Short Version: While a fairly fun and unique game in itself, the game is rather short, the AI is lacking, and fans of the original will surely be disappointed at the lack of variety. Laggy online play doesn’t help it either.
Game Rant guest Ken J reviews Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
The year is 2001 and Codemasters releases a game called Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis developed by a foreign game developer Bohemia Interactive Studios. The game is technically a first person shooter, but this isn’t like any first person shooter anyone has played at that time (you can argue not ever since). Yes, you are playing in first person view, yes you’re going to be holding a firearm most of the time, but that’s about where the similarities end. The game takes place on a fictional island in 1985 during the height of the Cold War in a hypothetical conflict between American and Soviet forces. It was known for its open-endedness and for its brutally realistic injury model. One shot in your chest or head and you’re dead. Luckily, the same can be said for your enemy. I will be making a lot of comparisons between Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising and the original because that is the standard a lot of fans hold it to.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising takes place on a semi-fictional island called Skira. The reason why I say it’s semi-fictional is because the island itself is modeled after a real island off the coast of Alaska, the history behind the island is based on an island off the coast of China, and the name is just made up. The game revolves around a hypothetical conflict between the Chinese PLA and American forces. The story has American forces helping the Russians fight off the Chinese, yet strangely you never encounter a single Russian in the game.
You play as a fireteam leader commanding three AI teammates via a context sensitive command radial. You can issue commands such as changing the formation, you can tell your AI to assault a building, engage certain targets first, defend a position, etc. etc. The system is fairly slick and is a bit less confusing than the command system from the original, but the problem with this system is that once you issue a command, the radial doesn’t go away. You actually have to hit the command key again to make it go away before you can move again. This is sort of a problem toward the beginning and is an issue if you’re trying to issue commands while under fire. Sometimes you forget to hit the command button again before you try to move and you end up issuing more orders instead of moving. After a while you get used to it more but I think it’s much more intuitive for the radial to disappear once you have issued a command so you can move right away in case you’re coming under fire.
Another gameplay issue I would like to point out is the lack of free-look while driving. There was maybe 2 or 3 missions where you had the opportunity to drive a jeep or truck around. The problem here is that once you jump into the driver seat of a vehicle, your view is locked straight forward, you can’t look around or anything. When you’re driving around grassy dunes full of rocks and small trees, it’s good to know where you can safely turn, or how far you’ve driven in relation to your next waypoint. If you’re trying to flank the enemy, you have to keep checking the map or you can turn the whole car so you can see the waypoint, either way it’s pretty inconvenient and unitinuitive.
A lot of people had high hopes for the game because for the better part of a year they’ve been spouting off about how they are focusing on realism, how they are using real tactics straight out of the USMC handbook, how they are getting advice from real military people, and so on. Yet when I got the game, I can’t help but notice how they got a lot of details wrong that any military advisor would have pointed out. First of all, they got the reload animations all wrong. Even Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 got them correct and that game isn’t even meant to be realistic.
Secondly, the muzzle flash has to go. Muzzle flashes looks cool in movies and video games, but in real life combat, especially during low light operations, it is a death sentence. Most military weapons are equipped with flash hiders. They do exactly as their name suggests, they eliminate muzzle flash. The reason for this is, first, muzzle flash give away your position visually, and secondly, they kill your night vision. If your eyes are adjusted to low light, and you fire your weapon and there’s a great big movie-style muzzle flash, now you’re no longer adjusted to the low light conditions. The reason why this is an issue for the game, is that when firing your weapon in first person iron-sights view, which is the view I prefer to use while engaging targets, the muzzle flash more or less takes up your entire view. So if you’re using the M249 SAW for example and is trying to mow down a row of enemies, your view is completely obstructed and you don’t really know if you’re aiming right or not… It’s a stupid effect and has no place in a “realistic” combat simulator. In real life, you would only see some smoke shooting out of the weapons muzzle.
Speaking of the weapons, I tend to put my weapons on semi-auto a lot while playing games, especially if I expect to do any medium range shots, and more especially if the weapon’s only options are three-round burst or semi-auto. However, that’s a very bad idea in this game. Apparently they programmed it so the animations have to complete before you can fire off another shot, so shooting in semi-auto means shooting VERY slowly… In real life you can crank out about 5-7 shots from a M16 on semi-auto in a second fairly accurately. In Dragon Rising, no matter how fast you try to click your mouse, it takes about half a second between the shots. That has gotten me killed several times where I had it on semi-auto and then an enemy pops up close to my location and I can’t shoot him fast enough before he kills me. The same can be said about the handguns. The animations for the handguns are very poor and the fire rate is also very slow, they also seem to recoil a lot more than in real life. I’m an avid shooter and have been for about 15 years. I know how weapons behave and this game got them wrong.