War is Hell, or so we would believe having played through various iterations of Call of Duty, but Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising would have us believe it isn't so hellish. Taking place on a fictional resource-rich island that just happens to be perfectly situated enough between China and Russia for conflict to erupt eventually draws the United States in as well. The perennial sequel to Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, the game places a significant emphasis on realism as opposed to titles like Modern Warfare 2. To be sure, there are definite successes to be had by playing the card to offer the exemplary realistic combat experience. On the other hand, there are vastly convoluted moments that I saw during my playthrough that ruined the game for me on multiple levels. While I can appreciate an attempt to make a compelling gaming experience for players interested in the tactical shooter genre, I wound up having more than a few gripes to share.
Prior to release of the game, I was really excited for Dragon Rising. I sincerely was expectant for cooperative play with up to four players, the giant island that was freely rendered and the madness of the combat that would surely occur. Suffice to say, there were some impressive qualities to the game. I enjoyed the combat chatter and the expanding narrative as operations on Skira went from covert operations to full-fledged assault. In the same vein, I enjoyed sifting between filling the boots of various soldiers, but never developed any real attachment to any of them. Additionally, there was a significant amount of potential here that seemed to fall short once the glaring factor of realism entered the equation.
In combat, you need fire team members who are not only competent enough to locate, close with and destroy the enemy, but also have the wherewithal to survive and make it to the end of the day. Operation Flashpoint not only seems to flounder in this department, but fail in it entirely. To add insult to injury, the game is build from the ground up to make you feel like just another soldier and is thus reflected in that realism, but when it prevents the player from having any real fun due to having to babysit AI squadmates, it becomes an exercise in frustration. On more than one occasion, I had to reload multiple times from the same point because my entire squad would get mowed down by a roving jeep, helicopter or AFV. Needless to say, the AI began to test my patience and soundproof ability of my walls as I found myself uttering various curse laden litanies. If I didn't have command of a squad of AI Marines, it wouldn't necessarily be an issue, but when the blatant failing of programming on what is a pivotal aspect of the gameplay experience shines through like headlights on semi moments before you're flattened into the road, it then becomes a significant problem. For a game that touts itself so heavily on realism though, this wasn't the only inadequacy.
The controls more often than not felt sluggish and unresponsive than I've come to expect on a console title. I suppose in some hindsight, Modern Warfare 2 has spoiled me to a certain degree, but when a game gives me what I want and makes me feel more comfortable than a leather chair it becomes difficult to justify control design such as this. The button lay-out feels ridiculous at times and while I can applaud the sheer amount of actions you can take in the title, the only one I consistently found myself wanting to do was to call in an Air or Howitzer Strike on just about any target I came across. The sound design is spot-on and the weapons truly do sound authentic, but other than that they're somewhat forgettable.
Graphically speaking, I found myself feeling unimpressed and again, this could be because games like Modern Warfare 2 and ODST have made me feel like this is what I should expect. But, I was surprised to discover that Operation Flashpoint, while not looking perfect, the graphics turned out to be the least of the problems in this title. Furthermore, loading screens taking a great deal longer than I'm used to added to the frustration that OF:DR wrought haplessly upon me.
Despite all the excitement I initially felt for the title, it was stripped away with every second of play. Eventually, I was getting to the point of cursing and throwing an innocent 360 controller than had done nothing except be in the wrong set of hands, playing the wrong game, at the wrong time. While I'm a fan of simulation titles, having grown up playing games like Flight Simulator or even Steel Battalion, I found the realistic qualities of Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising to be the factor that held it back the most. Sure, it's a cool idea that I have to bandage myself every single time I get hit, but when I'm turned into Swiss Cheese, bullets are flying and when I have to try and heal my own squadmates, it gets a little frustrating. As close to being completely real as any player who is interested in this genre could want it to be, this strikes me as being the greatest barrier to the game being a truly compelling experience since it sucks the fun out of the title for the rest of us.
Grade: C (7.0 / 10)
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