Operation Flashpoint: Red River takes a realistic approach to depicting modern warfare - a strategy that in most cases hits the bull's-eye.
The game from Codemasters follows the exploits of Sgt. William Kirby, who with his three-man fire team, goes into action in Tajikistan, a country that borders both Afghanistan and China.
Initially, Kirby and comrades will battle al-Qaida and Taliban-like insurgents. Eventually, however, the Chinese become the enemy.
Guiding the Marines through the action is the grizzled Staff Sgt. Knox.
Knox's chatter, his instructions and his insults lighten the mood of this squad-based shooter. The problem is, there tends to be too much talk in these cutscenes. Most players will be chafing to get back to the action.
Red River is a tactical military shooter and Codemasters delivers an effective scheme for controlling squad members.
Pressing the right button on a 360 controller brings up a menu. Players choose a location on the screen and then select the order for their squad. Orders include maneuver, tactics, suppression and follow. Each category also offers other, more detailed instructions as well.
The scheme works well enough, but one wishes for the day when one will be able to direct squad members by voice command. And, judging from what I saw in at telecast from E3, that day may not be far off.
Regarding the squad, players can choose the class and loadout for each member. Classes include auto-rifeleman, rifleman, scout and grenadier.
As one progresses in the game, new weapons, gear and perks are unlocked.
One of the things that makes Operation Flashpoint: Red River stand apart from other games in the genre is the distances at which combat takes place.
Combat seldom is at close quarters. The enemy is at a distance. Scoring hits consistently requires players to aim their shots.
As a result, success on the battlefield proves even more satisfying.
Headshots bring a quick kill (for the enemy and you if you are hit). Other wounds can be healed by the player.
The weapons in the game look and perform realistically.
Another interesting choice in the design is to only offer a four-player cooperative mode in terms of online multiplayer. The choice certainly is a departure from the tried-and-true (and often tiresome) team deathmatch approach.
Given the nature of Red River's squad-based combat, co-op also seems like a natural choice for multiplayer.
Where I could have used less realism in Red River is in the travel sequences.
Getting from place to place across the vast expanses of Tajikistan just seems to take too long. It breaks up the flow of the game.
Operation Flashpoint: Red River is available from Codemasters for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. PC requirements are Windows XP to 7, Intel Core Duo 2.4 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2, 1 GB of RAM (2GB for Vista/7) and video card. The 360 version was reviewed here.