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Operation Flashpoint: Red River


London, 1800 hours. Following confirmed and reconfirmed reports of an Operation Flashpoint: Red River co-op event, I've been parachuted into West London to infiltrate Samarqand, a central Asian restaurant. Here I must blend in with the locals to gain access to the code.

Clearly, they knew I was coming. Upon entry I'm immediately assaulted by the aromatic smell of meat platters and dumplings strategically placed like mines along an enemy patrol route. Using all my steely determination to resist the temptation to go back for thirds, I finally break off and leap into a booth. There I find three perspiring men clutching gamepads and staring at plasma tellies with piercing stares.

I prepare to recount my carefully constructed cover story (I'm an Uzbek toilet roll salesman) to our group's overseer and Red River's creative director, Sion Lenton - not to be confused with former world heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston. But before I can get the words out the screen swells with searing light and I'm transported to another world... Well, central Asia.

I'm standing in a barren landscape encircled by gargantuan, snow-capped mountains. From this perspective, though, they appear almost as big as my thumb. Around me are my three comrades, each dressed in full desert camo and flanked by a long line of military vehicles.

You now work with your squad mates and two other autonomous teams.

Sion informs us that our job is to escort these vehicles back to a base many miles away. This is what I came here to see - a full-on, balls out in the siesta sun session of Operation Flashpoint: Red River's co-op modes.

Mounting a transport, my comrades and I begin a meandering run through enemy-held territory. Our convoy kicks up dust plumes so high we could probably be seen coming by a visually impaired sheep herder in Turkmenistan, let alone the countless local insurgents who've trickled into Tajikistan to regroup after one too many spankings in Afghanistan. Given the quality of the Tajik meat dishes, I can hardly say I blame them.

My three comrades and I begin chattering in military speak (VOIP is available, but unnecessary due to our close proximity). Then the first whizzing lines of tracer fire thud into the dust around our convoy.

Dismounting, we desperately scan the horizon for movement, our vision hampered by heat haze and the searing desert sun. Far away in the distance, I spot them. Three riflemen. 150 metres. Northeast.

Call in airstrikes and mortar attacks, then sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

Battling nerves, I hold down my clammy controller's right bumper to bring up the context-sensitive radial squad command menu. Ignoring the plethora move and attack orders, I select the Paint Target option and mark the enemy's location for the rest of my team to see.

As one they turn and fire, short sharp bursts of precise fire cutting through the now clearly identified enemy ranks. At least, that's how I've decided to remember it. Reporting that we were all wiped out in under a minute by the dug-in AI which mercilessly cut us down as we loitered idiotically in the open would hardly sound heroic now, would it?

An hour later, dripping with the sweet sweat of victory and exhausted from several attempts to complete the mission, we've finally reached our final objective. Our journey has taken us on a deadly run through the mountains, now populated by AK-47-toting extremists, bazooka bearing maniacs and a three-legged goat that walked in front of our jeep.

This, Sion barks in a manner befitting his childhood hero and one of Red River's voice actors (Al Matthew, who played Apone in Aliens), is only one of four co-operative modes on offer. You also get the option to play the entire single-player game with other real people.