Off the coast of Japan sits the fictitious island of Skira; a contested island between Russia and China. When oil is discovered on Skira, the resource-starved Chinese government strikes aggressively at the Russians to gain full control of Skira. Russia, who is busy defending their own native borders against the juggernaut Chinese army, has called in the aid of the United States, their allies, to help reclaim and defend the island of Skira from China.
Enter the United States Marine Corps.
You take control of various Marine Corps fire team leaders. Depending on the mission, you may be a rifle team, sniper team, anti-tank team or more. It is then up to and your 3 other Marine brethren to execute and accomplish your missions assigned by your commanding officer.
The standard single-player campaign in OFDR is a very rewarding experience if you’re looking for a game that screams “realism.” So if you’re wanting more from your video game shooter, look no further than Dragon Rising.
From beginning to end, you feel like a Marine far from home wanting nothing more than three hots and a cot. All your equipment, your uniform, the hardware found in the field and even the chatter among soldiers is all 100% Marine Corps specific. When under fire, you’ll hear the pops and buzzes of near misses. Dirt kicks up and trees splinter. If you’re too close to a point of impact, you’ll even get blood or dirt on your face.
Running is a noteworthy experience. Without a stamina bar to tell how far you can run while sprinting, the heartbeat in your ears gets louder and louder as does your breathing. When you finally come a resting point, you’ll hear your heartbeat slowly return to a more normal pace. If you play the game with headphones on, you may have a hard time believing that the heartbeat you’re hearing isn’t your own.
At any given time, you can carry a weapon, a secondary weapon, a sidearm, some emergency medical equipment, grenades and your binoculars. That’s all. The ammunition you are inserted with is the only ammunition you will most likely find for your type of weapon unless you search the remains of one of your fallen brothers in arms. Otherwise, if you run out of ammunition and you’re behind enemy lines, you’ll need to arm yourself with enemy equipment and bullet types. Simply walking over your enemy’s corpse doesn’t automatically inject you with more ammunition. First you need to find your enemy–a task easier said than done when looking through a field of waist-high grass–and then you need to loot him in an almost RPG fashion.
OFDR is considerably harder than most shooters on the market. It requires patience and precision, and above all else, it requires care. One bullet can kill you. One round to the head will kill you instantly, but a shot to anywhere else will slowly have you bleeding to death unless you either quickly patch yourself up, or you have your field medic treat your wounds before you lose too much blood. A non-mortal wound will still leave you combat effective. The same can be said of your enemy so while you’re in a firefight you need to make sure when you knock your target down, that he stays down. But before you can shoot your enemy, you need to find him. Camouflage is very effective in this game. Very rarely will you see your enemy on the horizon. More often than not, you’ll need to see movement in the fields or the trees before you can properly return fire.
If you don’t have your injuries properly treated by a medic a wounded leg will have you moving slower and unable to run. A shot to the arm makes it harder to aim. A shot anywhere makes it difficult to live.
The firearms are huge high point for Dragon Rising. They all feel very unique and will fire slightly different depending on how they are modified. They can come equipped with iron sights, assault scopes, long range scopes, grenade launchers, laser sights, heat vision sights and more depending on which weapon you happen to pick up. When firing, you even need to account for distance. So if you target is further away, you need to take gravity into effect and aim slightly higher. For long range firing, it’s best to judge how many meters away your target is, and then adjust accordingly in your scope.
The sniper rifles in OFDR present the most fun sniping experience I’ve encountered in a shooter, quite possibly because the stakes are higher. It’s simply exhilarating if you one-shot an unaware soldier from the side of a completely different mountain to keep him from spotting you and sounding an alarm.
While controlling your Marine, standard first person shooter controls generally apply. However, unlike most FPS games, you you also control the actions of your team mates by using the left shift key. From there, a radial menu pops up granting you several very detailed options to control your fellow Marines to either go on the offensive, defensive, healing duty, movement and more. While at first, the radial menu can be a little too much for casual gamers, it’s definitely worth taking the time to learn how to use it because heavy fire and heavy pressure situations can and will come.
