It is 2013 and the US Marine Corps is in Tajikistan fighting off the insurgent threat. You are a team leader in charge of three other marines taking orders from your Staff Sergeant. It doesn’t sound exhilarating, and when you play, you realise that Red River falls by the wayside compared to both its’ predecessor and ARMA II. Not to mention the feeling that it is trying to combine the realistic warfare of the aforementioned titles with games like Call of Duty.
This is a game which does one of the key basics poorly; it has a pretty dire opening level. For some reason the opening level, which combines as some basic training, looks absolute tosh. There is a strange, eerie, red sky and the environments seem extremely low res and poorly textured. These things do pick up later on, which serves only to make you wonder why it was so poor at the start.
Further problems arise when you jump into the back of hummer after an expected mid-training insurgent attack. Your squad sit there, looking lifeless and like they don’t have a care in the world that they are in the middle of a combat zone. Your Staff Sergeant, who tries to take on a clichéd Jarhead/Generation Kill role is the only one in this little truck ride who seems to have any realisation about what is happening as he talks about the current insurgent situation in Tajikistan. There was one other thing which really struck me during this little trip, my squad mates’ weapons were regularly glitching through their bodies.
As an opening into what should be a very high quality shooter it reeks of lazy design and little attention to those all important first thirty minutes. Credit where credit is due, the cinematic openings to the campaign and individual missions are very smartly done and give you some reason to care about what you are doing in the game, it is just a shame that so often in-mission dialogue does, on the whole, a pretty piss poor job of expanding on what is happening in the story of the game and even on what is happening in your mission.
The missions themselves don’t leave much room for using your brain, despite the wide open environments, you are given very specific routes to follow, failure to do things in the correct order leads to an automatic return to the last checkpoint, no quick saving here. It is easy to miss messages during combat, in one level my company was assaulting a town on the other side of a small river, the mission objective was listed on the screen as ‘Suppress’ on the town. Due to the combat and having walked in a different direction to the Staff Sergeant I didn’t hear his orders to cross a bridge to assault the town with my three other team members. It wasn’t until I wandered around to find the Jarhead wannabe that my screen updated with the correct mission orders.
Here is another example of logic going out of the window. After my team was sent to clear out a small group of huts housing insurgents I was ordered to direct remote air support to destroy three enemy targets. I missed one target due to some bad positioning but was able to use a fourth strike to ensure I cleared the areas. I died soon after and found myself back at the point of having to direct the air strikes again. This time I got all three first time round, I knew that previously I had four strikes at my disposal so naturally I assumed I could use another strike on the next base I had to clear as part of my next objective. It was a no-go with the damning message that no air support was available. If the toys are there to use at one point, they should be able to be used at the next point.
The game falls down when it comes to direct combat as well, enemy AI takes up the same positions each time through a level and rarely take any positive action to flank your team. They will fall to one shot from your weapons, but on normal difficulty they often have to hit you a few times for you to die. You have two wounded states before you die, one where you can patch up your own wounds and still fight, even with a bullet in the head, and another where you are bleeding out on the floor and have to go so far as to call for a corpsman with your radial order system. Your team care so little about you they need to be prompted to heal you. Combat lacks the pace, for all its faults, of Call of Duty and doesn’t nail down realism anywhere like the previous game in the series Dragon Rising did, and it doesn’t have a patch on ARMA II.
There is a nice idea with the chance to customise your load out before missions. If you want you can even take the role of your team mates and be a Sniper, Grenadier or Support class. Sadly though, if you want to change and customise your kits properly you need to level up in each class. It is another example of where Red River tries to get a balance between the arcade feel of the Call of Duty games and realism found in ARMA, but falls flat on its’ face by not going for the over the top Call of Duty levels of choice and introducing a levelling system that would be out of place in a serious simulation.
At the end of the day, Red River fails to deliver a satisfying realistic simulation like experience and doesn’t go far enough to be an enjoyable, over the top arcade game. If you want realism you should go for ARMA II and its’ expansions and look past the bugs, If you want an arcade like game, get the original Modern Warfare and save yourself a tenner.
Verdict – Off Target