Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising.

Featuring an all new storyline and all new user interface, this game is the first Operation Flashpoint made for gamers instead of throat-mic wearing, sim-heads.  The game is essentially the same type as OpFlash with a few minor differences.  The menu system for issuing orders is now simplified into a single radial instead of a complex tree system of menus.  Gone are the complex map and radio system.  The watch is no longer necessary.  The compass is replaced by a simple hud bearing indicator with enemy markers.  So, what makes it Operation Flashpoint and not just a new game with that name?  Little touches with the player, environment, and ballistics.  And lest we forget the vehicles.

First, the player has physics attached to him.  It takes time to perform an action.  It takes time to crouch or stand up.  It also takes time to load an anti-tank weapon, during which the player crouches to load it.  Running takes stamina and also has inertia.  New player features in this game include a field dressing kit which you can apply yourself unless you’re immobilized.  The environment is pure OpFlash.  Sprawling country sides with plenty of topography and vegetation are interspersed with sparse lakes and a decent sky.  Buildings can be destroyed with explosive weapons.  In this edition, there is ground vegetation which actually works to help camouflage enemies.  Performance is decent given the sheer amount of vegetation we see.  But more about that later.  Ballistics are mostly affected by bullet drop.  Windage seemed not to matter much.  The sniper rifle has mil-dots which you can actually use.  Assault rifles have a simple iron sight which is effective even past 200 yards.  The pistols are ineffective over 35 yards.  Explosive damage seems a bit off at the moment.  Perhaps in the next patch they will address how a HEAT rocket can explode 20 feet from a soldier and not injure him.  And in this game you can tell when you get a hit because there is both a reticle indicator of a hit and a blood spray visible from the enemy.

Vehicles are present and usable in multiple positions.  Driving is simple with four directions and a handbrake.  Gone are the light and horn controls.  Flying is, as usual, difficult.  Mouse flying is complicated by the lookspring being active for flight controls.  I am unaware of a way to disable this.  The good news is, you can use your controllers or flight sticks in conjunction with mouse and keyboard.  Boat controls are as simple as wheeled and tracked vehicles.

For those who are unfamiliar with what Operation Flashpoint is all about, here is a primer.  Like the originals, Dragon Rising is a tactical squad-based military shooter.  It focuses on providing a combat simulation experience.  This is where it takes a turn from the originals though.  OFDR has simplified the control scheme as much as possible while still providing the tactical experience.  The original games had more than 50 controls to be mapped and provided a complex play experience which included not only combat, but logistical planning and orienteering.  The new game simplifies this by providing hud indicators in lieu of map and compass reading.  It’s combat experience is still focused on realism while reducing frustration caused by extra complexity.

The graphics are by no means revolutionary, but do provide the necessary visuals to finish the experience.  There don’t seem to be any complex post-processing effects.  There is scalable detail settings for objects, environment, textures, and shadows though.  The customizable view-distance is not present.  Don’t expect to be wowed by the graphics at all.  They are decent and get the job done.

The weapons in-game are geared towards the sim side with adjustable fire modes and multiple ammo types.  Switching fire modes is instant, though switching ammo requires a reload.  There is a combat knife for silent kills if you can get close enough.  AT weapons take forever to load.  They can only be fired while crouched.  Vehicle weapons are effective.  Bullet penetration is included and does seem to be accurate.

Mutliplayer is a familiar experience although somewhat classic.  There are a few game modes including deathmatch and annihilation.  The server browser has filters but there seems to be very few servers operating now.  Multiplayer online does require a codemasters.com account that can be created in-game.  MP gameplay has its flaws.  Because there are vehicles, there will be players who horde or crash vehicles.  Of course in multiplayer games, players who are new to the franchise will get in and just drive away while leaving their squad mates to hoof it that 5000 yards to an objective.  They can be repaired, but only by an engineer.  There are different classes and they’re all laid out in a hierarchal menu structure to choose your player for the MP game.  In a game where the average ping was 250, player hits were still achievable without leading.  There is a 4 person coop mode which lets you go through the campaign.  There is the option to populate an empty server with AI soldiers.

Single player is with either the campaign or single missions.  You control a squad and issue orders to move and assault.  You can even issue orders via the map for assaults without a direct line of sight.  Your AI is decent but not intelligent.  Since the game is still OpFlash, you can disable hud indicators and go old school with just your eyes for spotting enemies.  This is not recommended since you’ll run 400 yards and then get shot by an enemy soldier you never saw.  The factions are the US and the Chinese PLA.  In OpFlash style, the Chinese radio messages are in Mandarin, though the sub-titles on the hud let you know what was said.  Issues are ordered to you by a command team which you never see.  Briefings are present and provide minimal information on your tasks.  You cannot customize your layout before a mission, though you can scavenge from dead soldiers and ammo crates.  This was a huge disappointment since OpFlash provided amazing customization.  There are new combat support features.  You can call in air-strikes, artillery and other goodies.  These options are limited by the campaign to increase the challenge.

Overall, this is a decent game.  It’s not perfect, but it’s way better than the originals and even better than the Arma series.  It still has its flaws.  The major one being that it is still focused on realism and simulation.  Switching weapons takes forever.  There is no health meter.  One bullet can kill you but it can also kill the enemy.  The radial menu can only be operated with the move keys and doesn’t deactivate when you’ve issued a command, so you can’t issue orders while moving.  That is a huge flaw in my book.  Audio is quite good and doesn’t really deserve any more said.  The game has its flaws and that detracts from its playability.  It is geared towards those seeking more realism.  This game still requires endless running to complete missions.  It is a much slower pace between encounters.  Contact with enemies speeds to frantic instantly and the player must be more smart than skilled.  Cover is key and this makes the multiplayer somewhat frustrating.  One sniper can keep you respawning over and over without leaving your start point.  If you’re looking for that experience, this is a game for you.  If you’d rather play than plan, stick to COD.

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