Review: Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising

As much as we’d like to, we can’t just sit around and play Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare every waking moment. Well, maybe you can. But sometimes it’s prudent to broaden your horizons by branching out and checking out other titles that might offer just the same level of excitement, or at least something pretty close to what Infinity Ward’s smash hit provided over these past couple of years. Enter Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. While it differs in many ways from its FPS cousins, brothers, and sisters, it still offers engaging and exhilarating wartime exploits, rewarding the patient and the brave with tight controls, the enforcement of teamwork, and a great squad-based shooter with plenty of potential.

If you want to conquer the campaign, you’ll need to have the mettle to withstand long, tense, and nervewracking missions that will test your patience as well as your skill. On a little island off the coast of Russia, the Chinese have taken control. Of course, it’s not a real island — we wouldn’t want controversy, would we? — though the history and backdrop of how things arrived at that point is presented in a slick and stylish manner, easily one of the best I’ve seen in any shooter. While it’s truly a majestic view, the glamour and grandeur stops there. From then on, there are no slick cut scenes to rely on as a crutch to help you get through the hard times. It’s all mission briefings, music, and you and your squad. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising means business. Throughout all eleven missions that comprise the campaign, you’ll need to engage the enemy from far across the map, flanking groups of armored soldiers, or traversing the countryside simply to find your targets.

Each mission can last well over half an hour to complete, which admittedly sounds short, but in the context of Dragon Rising feel inherently long. Making skilled usage of sniper rifles, scoped weapons, and mounted turrets in order to combat enemies that are hundreds of yards away are how you end up making it through the campaign. Other than the staggeringly difficult stages (at least, to those who are accustomed to standard FPSs), the game plays just like any other tactical shooter. You can issue orders to your squad with the D-pad, assign a medic to heal downed team members, and make strategic decisions with your men in order to complete objectives in an efficient and expedient manner. There are plentiful checkpoints along the way in order to help keep you from wasting a good hour or so replaying scenarios where you couldn’t quite make the journey, and you’ll most certainly be making good use of them.

Dying is a curiosity, however. Replaying a section does not guarantee that events will play out in the exact same way they did prior to biting the dust. Depending on the enemy AI and your squad’s tactics, your enemies may decide to employ different strategies each subsequent playover. This requires you to think on your feet. A game plan that may have been successful previously must be altered in order to ultimately succeed, and in this Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising presents a much more realistic challenge than its FPS and tactical shooter brethren. If you’re not into challenging gameplay and difficulty that forces you to think first and shoot later, then you might find yourself putting the controller down and walking away.

opflash2For those of you who are brave enough to take the plunge (and enjoy it), you’ll be rewarded with a robust and engaging squad-based shooter that isn’t afraid to force you to think a little. Unfortunately, a few small caveats prevent the game from getting an absolutely glowing recommendation. As is the case with the majority of titles that saddle you with AI companions, your squadmates are just a bit dim. They’ll run out in front of gunfire and stand right in your way as you prepare to pump enemies full of lead. Even more frustrating is the fact that medics will sometimes run all the way out into the open to treat a wounded soldier, getting mowed down in the process. This terrible judgment is a hindrance, especially if you can’t rely on friends to play with you. This is quite a shame, as when your team isn’t acting like a group of complete blockheads, they do behave in a number of realistic and authentic patterns. However, since you must depend on your team as much as you would in real life, their occasional ignorance can mar your enjoyment of the game quite substantially.

Even if you must put up with some extremely slow teammates at some points, the game looks and plays brilliantly. The text can be a bit small to read on standard televisions, but slick and detailed environments, enemies, and teammates look gorgeous. Coupled with epic orchestral movements and heart-pounding motifs, this squad-based shooter is an exercise in finesse. Even the menus are fabulous — striking yellow bold font punctuates the opening cut scene and selections you make in-game, creating punchy annotation for the action to come.

The game will require every bit of 8+ hours to complete, and even longer should you choose to ramp up the difficulty, which, instead of upping the amount of enemy damage, removes important parts of your HUD and forcing you to play as if the entire game were a Hardcore Team Deathmatch, if you get my drift. If you’re not into the single-player campaign for some reason, then the multiplayer and cooperative action are equally as polished and engaging as going it alone. Multiplayer does, unfortunately, suffer from some gamebreaking issues such as phantom bullets, but it’s nothing that can’t be solved with a reload and some patience.


If you’re looking to expand your horizons with a shooter that can’t be completed through sheer brute force alone, then Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is most certainly for you. It requires the utmost of care when planning strategies, awareness of your surroundings, and above all else, patience. If you possess all of those qualities then it’d be wise to give this game a try, even with Modern Warfare 2 on the horizon — it caters to a completely different crowd.

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