Flashpoint: Operation Red River
By Tom Horan
I’ve never revied a brand new game here, as new games cost money. I’ve up to now counter-acted this cheapness by reviewing games that are freely available online, and by virtue of that, have become timeless. These simple and inexpensive online games are as relevant now as they were upon release, and will be just as relevant in a years time because they’re not at the cutting-edge of technology. Since I didn’t find a free, accessible, downloadable game this week, I’m instead looking at your average, retail-release shooter that will only be of interest to hardcore gamers. Fortunately, it was released last year, which means it can be picked up for €15 for your PS3 or Xbox360. Or more specifically, your son’s PS3 or Xbox360.
Flashpoint: Operation Red River is a war simulator. Ninety percent of videogames are shooting games, but very few strive for realism like Flashpoint does. You may control a man holding a gun like you have in so many “shooting” games before, but only a tiny fraction of your time will be spent actually firing the thing.
The majority of your time will be spent planning your attacks, and taking long walks across the deserts and plains of the game’s fictional Taijikistan setting (which sits between Afghanistan and China). Some might find walking for ten minutes without firing a single bullet boring, but after the unending barrage of action every other game throws at me, I find the opportunity to bored while holding a gun quite refreshing.
The game takes place on a single massive map, and as the campaign continues you advance deeper into it. Taijikistan feels like a real place, rather than a series of challenges made solely for the player’s amusement, and so even when you’re not having “fun”, you’re still engaged. Your squad is just one cog in a massive military machine, and I had an embarrassing sense of duty to complete my missions, as if the freedom of the western world actually depended on it.
In reality, I hear war is not all that fun, and so Flashpoint is on the fence between between being a complete simulation and a game. It’s not so realistic so as to make it frustrating (all wounds can be healed with a quick bandaging for example), and you don’t have to worry about food or equipment maintenance (you can play ArmA 2 on the PC if you’re into that sort of thing).
You can just about struggle through Flashpoint if you don’t have the patience or military mind to complete each mission flawlessly. Chances are you haven’t played much like Flashpoint: Operation Red River, or it’s predecessor Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. It’s slow, dry, and has surprisingly few explosions, but is absorbing in a way you can’t fully appreciate until you give it a go