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Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (PC)

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (PC)

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is one of the finest tactical first person war games released in recent years because while other titles such as Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter are linear by nature Codemasters have created an open world environment with strong focus on giving the gamers (you guys) total freedom of choice. Excited? you should be.

The combat takes place in a huge environment across 220 square kilometers and you can tackle any scenario with a freedom that other war games have struggled to achieve for a very long time. Operation Flashpoint offers simulation style accuracy in that with only a few shots you may bleed to death and if you fail to get treated by a medic you can die from even relatively minor injuries. There are also a plethora of vehicles offered to the players and you can travel to anywhere on the map via a jeep, helicopter or tank. Arma II, created by the original Operation flashpoint developers bears a similar game mechanic.

The combat is extremely realistic, at times it can be frenetic and nervewrecking as every decision you make could easily be your last and at other times it can be a slow and careful excursion to reach your objectives while watching every dot on the landscape for possible means of attack. Long range shots can come out of nowhere and end your progress before you even have the time to take a breath – this is combat at its very finest.

You are the leader of a US Marine squad comprising four men and you have been sent to the island of Skira just off the coast of Japan. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army have invaded in the attempt to claim the recently discovered oil reserves from the Russian rulers. The US forces try to act as peacemakers, keen to ensure that this conflict doesn’t develop into an all out World War. The scripting is solid enough even if it is a little far fetched but it dissolves into the background with short briefings taking the center stage – instructions on your forthcoming goals. It works really well as the dramatic background story sets the scene perfectly for the mission briefings.

The single player aspect of the game is based around 11 missions and initially you start on a smaller island which serves as a tutorial off the coast of Skira, then you move onto the main Island for the more difficult missions. Your squad tactics and weapon loadout also change depending on the mission, from full out assault mode to ‘Sam Fisher’ style stealth based missions. This change in pace helps to keep the player interested long term.

This brings me nicely to the Artificial Intelligence which is absolutely brilliant – your squad will adapt their tactics depending on the specific situation – from throwing grenades to taking cover at the right times, all without human prodding. Equally so the enemy don’t act like headless chickens and will often try to flank your team to find a weak spot to cause maximum carnage.

You can steal tanks and other vehicles or take to the bushes and cover your tracks while nipping from vegetation to building wall, and the squad can even be broken in two to offer diversions and cover. By mid way you best have a good grasp of all these tactics or the game will punish you, and hard.

It is the AI that is Dragon Rising’s major strength because I can’t remember a game that gives such a strong feeling of reward from a successful strategic encounter. Equally so on the first day I had to leave the offices for a break after getting really stressed out when I kept failing on a particular mission (no spoilers!). It really is an adrenaline rush.

Unfortunately the AI can fall a little flat when you get injured and need healed. You will sometimes have to pull out a dressing while your medic stands beside you, clearly thinking about his long lost love on the other side of the globe. Ordering your team mates into cover can also sometimes prove to be troublesome with one of them standing like a lemon while a distant sniper shoots him right in the head. This can lead to frustration at times especially on the harder difficulty levels which offer no checkpoints or HUD systems or respawns. Getting shot by a simple placement incident can set you back well over 30 minutes in game time.

Codemasters have been keen to focus on the sophisticated lighting system and for the most part it works phenomenally well, able to set the tone for specific locations and time zones perfectly. The only downside is that, realistic as it might be, the environment can look very similar from start to finish. I am all for realism, but it would be nice to sometimes see a distinctive section of the environment rather than continual rolling trees and green grassland.

Most of the game revolves around you running about on foot rather than entering a lot of vehicles and fighting against tanks or helicopters for instance. Don’t get me wrong there are sections of the game where you jump into jeeps and head on a fast paced mission, but overall I found the opportunity to use the vehicles rather an afterthought and somewhat underdeveloped.

The game really comes alive in cooperative mode however because the entire game can be played with the squad of four being controlled by players. The Squad leader issues commands but if everyone wears a headset the experience becomes much more immersive and entertaining. I had the most fun with three colleagues playing the missions rather than relying on the AI players.

As well as cooperative mode there are two other multiplayer modes. Infiltration is a defensive/attack mode with one larger side defending an installation while the other tries to infiltrate – this is rather chaotic but great fun. Annihilation is basically team deathmatch with the twist that you can populate eight slots (two squads) on one side. To add more to the mix Codemasters have offered players to take control of Squads as leaders with AI members filling the rest of the slots.

Graphically we found the game to run very well on both Nvidia and ATI hardware with no major issues with modern day gaming cards such as the Nvidia 260 GTX or ATI 4870 and a capable Intel or AMD dual/quad core. Lesser graphics cards can also power through the game, but with subsequent lower detail settings or resolutions.

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a thinking mans strategic first person shooter with a strong emphasis on a realistic damage model which makes the whole experience very high tension as you can be taken out in the blink of an eye. Every decision you make in the game has a repercussion which can sometimes be dramatically positive or equally fatal. Online with your friends the game takes on a life of its own and will appeal to a group of close friends who want to work heavily within a team environment. To be fair, the game is also good in single player, but the highest reward will be taken in the company of good friends. Highly recommended.


Very tense and strategic. Running and gunning will quickly put you in a body bag, much like real life
Detailed models and effective dynamic lighting.
Fantastic combat sounds and realistic ambient noises set the mood perfectly.
Online with a bunch of good friends makes this almost a religious experience.

Highly recommended if you are a thinking man who likes his action realistic.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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