I loved Operation Flashpoint on the PC way back when I used to play it. I loved having access to the mission editor and learning the intricacies of the game. I was saddened when Bohemia Interactive went their own way and sadly I couldnít get into ArmA or ArmA 2 since whilst great games, they were way too buggy and some of those bugs are real game breakers. So I was curious when Codemasters announced Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, could they deliver the same kind of fun as Flashpoint on the PC and console platforms?
Well, hereís the answer.Story
Set in the Ďnearí alternative future where Chinaís thirst for oil causes them to invade an island known as Skira, you are tasked as various US forces to go in and sort out the problem. Itís pretty basic as stories like this go, but this is a war game and thatís what you need: conflict. It does a good job introducing the war torn island and backdrop to the Global Economic Crises of 2012.Gameplay
Dragon Rising treads the line between shooter and military simulation, itís not quite up there with the hardcore Flashpoint but itís a worthy successor and has fewer bugs than both ArmA and ArmA 2 put together (sorry ArmA fanboys but you can put away your pink bayonets; this is the way it is.) You play one of 4 USMC soldiers with varying roles over a massive military playground. The vast island of Skira is your sandbox and the game does not punish you for approaching objectives in your own way, staying true to the spirit of Operation Flashpoint this gives you immense tactical opportunities and allows you to adjust to any situation on the fly.
Movement is done as per your standard shooter, with various controls explained thoroughly in the lengthy Tutorial Mission, aka: Dragon Rising. You have iron sights on the weapons, scopes and whilst you CANNOT select your squadís weaponís load out at the start of a mission, you can procure weapons on site (OSP) from weapon crates, fallen enemies/allies and other locations.
You are given full control over your 3-man fire-team from the get-go and it is important to make this distinction, this is NOT Call of Duty 4. Dragon Rising as a game presents the whole theatre of war as a visceral combat experience with very little room for error and spray and pray, ala other shooters. Even on Normal difficulty, itís easier and less unforgiving but itís still a brutal game. One bullet can rip through your body armour, deliver a punishing wound and either kill you outright or force you to drop to the ground in agony until a medic can come and treat your injury.
You have a layered wounds system in the game; you can take damage in your body, arms and legs. Taking a wound on the arm can impact your ability to aim and use weapons effectively; taking a hit to the leg can slow you down and remove your ability to sprint. The head will often take you right out of the fight in one. Your medic can help you with blood loss (you often start to bleed when hit by a bullet) and you can also patch yourself up if you can find a safe spot during a battle, with a med kit.
To avoid a fate like this, you need to learn to use the Quick Command Radial and effectively manage your men. The game allows you to alter their spacing, set their Rules of Engagement as well as the formation they use and other orders that are context sensitive, such as assaulting enemy buildings, entering and using vehicles, mounted weapons and so on. Once you become adept at using the QCR you begin to understand the depth of tactics that Dragon Rising offers, this isnít a quick twitch shooter, this is a fairly deep tactical experience that allows you to think and plan your engagements rather than shooting up cookie-cutter bad guys in close quarters through DOOM-like corridors.
You also have other elements at your disposal, as well as many authentically modelled USMC and enemy firearms; you also have vehicles as well as USMC equipment (Night Vision Goggles, infra-red markers, high-powered binoculars), Fire Support (called in via a simple command menu) and the map. On the map screen you can issue complex orders to your fire-team and take the role of a true squad commander, linking waypoints and working on a battle plan. There seems to be no way to place a marker though, which is kind of annoying since any order often sends your squad to the location. A marker would have been useful for multiplayer.
Using the map itís possible to send your squad out, get them to engage the enemy, steal a support helicopter and fly it to your position, all without you having to get your hands dirty. Thatís flexibility. The key to success in Dragon Rising is that you can always withdraw, run away from an engagement and come back to it from a different angle. Because I can tell you now, thatís exactly what your enemy will do and they are not as predictable as you might think.
You can also change stance in the game, going from standing to crouching and prone with a click of the correct control. This is a must when armed with the heavy sniper rifle, otherwise the accuracy goes right out of the window and you canít even hit a barn door when itís right up close and personal. It also presents a smaller target for your enemy to try and hit.
Vehicle controls are good, they offer a great degree of flexibility for numerous roles in the vehicle (especially for multiplayer) and you can switch seats on the fly if you feel like trusting the AI to act as driver for you (hint: give them good waypoints and it helps) to get you from A to B. As driver or pilot, you can turn the engine on and off, fire off counter measures and even toggle the vehicles lights for night time ops. Helicopters are tricky to fly at first but there is an auto-hover and that will help avoid any premature collisions with the ground.