War is Hell!
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 PC version gets the nod, as it features a higher level of polish, better controls, tailored gameplay, and more 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. 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.
OFP: Dragon Rising isn’t the most visually impressive game you’ve ever played, but it is generally appealing to the eye. The open-world environments, especially, are nicely detailed and very realistic. On PC, many of the glitches present throughout the console versions have been ironed out. Most notably, the lack of freezing issues that mar the PS3 and Xbox 360 are non-existent. Also, explosions are a lot more powerful and used to greater effect on the PC. However, animations are still not particularly well done -many actions are either poorly rendered or void of any animation at all.
The sounds in the game are very good if not outstanding. Ambient sound effects, weapon rapport, and radio chatter all add nicely to the realism. So too does the lack of in-level music. While in menus, the dark and brooding Tibetan throat singing and Asian instrumentals provide for a quality aural backdrop.
In addition to the single-player campaign, you can also head online for cooperative and competitive play. The PC version allows you to play in competitive matches of up to 32 players. This is significant, as these über-realistic objective- and deathmatch-based games are amazingly challenging, providing PC gamers with hours of content post-campaign.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is not a game for everyone. Its high degree of challenge and tactical gameplay is for well-versed, patient, hardcore players. More casual players, even Modern Warfare junkies, need not apply unless you understand that the realistic experience offered in this title is entirely different than what you’re used to. If you can handle the often plodding pace and have the determination to get through initial frustrations, there is a quality battle simulator here to be explored and enjoyed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
The environments look great, but this certainly not a visual masterpiece. 4.0 Control
Giving direction to your squad and taking the fight directly to the enemy is a natural and rewarding experience. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The ambient sound effects capture battles nicely, and the main menu theme sets the tone. 4.4 Play Value
The stiff challenge of the single-player campaign and the deep multiplayer component will keep skilled, patient gamers playing for hours. 4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.