by Keaton Arksey
previewed on PC
Devoted to reality
While games based on the military and wars have made a great many advances over the last several years, they still have an issue when it comes to realism. If you take a round in the chest, in games like Call of Duty 4 or Medal of Honor Airbourne you can simply get behind cover and heal. Of course, things don’t work anything remotely close to that in real life. Even games that use health packs instead of regenerative health still aren’t exactly tied to reality. So a game like Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising will certainly rise some eyebrows with its intense devotion to reality.
Developed and published by Codemasters, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a spiritual sequel to the 2001 PC and Xbox release Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis. While it isn’t developed by the original developers Bohemia Interactive, the game will share many of the tactical elements of the original game.
The game takes place on a fictitious island off the north coast of Japan called Skira. Skira lies in a contested zone between the Russia and China. The discovery of a large cache of natural resources only serves to complicate matters. The player takes the role of a soldier in the United States military, there on behalf of the Russians to liberate the island from the Chinese. I’m not really sure why the Russians can’t do it, but you can expect that to be resolved in the game.
Skira is based off of a real world island called Kiska in the Aleutian Islands near Alaska. The developers of the game have accurately mapped the 277 square mile island, based directly on the geography of the real island. There are mountain ranges to the west, and low lands and rivers on the east side. To make matters worse, a 4,000 foot volcano is also on the island. Citizens aren’t a worry as most of the inhabitants have been evacuated in the game, but there will be abandoned villages and shacks throughout the island. To travel by foot, it will take four and a half hours to cross, two hours in a jeep, and 20 minutes in a helicopter. The game is non-linear, with an open world that is able to be explored at will. You can just ignore missions if you want to, but since you are part of a larger invasion force their push forwards depends on your efforts.
Since there is no such thing as an army of one, you will always have squad mates at your side to help you complete missions. These members are chosen by you, and all have their own talents and abilities. One may be a sniper, another adept at using explosives, and who you pick will change how you can handle a mission. Since the game is aiming to be as realistic as possible, the artificial intelligence (or AI) for your squad mates is able to handle itself without you ordering them around. In what is possibly the most disturbing showing of AI becoming self-aware, both squad mates and enemies value their lives and will retreat if that is the best option. Actual tactics taken from the US training manuals were used on the AI to allow them to change tactics on the fly. Both your squad mates and the enemy have a moral system, and will even abandon you if they consider your plan to be suicidal. Enemy AI will know how to take advantage of the weapons, and fire at your squad from 100 yards away.
The game uses the EGO game engine, the same one powering the DiRT and GRID series, which enables some fantastic lighting to be seen. Preview builds have shown shadows from buildings moving much like they would in real life. All of the buildings in the game are moveable, and pretty much everything is destroyable. Damage is permanent throughout the game, so if you want to go in with a “scorched earth” plan and burn everything in your wake, you will have to deal with that should you need to retreat.
Over sixty weapons are available, ranging from your basic pistols and assault rifles to 2,000 pound bombs that you can call in from fighter jets. Thirty vehicles ranging from jeeps to helicopters can be commandeered for your use. All animations in the game are designed specifically for the weapon or vehicle that is being used.
Changing the difficulty level will not change the actual level of difficulty, but the information presented to the player. While on easier difficulties you will have easy access to information like where enemies are, how many bullets are left in your clip, and your squad mates’ location, harder difficulties remove this information. This makes paying attention to where your squad is firing, listening to gun fire, and paying attention to how many bullets you have left a matter of life and death. Reloading at the wrong time could leave you loading a clip with only one bullet in it at the wrong time.
The game will include multiplayer, with 32 players online for the PC versions and eight players on the PS3 and 360. Every human player will have three AI squad mates, bringing the total to 128 and 32 for PC and consoles respectively.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising might not be for everyone, but anyone looking for a realistic experience where a single mistake can mean the difference between life and death should look towards the Fall when Operation Flashpoint is released.