|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Codemasters Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Codemasters||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 6, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a tactical battle simulator for both the PC and home consoles. While the game is essentially identical across all platforms, the console versions suffer, as they feature a lower level of polish, unintuitive controls, and less expansive multiplayer. Regardless of system you choose to play the game on, however, you'll have an enjoyable time with this challenging title. Of course, that statement assumes you're a glutton for punishment and have the patience of a saint.
OFP: Dragon Rising is not for the run and gun Call of Duty crowd, gameplay is slow and deliberate, concentrating wholly on the strategic, tactical side of combat. As a result, gameplay doesn't feel tailored to consoles. On the other hand, if you're looking for a unique experience for your console that will test your mettle in ways few if any other console offerings do, Dragon Rising might just be the game you've been missing. If you think you have the requisite hardcore gaming chops, you won't be disappointed by the challenge this open-world combat simulator has to offer.
Dragon Rising takes place on one island in the northern Pacific. For centuries the sovereignty of the island of Skira has been disputed. The first colonists of the rock were the Chinese in the 15th century. Soon thereafter the Japanese gained a foothold on the island, as did the Russians a bit later. After the downfall of Imperial China in the 19th century, Chinese claims to the island gave way to those of Japan and Russia. The island eventually became a focal point for hostilities in the Russo-Japanese war at the onset of the 20th century. Subsequently, the Japanese took complete control of the island until the end of WWII, when the Soviet Union forced the expulsion of all of its Japanese inhabitants. The Soviets then found a vast amount of crude oil beneath the island's surface.
Unable to extract the resource due to Cold War strains, the fall of the Soviet Union and rise of the Russian Federation instigated an unprecedented wave of interest and investment into Skira. As Western funds and corporations flocked to the rock to extract the oil, the Chinese once again laid claim to the island after a lightning strike campaign that wrested control away from Russia and the private interests in order to fuel the parched Chinese Armed Forces led by a new, ultra-nationalist leader - General Zheng. This new threat to the region is known as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and it is up to a crack incursion force of U.S. Marines based in Japan to take back the island in order to cut off all oil supplies to the PLA, effectively stopping its ability to mobilize and diffusing tensions in the region.
This background is given to you in about 30 seconds at the onset of the game in a rather smart montage. The complexity and plausibility of the plot setting helps fuel the 11 missions you'll undertake in the game's main campaign, but don't expect between-mission cutscenes to further flesh out the scenario, as there aren't any. In Dragon Rising, you're a soldier in charge of a four-man squad. You receive tidbits of information from your company commander on a need to know basis that are related strictly to the objectives and mission at hand. As such, don't expect a cinematic, larger-than-life shooter experience. You are but a skillful pawn in a larger campaign. Accordingly, you'll have to fight smart by using your training in combat tactics to lead your AI squad to victory.
Because Dragon Rising puts such an emphasis on tactics, you're going to die a lot! Players used to absorbing bullets on their way to cover and generally going balls to the wall to get the job done will find their progress halted by the death-screen every few seconds. A well-placed bullet to your dome-piece will kill you. If you get hit in the leg, you'll have to dress the wound before you bleed out. Even after stemming the blood flow, you'll have trouble sprinting to your next objective. As a result, before sticking your head out in the open, you'll have to check your six and intently listen to the radio chatter being offered by your squad-mates.
Adding fuel to the fire, you'll have to guide those three other soldiers through battle, and they are every bit as vulnerable as you. Thankfully, you can tackle objectives any way you see fit by using the open-world to your advantage - getting to cover, using vehicles, skirting enemy emplacements, etc. Issuing your squad commands will help you to get them into strategic positions and perform tactically-sound actions. You'll be able to tell them to flank a key emplacement, stay back and defend your position, lay down suppressing fire to expedite your advance, etc. Truly, the tactical options are nearly limitless, allowing you to control the immediate battlefield like a professional soldier.