Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Preview
Sometimes, there’s a fine line between a flat-out, run ‘n gun shooter and a tactical FPS like Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. Those who prefer military shooters that require the player to use their head as well as their reflexes and dexterity should be intrigued; this sequel by Codemasters not only looks great, but actually skirts the boundary of realism and authenticity. If you’re thinking Dragon Rising will be a Call of Duty clone, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you understand the inherent differences, and enjoy scanning the situation and issuing orders, you’ll definitely want to give it a try. You may want to consider Operation Flashpoint as being a first-person version of games like Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon; it will assist your view of this promising title. Just remember: if you’re planning to ignore your surroundings and fellow allies and sprint into battle with guns blazing, you’ll lose blood at an alarming rate and before too long, you’ll be facedown in the mud.
First of all, given this new generation’s increased focus on freedom and player exploration, you’ll be happy to know that Dragon Rising’s environment consists of a 25-mile long fictional island. That’s a whole lot of real estate, so when you’re launching an attack, you can scope out your destination objective and come at it from any direction you wish. Now, some of you might be thinking, “well, 25 miles encompasses a big area; will I be wandering around with nothing to do until I come across the enemy?” The answer is, thankfully, “nope.” See, in the bigger scheme of things, you don’t need to be within standard bullet range in order to be in danger. Look up in the air…see those tracers? Mortars? Any other far-flung projectiles? Those are going to force you to take cover on a consistent basis, and you won’t be able to just saunter up and attack a base. So yes, there’s a great deal of space to work with, but we’re guessing that you’ll need every square inch of it if you wish to be successful. Take your time, observe from afar, and advance carefully and above all else, strategically.
The game, just recently announced last week, should cater to many of the hardcore shooter fans. IGN has already gone hands-on with it, and they relate the experience of calling JDAM air-strikes and clearing an area with an M203 grenade launcher, all the while on the lookout for enemies that can appear from just about anywhere. Once you’re in an established location, foes can pop up in any fortified structure or residential house, and the good news is that all such buildings can be entered at any time. Now, although you’re going to have to take care of yourself (obviously), and you can issue orders to your squad members, you don’t necessarily have to. Basically, the ally AI will be advanced enough where they should be able to follow your lead no matter what, despite the fact that rash decisions can endanger the lives of your buddies. So if you opt to charge forward and neglect to inform your fellow squad members, they will follow you without being prompted…they’re taking a tremendous risk, of course, but they won’t leave you hung out to dry.
As for the story, we told you before the island was fictional, and so is the conflict. The island is located in the Northern Pacific and it’s being invaded by the People’s Liberation Army, so the U.S. has sent over a team of Marines to assist the Russians in fending off the attack. Not surprisingly, you’ll be one of the Marines, but you’ll also assume the role of a Special Forces commando at one point in the game, too. Plus, let’s not forget that you won’t be limited to wandering around with guns and grenades; these days, you just gotta have vehicles. Everything from the M1A2 Abrams tank to Seahawk helicopters will be at your disposal, and other nifty gadgets from the Americans, Russians and Chinese will be included. If you combine all the possible combat options and the more freedom-oriented gameplay, you’re looking at a military shooter experience that offers micromanagement and tactical buffs plenty of choices. Just reading this, it should be clear that Dragon Rising has a ton of potential. All we really need to solidify the foundation is a fluid and accessible control scheme, which is something developers should have a firm handle on by now.
Last but not least, the campaign will be mission-based and if you want to bring some friends in on the fun, the game will support four-player co-op! It shouldn’t be all that difficult to find a few friends who would be interested in teaming up, especially if they’ve already done it in other tactical military shooters. Let’s just hope the AI remains just as reliable throughout all gameplay modes; it’s always infuriating when your supposedly reliable team lets you down, again and again. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising will release some time later this year, and even though the competition is always stiff, we have faith that Codemasters will come through in fine fashion.
2/23/2009 Ben Dutka