STAFF REVIEW of Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (Xbox 360)

Monday, October 12, 2009.
by Sergio White

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Box art It's been more than eight years since the first Operation Flashpoint (Cold War Crisis) was released for the PC. The original title won awards all through the gaming industry for its realistic game play and graphics. In fact, Cold War Crisis was even adapted and used to train real soldiers to give them a taste of actual battle. The arrival of the follow-up, Dragon Rising, for the Xbox 360 offered plenty of reasons for your trigger finger to get itchy with excitement. The game takes place in the Pacific Ocean just north of Japan on Skira Island which was formerly a Chinese territory that was claimed by Japan and then Russia following World War II. Concealing some of the richest remaining oil reserves in the world, the island is in high demand and Russian and American companies finally succeed in gaining access to its hidden resources.

Upon startup, I thought I could just rush through the game killing and shooting anything that moved. Perhaps I could even let my team do most of the killing while I just stood back and watched. I quickly learned that this was not the case with this game. The real-life military tactics and how to survive a long-range firefight really makes this game stand out from the rest. With 11 missions to complete,(I only completed 4 so far) I found that keeping my head was the only way that I could keep myself and the rest of my troops alive. The map scale is very impressive. In one mission, the island was well over 200 square kilometers of land. The game requires a lot of running, and it successfully gave me an idea of how fit marines must really be. Codemasters intended the game to be the first sandbox-style title in the military simulation genre meaning that clear objectives for the game can be ignored while you explore the map and engage enemies at will. The realism required me to rarely engage enemies at close range. Most of my kills were from well over 40 yards away. The onscreen map is an excellent tool for finding your location and locating both friendly and enemy forces.

Issuing orders to your team can be very quick and easy by using the quick command radial control. At this point menus leading into menus come up. There are many options and tactics to choose from, but the number of options can be overwhelming for someone who just wants to shoot and progress through the game. On the subject of shooting, the bullets also have realistic speed and trajectories. In order to shoot accurately, I found myself using the markers on my scope to adjust my aim upward when shooting at long distances. The AI gives you target indications which was a helpful at times, and a teammate locating an enemy gives you the direction, distance and type of enemy. It would be helpful if a more thorough description of the enemy location was provided, though. Looking for an enemy from 100 meters away was frustrating when I attempted to determine if an object was a helmet or a rock. The graphics in the game are not the highest resolution, but they do not take away from the overall gameplay.

The game lacks any real helpful explanations, but the real frustrations came when your squad AI refuses to acknowledge you commands. You must help your team keep up morale if you want them to be effective. Your team and the enemy are not just dummies to shoot at and order around. Getting pinned down or losing a team member all have an effect on your men. If you push your team too hard or expose them to suicidal situations, they will reconsider following your orders. When your troops are working for you they become a soldier's dream; They keep formation, flank and assualt the enemy and suppress fire when you get within their line of sight. Dragon Rising is very dependent on you using your team and using tactics to achieve the objective.

One of the multiplayer game modes is co-op where you have a single mission. Up to 3 players can join you in any of the campaign missions that have already been completed in single player. All players become part of a single unit. This mode lets you to jump right in to your favorite missions and enjoy them with friends. Campaign mode is another multiplayer mode where the game can be played from the beginning as a co-op experience. You simply set up the game, invite friends and progress through the campaign mission by mission.

Annihilation is another multiplayer mode that is a straightforward team mode. In this mode, you can form two balanced teams who engage each other near a key tactical location. Players have access to AI units and all the equipment generally available in single player. The teams begin at opposite ends of a host selected map and simply advance to contact. Once engaged, the two teams have a pre-selected period of time to eliminate the enemy or a pre-selected score to reach. The last mode multiplayer mode is Infiltration which is based on the idea of hunter/hunted. One small team of players takes on the role of a special forces team, while a second, much bigger team, plays the role of a defense force. The infiltrating team use covert tactics and aggressive weaponry to reach and destroy the objective under the defending team's control. The opposing team must hunt down and destroy the infiltration team to prevent them from entering the base and destroying the objective. I found this to be the most interesting and enjoyable of all the multilayer modes.

The game's sound effects are awesome. weapons sound like the real thing and Bullets whiz past you and thump into building and the ground around you. Mortar's that come a bit to close to you and your team will shake you up But the best sound is the pounding of your heart after you have run 2 miles up hill or to another piece of cover. Don't forget your footsteps on the different types of ground. The voices are nothing special Very average but overall a good job.

The animations are impressive but the animation for entering vehicles is nonexistent. You never see your character or any of your squad members enter a vehicle but rather they walk up to a vehicle and just magically appear inside the vehicle. The smoke also looks flat and unrealistic, but neither of these shortcomings take anything away from the game.

Operation Flashpoint Dragon Rising is a realistic, slower paced approach to the military shooter than what most gamers are accustomed to. There can be no Rambo-style game play here. You must follow orders, move slowly and patiently, use realistic tactics and you will get a small taste of what real war is all about. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when playing the game:
1. Use the terrain to your advantage.
2. Know that if you can see the enemy, the enemy can see you.
3. Look after your men, and they will look after you.
4. If all else fails, call in artillery.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.8 / 10


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