by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Make games, not War
I like partaking in war. Well, fake wars such as paintball and laser tag. Being part of a team, we could discuss tactics to exterminate enemy soldiers and try to execute those tactics as best we could. And if things didnít do exactly as planned, then the worst that could happen is a body full of small bruises caused by enemy paintballs.
Most war themed video games work in much the same manner. Devise a quick strategy and then go in all guns blazing Rambo-style to take-out all the enemy troops and end the game high upon a mountain of fallen foes. But of course, real wars arenít like this. They require precise planning and careful execution of those plans. Any false move and you could be meeting Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. This is where Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising tries to be different.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is closer to being a war simulator than most games of the genre. The original Operation Flashpoint of 1991 was a PC only production with an emphasis more on realism than arcade-style fun. And Dragon Rising continues those traditions. The setting is the fictional island of Skira, which has been invaded by Chinese forces with the intent of procuring the islandís resources for themselves. It is then up to you and your team of crack troops to liberate the island.
For many, this game will force them to change their game style. If you are the type who likes to go in all guns blazing, you wonít last long at all. Why? You may well ask. And the reason for it is simpleÖ Dragon Rising is all about the realism. It is a game where a single well placed bullet can end your life. And, it is a game where you will need to work out a viable strategy for each varying situation. Personally, Iím a sniper at heart when it comes to FPS. I prefer the sniper route. I hide away somewhere away from where the bulk of the action takes place and once it hots up, I take out my sniper rifle and scope targets from a safe distance. Simple, easy and with a minimum of danger. As such, my style of play did not need to alter too much.
This is a team based game, so it is not entirely up to your character to deal with the enemy troops. After receiving your mission objectives, you will need to chart a suitable approach to complete those objectives with the help of your squad members. On a number of occasions I would just send my troops in to an area, in the hope they would flush out the enemy whilst I stayed back. This would allow me to stay safe and then finish off whatever foes fled the area. I would hope that my squad would be able to remain largely intact.
Unfortunately, this tactic caused one or two problems for me, mainly due to the AI of the squad and enemy soldiers. On one occasion I sent my squad into a hostile building hoping to again flush out the enemy. I waited. And waited. Iím normally quite patient, but this was getting ridiculous, so I decided to investigate for myself. I entered the building to find my squad and that of the enemy almost in arms reach of one another Ė alive. At that point, the enemy opened fire upon me. Gotta love AI.
But despite that and a few other issues with the AI, the game has some amazing realism features. My favorite is the realistic bullet paths, although it takes some getting used to. Shooting at distances requires gamers to allow for effects such as wind and gravity. I also liked the features of the Hardcore difficulty setting, which takes away all the HUD elements of the game. Doing this requires the gamer to keep track of things such as now many rounds you have remaining. It just gives the game an increased feel of accuracy.
Another feature that increases the realism factor is that you donít have a health bar; a single shot can kill you if it hits you in the right place. Also, if you get shot in certain body parts, your motion and functioning will be affected appropriately. If you get shot in the leg, you will run slower; if you get shot in the arm, you have trouble aiming.
Visually, the game is stunning. The landscapes look real enough to immerse you in the scene, whilst the character models get a hint of realism too; Getting shot in the arm results in blood streaming down your hand. It is only a minor thing, but certainly helps to keep a realistic impression. The audio helps in this regard too. Weapons sound authentic as do vehicles. The sound of helicopters flying overhead is just awesome. But it is not just the sound effects of man made equipment. Birds chirp around you when you lay prone waiting for an enemy to approach. The only real issue I have with the audio, is the dialogue Ė which at time seems to sound a bit stuttered, almost as if each word was recorded separately, rather than as a full sentence.
War, what is it good for?
If you are a huge fan of games like Call of Duty you may well feel that Dragon Rising is not for you Ė especially early on, before you fully get accustomed to the game style required. But given a bit of time, the tactics and game style will feel quite natural. The controls used to direct your squad are quite simple, relying on a tiered menu system, whilst the extra functions such as nigh-vision goggles are easily accessed. The AI issues - both with your own squad and the enemy - may cause some frustration, but will not make the game unplayable. The gritty feel of the visuals as well as the authentic sounding weapons further enhance the realistic atmosphere, to make Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising one of the better war simulators on the shelves.
Realism effects such as projectile paths and damage effects. Audio is superb.
AI, both for your squad and the enemy could use some work.