When Codemasters said they were making a Realistic Military Sim, boy they weren’t playing around.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is the sequel to the first game in the series Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis which was released several years ago which was also a realistic military shooter. Dragon Rising on the other hand takes realism to a surreal level and leaves you spellbound for quiet a while as you struggle to take it all in. Take any other fairly recent and decent game in its genre, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Rainbow Six: Vegas or Vegas 2, think they realistic military shooters? Did you think they were tough? OFDR leaves them groveling in the lowly dust and tramples all over them.
The game is based on the Island of Skira where you play the role of a US Marine Corps Soldier fighting alongside the Russians against the Chinese Military who’ve setup base on the island. The squad setup is pretty run of the mill, with snipers, machine gunners, explosive experts- you know the drill. Single Player mode offers a tutorial which happens to be a mission anyway and throws you right into the midst of battle, no point wasting time at a shooting range when there’s live Chinese running around right?
The loading screen displays a labeled Xbox 360 controller which is strange as the game’s developers should know that PC gamers tend to use other means of control, such as….maybe a keyboard perhaps? This is one of the downfalls of the game, not knowing what keys on the keyboard correspond to the 360 controller. And to make matters worse, there’s gazillions of controls, and most of them are important in most aspects of the game. The tutorial asks you to move to certain locations, perform ‘simple’ squad commands, take out enemies and blow up radars and enemy camps. This is quite a chore, as in my case I feverishly tried figuring out what key to exactly press to get the job done and in the process always ended up dying or getting my squad owned on the battlefield. Even the tutorial pop up messages or hints were inconclusive as they just asked you to press the ‘squad command key’ for which you had to go into the keyboard settings to learn was the button ‘Q’. For experienced FPS gamers, this shouldn’t take you that long to figure as they’re mostly standard, in such as left ctrl for crouch, left click for fire, right click to use your weapon’s scope, etc. But still I feel for such an iconic game, the least they could have done was adapt the game better for the PC in terms of controls.
INTO THE BATTLE
Codemasters have worked on keeping the gameplay as realistic as possible and have done so with horrific accuracy. Take for instant getting hit on the battlefield (you’ll get pretty used to that), you end up crippled, bleeding, and soon you die if you don’t use a medipack on yourself. In even more severe cases you have to use the squad command function to scream for a medic who comes and heals you. The Al enemies spot you from miles away and you get bullets whizzing past you the instant they do so, and if you don’t duck immediately, you’re dead seconds. There’s no jump button. Who jumps around with heavy arms supplies on your back and your life at stack? Falling flat is the best option. So put your gaming prowess aside and learn how it’s done for real. There’s tons of gear at your mercy- rifles, rockets launchers, side arms, kick ass artillery support, the works. Every little decision you make has a direct outcome on your fate. Take for example, a few enemy soldiers in the distance, taking pot shots at you and your squad. Your first instinct would be to see who the fuck is shooting and from where, but by the time you figure that out, you’re already pushing up daisies and partying six feet under with your squad mates. You slowly learn to command your squad to engage the enemy, or provide suppression fire while you flank them from different directions. Codemasters claims to have taken several inputs from actual soldiers to improve this games physics and ballistics which you’ll experience firsthand while playing.
With all mind boggling realism, Codemasters should have made the learning curve a little less steep. An FPS on a console is quite different from playing one on the PC, and the balance they’ve struck here could have been a little bit better.
VISUAL INTEL AKA GRAPHIX
Your multiple core CPU, 512mb dedicated graphics card and 4 GB RAM isn’t going to satisfy this game’s libido. Take for instance the draw distance, the realism is such that you see enemies from several miles away, even if they are 1 pixel tall. We’re talking hundreds of army personnel, choppers, tanks and boats all with the best Al our time has ever seen, individually thinking units fighting on your screen. Get ready to turn your resolution way down to enjoy this game at a half decent frame rate. The even better part is you can’t adjust the game graphics. It’s just the resolution while the rest is all turned right up. While my friends computer’s fan huffed and puffed as I struggled to complete mission objectives and give orders to various squads both ground and air. The physics are incredible with the EGO Game Engine to blame here.
There are over 70 weapons all designed to perfection, right from the way the gun recoils, the sound the muzzle makes, reloading action as well as various bullet types. The HUD is kept to a bare minimum with you health meter on the bottom left and your weapons detail on the other side. The landscape is pretty lifelike including the environment complete with sea winds, trees, grass and rocks.
Codemasters boasts that every unit is a smart thinker and you don’t have to look out for your squad every step of the way they said. I beg to differ asin most scenarios even when you order your squad to engage the enemy at least one of them gets hit and you have to rush to his aid to heal him. And while gunfire blasts overhead and you’re searching for your dropped team member (his location isn’t shown to you) he slowly perishes and joins the Almighty in virtual heaven.
If you get sufficiently hit the camera view changes to a full body view of you, sprawled in the grass writhing in pain. And the only thing you do is bash your quick command key and yell for a medic. The closest team member comes rushing along and pulls out medipack, but strangely enough he has better things to do so he neatly tucks the pack away and goes back into battle or even better, gets hit and lies down next to you like some grotesque army slumber party. These little bugs tend to annoy you as you have to pull back to your last savepoint and try again. Enemies can be shot at depending on your weapon from an eternity away. You see a moving spec on the horizon, check your map(m) and if it’s red, you drop down and start firing.
The difficulty levels are quite unique too, even in the easy mode, the enemy Al remains the same, and you don’t take more shots to die or anything. You’re just given more artillery support and a compass to show you enemy units. I don’t even want to think about what the highest difficult level has to offer. Multiplayer offers a co-op mode where you can play with your friends in battle scenarios and you get to choose what class of soldier you want to play.
THAT’S A WRAP SOLDIER
If you’re looking for the most realistic military strategic shooter ever made, with the heaviest arsenal of weapons, tanks, aircraft and ballistics weaponry, Dragon Rising is at the end of the rainbow. If you thought Rainbow Six Vegas was hard, controlling a squad, giving them orders and carrying out multiple plans of attack, Dragon Rising is not the game for you. Hell it isn’t even a game. Quite bluntly it is a military simulator. The level of accomplishment and self satisfaction one feels on completing a mission I haven’t felt in any other game. To sum things up there’s two ways about this. Buy the game, or join the army.