We have all become too accustomed to the run and gun nature of first person shooters nowadays. Halo, Resistance, and Unreal Tournament can be beaten by sprinting through levels and getting up close and personal with your enemies. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising looks to change up the pace and make players plan, prepare, and execute with deadly precision or face harsh consequences. Despite the demanding difficulty, the newest installment of Operation Flashpoint breathes new life into our bland and generic modern day FPS games even though it falls short in certain areas.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is Codemaster’s sequel to Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis back in 2001. Players take control of the fireteam leader of select squads throughout the campaign, which range from US Marines to Special Forces. A newly discovered untapped oil reserve serves as the main conflict between Russia, who is currently in possession of the island, and China. Given America’s alliance with Russia they are asked to regain the Russian island of Skira from the invading Chinese PLA forces.
Regardless if you are a casual gamer or the most seasoned FPS player you have not seen anything like this yet. From the moment you take control of your first fireteam leader and squad you will realize that this is a whole new level of immersion. The game requires that players take things at a much slower pace to allow for the tactical nature of the game to flow flawlessly. Each mission is set in a different location on the massive island and can be approached in any manner you see fit. Not only are your option limitless in terms of territorial decisions, but your diverse arsenal includes multiple settings and attachments to better fit your playing style.
The size of your deadly playing field is astounding. Despite the unbelievable scale, 220 kilometers squared, the game is able to render it without any noticeable frame rate issues. All you have to do is glance at the incredible draw distance or take a personal helicopter tour to truly appreciate the size of Dragon Rising. The vast island allows for endless amounts of tactical approaches to any missions and also ensures that no two missions will play out the same.
Dragon Rising is on a whole new level of realism. Reloads have multiple variations and are accurate. Weapon swapping and other combat actions were motion captured using trained personnel in order to make it look and feel authentic. The realism continues to extend its grasp to every aspect of the game that can be seen. Bullets have set speeds and trajectories depending on the weapon being fired. For example, if you are sniping a target 300 meters out you can not simply set the crosshair on the enemy’s forehead and expect a headshot. You must use the notches in the scope to compensate for the distance. Also, if injured it can affect your character greatly depending on the point of impact. A leg shot will result in the loss of the ability to run, an arm shot will reduce aiming accuracy, and a headshot will send you straight to a black screen. It takes a little while to adjust to, but once you do it will feel very rewarding.
With scale and realism being tuned to create the most intense military sim, would you expect any less from the equipment? There are 60 weapons to assit you in obtaining your objectives. There are close quarters, marksmen, assault, stealth, and night ops variations to better compliment your mission. In addition, there are 28 vehicles to get you around the island in the form of land, air, and sea.
An unparalleled level of tension arises as you realize each bullet fired is as potentially lethal as the last. 100 meters never felt so close. The pressure really sets in as you up the difficulty and have to rely on minimal support from HUD and base your actions solely on what you can see on the battlefield. After you get used to the gameplay mechanics you will really begin to appreciate and enjoy the tension the game brings.
This is where the game truly shines. It feels amazing to ditch your computer controlled allies for three of your friends online. Forget using the command menu. The tactical approach is further amplified in intensity and enjoyment as you and your friends lay out a gameplan throughout the cooperative campaign. There is nothing more satisfying than posting up on a hill 300 km away overlooking a base where a current objective lies with your sniper while your friend(s) slowly approach the heavily occupied structure. Executing an attack has never felt so satisfying.
From the beginning the game does very little in explaining to you how to play and almost assumes that you already know what to do and how to do it. So don’t go in expecting to have your hand held through a tutorial. You have the option of turning on hints which help you learn controls, but it isn’t much. After a couple missions though it doesn’t pose a major issue. Then there is the difficulty level. Setting the difficulty to hardcore is only recommended for those who are highly experienced in the game already and who know when to retreat. The HUD is ditched and all hit confirmations are eliminated. It becomes extremely immersive. So if you thought Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on veteran was a chore, then you’re in for a surprise even on normal in this game.
There isn’t a problem with the command system in general. The only real issue is that it is a hassle to pull up mid firefight since you can not move and shoot. Cycling through the many commands can be overwhelming while getting shot at. You pretty much have to start memorizing where each command is to avoid getting stuck searching while engaging enemies.
Whether playing cooperative or competitive multiplayer online, if you die you will be treated to a respawn time between 40 and 50 seconds. Since it is so easy to die during the campaign it can be very difficult to stay alive for 40 seconds while you wait for your friend to return to help you fend of oncoming enemies. As for the competitive mode it is not as bad since sessions can last up to an hour to complete objectives.
For the most part the AI does well, but there are times when it starts to show noticeable issues. The AI can change drastically from unbelievably precise and deadly to dumb and harmless. An enemy mounted on an MG might get a perfect headshot on you while you run 400 km away through a heavily forested area. In another case, you might be able to walk right up to what looks like a normal enemy and stand directly in front of him without worry of receiving any fire from him as he stands frozen.
There are still many bugs that need to be worked out here. There is an auto kick feature, which can be turned on or off by the host, that kicks a player after one team kill. This can be unfortunate if you accidentally hit your own team. You will even get kicked if you team kill an AI controlled ally by mistake. Also, bullets don’t carry the same amount of damage, or are not registering, as some players can absorb five sniper rounds and still continue running. The other issue consisted of bullets being fired and hitting an enemy, but the ammo count was not dropping and the enemy was not being injured at all. I’d recommend avoiding the competitive multiplayer for now until a patch is released.
The story is presented to you at the beginning of the game, but not much is really shown to the player after that. The first cutscene is the only cutscene you will see. To get the full feel for the story you’ll have to read the breifings before each mission.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising brings a whole new level of realism and depth to the FPS genre. While minor bugs can be found here and there most do not detract from the enjoyment. If you are a fan of first person shooters and are looking for something fresh to spice up your current video game library, then I’d recommend picking this one up. Just be prepared to take it a little slower than you’re used to.
[Editor’s Note: Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising was reviewed on a Xbox 360 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher]