Also On: Xbox 360
Console Played On: PlayStation 3
Release Date: November 5th 2009
Age Rating: PEGI 18, BBFC 15
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising didn’t set the world on fire. Sure, it was good; just check out our review, but at the same time, it was kinda fugly, hard to control and sometimes, just plain broken. But that hasn’t stopped Codemasters remaining true to their word that there would be constant DLC to keep the hardcore interested, and it starts with a definite bang.
The ‘Skirmish’ DLC features four new multiplayer maps and two new Fire Team Engagement which, as ever, you can play on your own, or with 4 friends. For online multiplayer, you can hunt down SAM launchers hidden in the sprawling complex of ‘Lumberyard’ and assault dug in PLA forces and fight room to room in ‘White Fang’, two tense new ‘Infiltration’ multiplayer maps. ‘Annihilation’ multiplayer maps pitch armour and infantry against each other in rolling battles across a valley in ‘Stomping Grounds’ and in ‘Force Dispersal’ military bases separated by a strategic hill become a close-quarters killing ground.
The new FTE missions include ‘All Round Defence’, which places gamers in control of air support and attack helicopters as they defend a fortified complex against relentless waves of PLA. In ‘Uphill Struggle’ players must capture a bunker under heavy fire from hillside reinforcements. Two extra maps are ‘Island Tour –Day’ and ‘Island Tour – Night’, which, as the name suggests, puts the player and their squad as seemingly the last people on Earth, spawning right next to all the vehicles in the game and being given as long as they want to explore Skira (it’s massive).
If you’re a sensible man, you’re going to want to jump right into the FTE missions, as the original campaign missions were, for the most part, pretty awesome. First up is ‘All Round Defence’. I have no quarrels at all in naming this the best mission on Operation Flashpoint. Nay, I won’t stop there – one of the best missions I’ve played this year. Set in the aforementioned ‘White Fang Complex’ (the place you take the POWs in the stellar rescue mission in the campaign), you and a rather large number of friendly Marines, including a few APCs, set up position in and around the buildings. Oh, you do get a helicopter, but its rubbish – the early morning fog renders it useless. So, you wait. And wait. And wait. At first I thought it might be a bug, and I’ve have to trek across yonder hills to find the PLA, but no; they come. And they come in force. Bullets fly, APCs explode, men scream, helicopters soar, artillery slams the ground and deafens you. Take the most exciting part of the original missions, and times that by ten. It’s biblical. I was reduced to hiding in a corner, whimpering, cradling my gun. Terrifying only explains half of it; this mission is the game Dragon Rising was meant to be. It only lasts around 25 minutes, but you’ll get lost in time; men will come from the north, south, west, east, then the north line will fall, and you’ll have to go up and defend it yourself, then Echo group will be caught in a barrage of helicopter fire, and PLA will stream from the flank – it’s utterly breathtaking, and you’ll only want to play it again and again and again. But not 5 times. That’s just mental.
Second is ‘Uphill Struggle’. And (rubbish joke alert) it’s anything but (an uphill struggle). Told you it was rubbish. Anyway, you and another handful of super awesome Marines infiltrate a beach at night, and find yourself right next to a spanking new Helicopter. Using this, our team set out to complete the well balanced, well thought out, well planned and well wicked objectives. It’s more of the same, and while not quite as euphoric or breathtaking as ‘All Round Defence’, it’s better than most missions, the late night moon can produce some stunning vistas, and it’ll definitely appeal to those wanting a slower, more strategic operation. You can approach your mission however you like; I ditched the Heli halfway and took up an APC instead. It’s well worth your money, and has hours of replayibility (It’s a word, trust me).
The Island Tour is kind of what it says on the tin; placed in the airfield with your crew (and a sweet MP5), you can enter any vehicle (yeah, including tanks) and go wherever you want on Skira. An added bonus is that you can call in any artillery at any time (I placed a JDAM right in the middle of the volcano. It didn’t erupt), and giving you the whole run of the island is great for co-op with mates. A worthy addition.
Then there are the multiplayer maps. Luckily, we got to try each one. Unluckily, due to connection problems, they didn’t last long. Until a patch, like the PC patch that makes multiplayer lag free, comes out for your console, you’re stuck trying to find a game for as long as half an hour. However, we had a good run on the ‘Lumber Yard’, which is much better than the original maps; the fighting is more focused and, because of that, is just more fun. Within a minute, your whole team is desperately seeking cover behind the logs as the enemy pelt lead down upon them.
Final Thoughts: Best bit? The ‘Skirmish’ pack will be available on Xbox Live Marketplace (400 Microsoft Points) and the PlayStation Network (£3.19 / $3.99 / €3.99). Scoop your hand down the back of your sofa and you’ll have half of that, and for two epic single-player/coop missions and improved multiplayer maps, it’s an utter bargain. To put it plainly, this is what Operation Flashpoint should have been out the box, on release day. It’s just a shame the multiplayer isn’t up to scratch yet.