Mar 15, 2011

Impressions of Operation Flashpoint: Red River

So, I've been paying a reasonable amount of attention to Operation Flashpoint: Red River, because I think there's a very real chance that it'll be a pretty good game, and yet, I still find myself filled with preemptive disappointment. Ausgamers recently published a hands-on preview of the game which was quite positive, really, but left a sour taste in my mouth.

It's obvious from that preview that Codemasters are trying very hard to distance themselves from the idea of making a military simulator and rather focusing on making it more... gamey. This is a natural evolution from Dragon Rising, which was a bit of a let down for me without being a terrible game, exactly, but the point in this instance is that that game was also a definite step away from mil-sims. And I think Dragon Rising found a nice middle-ground. The place where I felt left down was by the multi-player which was much, much too restrictive, lacked dedicated server support, and couldn't match the enormous  scope of the original Operation Flashpoint or of the ArmA series, the true sequels, really, as they were made by the same development house as Operation Flashpoint. Codemasters was he publisher and ended up with the rights to the franchise name.

But it wasn't a bad game. The co-op campaign was fun and it struck a nice balance between extreme realism and more gamey aspects. If the single-player campaign had been 3x longer I might actually recommend the game.

What rubbed me the wrong way about it - aside from the lacklustre MP component - was actually just the use of the name Operation Flashpoint. They went through a lot of effort before the game's release to make it look like Dragon Rising really was a similar game to Operation Flashpoint much more than it actually was. They talked a lot about realism and authenticity, which, attached to the OpFlash name, lead fans to believe that this would be the real deal. While it's certainly a lot more realistic or authentic than anything the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises have produced, I felt like it was a dirty bit or marketing. They wanted to real in the cult fanbase of the original but the game was such an insult to what was great about the first OpFlash game that all they really managed was pissing off most of the original fans. Sure, they wanted to have a ready-made fanbase, so they used an established name. It's common buisness sense. But if you immediately alienate those fans, resulting in your mediocre game getting a harder rap than it deserved, wouldn't it have been better to just be upfront about how different of a game it was and market it as a new IP? After all, having been thoroughly saturated by the Call of Duty franchise in particular, the hardcore market is pretty hungry for these.

The news that Red River is going even farther from the franchise's mil-sim roots just cements further in my mind the idea that this should really be a new IP altogether, despite some similarities with the original.

But I do think that there's a chance it'll turn out to be a decent game in spite of everything, so I think the savvy shooter player would do well to keep an eye on this one, as I've been doing.

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