Also On: Xbox 360
Console Played On: PlayStation 3
Release Date: October 9th 2009
Age Rating: PEGI 18, BBFC 15
If you come to Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising expecting a run-and-gun shooter like say Call of Duty 4 you’re in for a nasty shock. Thinking you’ll be able to go in guns blazing and take out the enemy won’t work here, you’ll be cut down in no time. What Operation Flashpoint rewards is carefully considered tactics and most importantly, patience, as you are going to die. A lot.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising takes place in 2011 on the fictional Japanese island of Skira, the source of a vast reserve of fossil fuels. China and Russia are fighting hammer and tong for control of the island, with Russia asking for assistance from the United States of America.
The back story to the plot is done very well with a when you begin the game. with a classy look emphasized by the juxtapositioning between the yellow, black and white. The contrast in these colours gives what is almost a glorified story board a real sense of purpose and strength. In general though, the story fails to pull you in, you never bond with any of your characters, it never evokes any sense of pathos with the player if a squad mate is gunned down. You simply head out and complete your objective. It’s a pity, as the intro video set’s up what could’ve been a corker.
Operation Flashpoint is similar to last years Far Cry 2 in the sense that it draws heavily on it’s huge scale, with a draw distance of 35 kilometers. You can approach objectives in a similar vein, with no set way-points telling you exactly where to go. You are the squad leader, you decide how to go about your mission, whether you go for a direct tactical assault or go for a more covert operation.
AI difficulty never changes in the game, the different difficulty settings only change how much the game aids you in your fight against them. On the easiest setting you get a compass displaying the location of your enemies but as you move up to the more challenging difficulties, you lose your crosshair, HUD and any other visual aids. The only way to locate the enemy is by listeing to your teammates or looking at where their bullets are coming from.
Operation Flashpoint also differentiates itself from other FPS’s in that there is no regenerative health system or any medkits that you can pick up in the field. All you get is a set of bandages to heal blood wounds, major injuries stay with you. For example, a shot to the leg can be bandaged up but you’ll lose the ability to run. Still on the diffiiculty level front, Operation Flashpoint can punish you in ways no other FPS usually does. You can do everything right up until you’ve nearly completed your objective (bare in mind this could’ve taken the best part of say 15 minutes sometimes for the real challenging parts) and one stray bullet to the head and you’re back to square one again. If you’ve never smashed a controller in anger, this could be a game to do it for you.
Your squad will be vital to you in the game, they provide a decent level of intelligence when fighting with you rather than the usual cannon fodder you’re lumbered with in many games. Squad orders are dished out by holding R1 which summons a radial menu, from which you then navigate through the various tactical options, ranging from a simple “follow me” command to telling your team to lay down suppressing fire for you. The system works well, but when you come under heavy fire it isn’t that intuitive and you’ll often curse it.
Moreover, changing weapon isn’t too smooth either. Running out of bullets with say a machine gun and you want to change to a pistol to get in a quick kill to an enemy who has just appeared in front of you is often frustrating, as more often than not you’ll end up with the wrong weapon.
Squad orders will also have an effect on the moral of your troops, if you’re giving commands that are totally suicidal and act like a maverick, your squad will lose confidence in you. If you kill an enemy officer or a large portion of the opposing squad, this would cause the troops you’re fighting against to act more rashly. There’ll be times you even hear the other side’s soldiers whimper in fear of you. Very manly.
Mission variety lets the side down. Yes, you do get to pilot a chopper but most of the game is spent running around on foot in wide-open areas and doing repetitive objectives, kill him, destroy this etc. A few more close quarters encounters that have a bit of pace to them would’ve helped vary up the mainly stagnant gameplay.
At time of writing, the online servers were having connection issues so this component of the game could’nt be thoroughly tested. None-the-less, there are two online multiplayer options. First up is Annihilation, which is Codies term for what is essentially team deathmatch. The other mode is Infiltration where tome team defends a building whilst the other team tries to infiltrate it. The added difficulty for the team attacking is that they’re down on numbers against the defenders, adding to the challenge of taking over the installation. There is also the option of co-operative LAN play too.
Final Thoughts: Operation Flashpoint is the closest thing you’ll get to experiencing real war on a console, with it’s slower than normal pacing for an FPS and harsh learning curve that’ll frustrate many. The difficulty may alienate players coming to Operation Flashpoint for the first time, as a significant number of people won’t have the patience to give time to adapt to a new style of play. This may sadly push Operation Flashpoint towards being a bit of a niche game for some.
Story: 6 – Not much to it really. The excellent opening video sets the scene well and pulls you in but sadly the game can’t hold your attention story-wise.
Gameplay: 8 – Tense, slow, tactical and frustrating. All apt in describing the gameplay of Operation Flashpoint. More weapon variety would’ve been welcomed and a refinement to the menu system, but overall, very solid. With so many different routes to your objective there is real lasting appeal, especially if the online gets sorted out soon.
Sound: 8 - Guns all sound meaty and realistic, backed up by substantial explosions. bullets whirring past will make you dodge for cover in a shot.
Graphics: 7 – The scale of the game is impressive but the PlayStation version suffers from some screen tearing along side distance objects being constantly drawn in as you change your perspective. The fact that there is a 5 minute mandatory install before you play the game should’ve ironed out little blips like that. Generally though, the game is solid, with smoke effects being particularly good.
Overall: 7 – Many may be put off by the difficulty but if you put the time in, you will be rewarded by a satisfaction that not many other FPS’s match. Even though the best laid plans can often go awry, when they do work out well, OFP gels together brilliantly. If you’re looking for an FPS with a real challenge, this is the one to get. No other FPS out at present will test you in the same way Operation Flashpoint will.