Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Those who have become accustomed to running and gunning in Call of Duty, Halo and just about any of the many other console FPS lining the shelves, will get a rude awakening if they apply the same mindset when they’re playing Codemasters Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising.

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a much truer representation of war than most console games, so obviously running around and dropping hundreds of enemies like an action hero isn’t going to work here. Instead it’s all about smart, tactical play and terrifying gunfights, where every wound could possibly be your last.

That doesn’t only describe the harder difficulties, either. The game retains its sternness even on the easiest difficulty setting, normal (at least Codemasters had the good sense to not call it easy, because that would be a downright lie), but has plenty of onscreen information to assist us mere mortals: RV points clearly signpost the most suitable areas for cover. On the hardest difficulty all such assistance is removed, and it’s completely left up to you to distinguish enemy units from allies and to seek out suitable cover points to protect your very human body from the hail of deadly gunfire.

Like real war, it isn’t only you fighting. You have a three man squad that you’re able to bark orders to. Progression through the game is highly dependent on executing effective strategic manoeuvres with this trio, which is largely a simple matter of using the quick command radial. Commands such as suppressive fire can be pulled off by just looking towards the general direction of enemies, bringing up the command radial and selecting the option from the menu, of which can be done in mere seconds. More elaborate and long distance manoeuvres can be constructed by using the command map, it couldn’t really be any easier and seeing well planned tactics come to successful fruition never fails to be immensely gratifying.

Each mission usually has more than one objective, which can be tackled in whatever order you see fit, but it’s far from the large scale open world which the back of the box would have you believe. The mission objectives themselves have little in the way of imagination, but because of the relatively unique nature of the rest of the game, those, who might usually see this as a shortcoming, might very well be able to turn a blind eye to such generic design on this particular occasion.

Less likely to be ignored are a number of bugs that plague the game, which result in your squad completely ignoring your commands for no good reason. On one stage I reached a checkpoint by completing one of my missions but was left with little time to complete another, leaving me no choice but to go against the general “take it slowly rule” of the game, and run. This lack of polish gets in the way of the experience that the developer intends to offer you, that they otherwise manage to in other areas.

Besides the solo campaign there are also multiplayer options, not least of which is the co-op, which allows you and three others to play through the entire game together and, just as long as you’re playing with a skilled group, here the AI issues of the game will obviously become inexistent, at least on your side anyway. Away from the campaign, there’s Annihilation, which is essentially a team death match with the twist being that there’s also a number of AI bots on each team. Finally there’s Infiltration, which has one team attempting to destroy an objective within a base, whilst the other larger team must defend it by hunting down the opposition.

With the mighty innards of today’s consoles, the visual quality certainly has the potential to offer an equal level of realism to much of the rest of the game, and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a real stunner, powered by the flexible and impressive EGO Engine (used for the likes of GRID and DiRT 2). The environments look outstanding and the guns themselves, the smoke, explosions and such all look authentic, all of which do their part in drawing you into the game. The less detailed character models, occasional muddy textures and framerate drops on the other hand, whilst not bad for many other games, are glaring issues for a game that strives for ultimate authenticity.

The audio is also incredible. The voice acting is strong and bullets zipping past your ears really adds to the intensity of the game. There’s no music in game and quiet moments are accompanied by clomping boots and the wind, which is atmospheric and just as absorbing as when the lead is flying around your head.

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising isn’t going to be for everyone. Its methodical pace and punishing ways leaves it as a game that only the most patient of players will be able to gain enjoyment from, and when the bugs show up, even the patience of these people will be stretched to the limit. But when it does work, it’s a very immersive and challenging game where progression comes through hard work, and for a certain type of gamer that is sure to come as an attractive prospect.