Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising: review


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  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Codemasters
  • Developer: Codemasters
  • Players: 1 (offline), 1-8 console (online), 1-32 PC (online)
  • Site: www.codemasters.com/flashpoint

Let’s get this straight: Operation Flashpoint hates you. It doesn’t know you that well and doesn’t have a real reason to pick on you, but it doesn’t care. This game wants you to fail and will keep shooting you in the head until you rage quit or beat it. You’re not going to let a game treat you like that are you?

The Operation Flashpoint series made a name for itself back in 2001 when it set the standard for realistic battlefield simulators. At this point, it should be made clearer than the juices running from an adequately cooked chicken that this is not a Call of Duty clone. Anything heroic, valiant or even mildly brave will be punished by a shot to the head by what you thought was a tree stump on the side of a hill. This should not be treated as a game, but more of a simulation of what would happen if you did stuff that you do in games in an actual battle, and the grim consequences that follow.

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This is not the advised way to hold your weapon

Having said this however, it is not the most accurate simulator in the world either, with the AI having the annoying x-ray zoom vision that can spot you through a bush at 300 metres and objectives that require you to blow things up, relying on you finding an enemy anti-tank weapon rather than being given the right gear.

It’s very difficult to know what Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising wants to be. On the one hand it is trying to be the ultra realistic war experience, but on the other, it wants to be a game that appeals to more people than just war buffs and guerrilla stalking fetishists. The difficulty modes play with the HUD and whether you can save or not, but it does go to the two extremes of helping you and leaving yourself to it. It has resulted in a rather odd mix that tries to reach out to both sides of the fence and comes away like someone who is tolerable to be around, but will be used mainly as a floor filler at parties.

It really does seem like a very unfair game though for a lot of reasons. Many will find the instant headshot from nowhere or the grenade that managed to sneak up behind them more frustrating than knitting with your toes. If you were to tell a friend how many times this game had made you rage, you would run out of digits very fast, even allowing for genetic mutations. It’s the simple things, like random helicopter death when your position gets rained on by shells. There’s no real way around it other than the twisted rules of luck which makes you feel very vulnerable knowing that the slightest thing could kill you.

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Real men eat lots of carrots

There are also a few odd puzzles to ponder over in the game such as, ‘why have I got a knife’. During the review process two knife kills were attempted. The first was thwarted because the enemy lying on the floor was a bit less dead than initially expected. The second failed try was a mercy killing of some disarmed bad guy writhing in agony on the floor. When approaching for a resource efficient stab, the seven AI team mates directly behind our protagonist thought it would actually be more sensible to shoot the dying guy, regardless of their squad leader leaning over the soon to be corpse. It’s these moments that make you roll your eyes back in to your skull and wonder what the hell just happened.

The odd thing is, as frustrating as it all seems, it is actually quite compelling to play. You want to play on to the end of the level, if anything just to prove that you were not beaten by the game, despite the many setbacks it throws your way. It also seems like a relatively long game due to the stop and start nature from constant death. As annoying as it can be at times, it adds to the longevity of it all and encourages the player to try fresh approaches, noticing things that they may have missed on prior attempts, before their demise.

Whilst death is annoying in any game, Dragon Rising uses a checkpoint system (unlike the original) meaning it is not an insignificant end to the world if you do happen to regularly experience the misfortune of bullets (which you will, a lot). More regular checkpoints might have been convenient at times, but then again, they make it a challenge that actual feels good to beat. It creates a feeling similar to getting to 50 grand in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, in the way that no matter how bad you cock up now, you’re guaranteed to come back to this point.

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Don't you just hate it when you get to the airport and it's on fire?

Multiplayer in Dragon Rising immediately makes the campaign more fun with online co-op, letting you share the hilariously unfair death with friends. Other modes include team death match, or annihilation rather, that definitely does not feel like Unreal Tournament, and also infiltration mode, that sees one team as special ops trying to blow something up with the other team defending the target. They are all genuinely fun to play and give the game a nice bit of extra life.

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising does things right and wrong in equal measure yet still remains fun to play through. It is a good game but there are a few things that some people might not enjoy. It is definitely trying to be more realistic than your average FPS and if you go in expecting anything else you will have a rather sobering thought placed in the back of your mind by a rifle calibre slug. If however you love the challenge, like thinking tactically and enjoy coming up with a plan B when plan A is blown up by a helicopter then Dragon Rising should sit quite snugly next to your combat trousers and knife replica collection.

7/10

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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