jnw93

cant c this being better than kz3 so cant c me buying it last 1 was not too great ever

pasannadeera
pasannadeera

one shot one kill .....dame i like the sound of that

pasannadeera
pasannadeera

i don't want to waste my time by writing a lot. ALL i got to say is this games ROCK just like the last one. I don't care how may thumbs down i will get.

HaRdNiPs
HaRdNiPs

this is a down grade anything or anyone that says that, this will be more fun is full of bull that word is overrated and still being used in the shooting genre. when that word comes up i know that the game won't be as hardcore and original as it was. developers keep going for this cod crap enough is enough cod died no need to bring whatever it brang. next thing you know cod is going to bring destruction then here comes the followers so unoriginal stay away from the cod style. seriously xp wtf what kind of soldier gains xp and level up and change color that's retarded. authenticity is want we need not some wanna be rpg fps.

terror_ninja
terror_ninja

@isnot-important First its Codemasters, not ConsolesMasters. Second. This game hasnt even been released, I apreciate your recommendation and might try out "Arma 2" (Going to google it soon) But I dont think its really fair on the dev team to shoot down their game before theres even any playable version out. I had some difficulty with Dragon Rising so im not too hopeful (One mission a helo comes to extract your fire team, the pilots crashed the helicopter and we were all just sitting at the extraction zone with nothing to do - Restart/Also the only mission I had a decent gun on)

Armydillo978
Armydillo978

Thought that soldier sounded like Ellis there for a minute. Kept waiting for him to start talking about Keith or something at the Walmart.

pelvist
pelvist

@ The-Normal You shoot things in first person view, its a first person shooter...