Red River is a FPS developed by UK based Codemasters. Set in Tajikistan, you play the role of Sergeant Kirby, a member of Bravo squad who are ultimately controlled by commander ‘Knox’. You are in a war against, at first, the local rebel insurgence, and in later levels, the deadly Chinese PLA.
The original Flashpoint series was renowned for its realism and it was this that truly defined it from your average ‘run and gun’. Codemasters promise that ‘realistic tactical shooting’ is what to expect from Red River.
The opening sequence to the game is littered with references from past and fictional future ‘middle eastern influenced’ events, such as 9/11. The language is strong from the outset and somewhat overdone with every other word being an insult – perhaps too many unnecessary F-bombs Codemasters? After a quick ‘shoot the targets tutorial’ from Knox, the campaign begins ‘all guns blazing’. Unfortunately this fast pace at the start is a little too much to absorb for the beginning of the game. With Knox constantly shouting in your ear and enemy explosions left right and centre, it is easy to get put off early on. Fortunately, after the first couple of levels are complete the pace of the game does even out and the real tactical fun begins.
Before each individual mission in the campaign, you are blessed with a well crafted ‘introduction’ which succinctly describes the objectives and outcomes – these are cleverly put together and succeed in building the tension for the upcoming battles. However, immediately after this, you are subjected to a five minute cut-scene repeat of almost identical dialogue from what has been said in the introduction by the, who soon becomes extremely annoying, Knox – this happens at the beginning of every single mission and just becomes a waiting game for the player. Knox is not cool and often had me hitting the mute button until I knew he was out of ear shot. Why Codemasters took this approach is beyond me as it strays too far from what the original Flashpoint was about – mission focus, not mindless banter (with the over the top swearing).
There are four members in your squad; rifleman, scout, grenadier and auto rifleman. As the game progresses you earn experience points which allow you to improve a player’s skill between missions. Having the option to switch between classes between missions is nice but perhaps weakens the realism and attachment to your original character. Throughout the campaign, you are also accompanied by Alpha Squad and Charlie Squad, whose constant ‘informing’ soon becomes tedious and repetitive. It would have been nice to have at least a couple of missions without the additional squads company, but, this never happens.
The AI of your squad is excellent I found. Yes, they take a bit of looking after and direction, but on the whole, you are glad they are with you when 50+ PLA are running at your position. The enemy AI are more than impressive too, with relentless determination to ‘own’ your position. They enter buildings, flank your position and generally give you a hard time. Some of the battles in the campaign are incredibly tense and I dare say, realistic. One shot one kill is certainly an option in this game. You need to keep your head low and gun fully loaded. The level of realism might put off the average ‘run and gun’ freak, but not me. It was this unique style of game play that made the whole experience enjoyable, and in a way, saves the game from being a letdown.
The character movement in the game is perhaps not as solid as the COD or Battlefield series, but is still good enough to get you engrossed in the battles. The weapon handling is fantastic, making you feel and believe that you are holding a real gun. Unfortunately, I found several minor bugs, from shooting at invisible walls, to constantly looking into the sky when my character was prone. Although rare, they did hinder the experience.
The graphics are nothing to shout about but you have to take your hats off to the developers for the impressive view distances achieved. There is a downside to this though, with distant enemies looking very much like the surrounding foliage due to the lack of anti aliasing – this generally wasn’t too much of an issue though. The HUD holds all you usually FPS information, from known enemy positions to current waypoints. Unfortunately, I found the hardcore experience setting non-playable as it was impossible to identify targets and waypoints. When a team mate shouts “enemy 100 meters east” you have nothing to inform you where ‘East’ actually is. I thought Codemasters would have realised this from Dragon Rising, but obviously not.
Red River tries to be different from your average shooter, which is a good thing. Does it do a good job? To a degree, it does. Codemasters have got a lot right in Red River but also got a fair amount wrong. The cut scenes are unnecessary, Knox is a pain in the ass and the overall lack of polish prevent the game from being a real gem.
I did enjoyed what I played. Red River is a worthy purchase if you like tense, fun, realistic gun action. Just don’t expect too much from it.
Note – Due to the Sony Playstation network being down, I’ve not had the pleasure of playing coop. I have been confidently informed that this is where the real fun begins