By clicking the right shift key, you can sometimes call in air strikes, mortar barrages or artillery strikes depending on your location on the island and how occupied the rest of the Marine Corps is with other missions.
Stature changes can be slightly sluggish though. Going from a standing position to prone, or prone to a crawl isn’t as responsive as it should be. When a Marine needs to hit the dirt in real life, he hits the dirt. In Flashpoint, you slowly lower yourself to the ground like an old man. You’d think that a newly discovered machine gun nest would make a man move a little faster.
The graphics are hit and miss in Flashpoint. They aren’t bleeding-edge fantastic like you’ll find in any of the Call of Duty series. However, OFDR is a non-linear experience and it requires greater distances to be rendered at any given time. Processing power needed to be sacrificed from the graphics to counter it. But if you aren’t staring at each tree and blade of grass as an individual rendering and you let yourself go in the game, OFDR can quickly becomes more appropriate than anything the CoD series can throw at you.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of pop-in as you approach plant life from a greater distance. Rocket trails, explosions, fire and weapon effects are all fantastic, however. The machines we tested Dragon Rising ranged from “Average” to “Beastly” and they all easily had enough processing power to push the further draw distances. With any luck, this is something that may be patched in the future.
On the other hand, as you turn 360 degrees, you can still see plumes of smoke rising from the distance of your previous strike points. Those plumes of smoke will not go away during your mission either. It’s amazing. The long distances you travel on foot in the game end up feeling worth every step when you can look back and measure your destruction based on the number of smoke clouds you can count.
Night vision missions nail the stealth gameplay experience thanks to the picture perfect goggle vision. If you’re not the Sam Fisher type, you can also flick on your flashlight for when you need to clear out those abandoned barns in the middle of nowhere. The lighting is dynamic, too. So if another soldier is using his flashlight, what is illuminated for him, is illuminated for you as well. Just be careful to turn them off in possible enemy locations or if a helicopter is flying overhead.
One of the major weak points is the artificial intelligence. Most of the time, the enemy AI seems almost perfect. They move in squads. They try to keep you down using suppressing fire, then using flanking strategies. Enemy medics will attempt to heal wounded soldiers. They also use any means necessary to kill you as well. If you’re spotted, they’ll open up the largest can of whoop-ass they can find, whether it means they zero you in with a machine gun emplacement, or they barrage you with mortar or artillery fire.
It’s the rare 5% occurrence that breaks the fourth wall. Sometimes, you’ll encounter a particularly stupid soldier. Sometimes the stupid soldier is unfortunately in your fire team as he fails to heal a mortally wounded team mate who is standing directly next to him. Or it’s a profoundly stupid enemy who won’t open fire upon you, even if he’s close enough to read the name stitched above your chest pocket. It’s those moments that you’re pulled out of Skira and you say to yourself, “oh yea… this is just a game.”
The vehicles are another huge disappointment. Most jeeps and soft vehicles all drive as though they are sliding on glass. They’re unnaturally tough to turn and control. Helicopters definitely require practice before you’ll want your team mates to pile in the back. And tanks…. well…. I never got to drive a tank or APC, actually. Considering how much the promotional trailers show off tanks and helicopters, you don’t drive hardly any of them at all. The game needs just a few more levels added to it: two helicopter missions and two tank / APC missions would have done wonders to the already stellar single-player campaign.
Unfortunately, the multiplayer aspect is also a mixed bag of goodies. If you’re interested in cooperative play, Flashpoint is where it’s at. You and three of your friends can all play together as the Marine fire team through the entire single-player campaign. The cooperative experience is worth the $40 PC price tag alone. Coordinating military strategies as a team is a bonding experience as you and your friends depend on one another to make it through.
Non-cooperative multiplayer is a big miss. The lack of dedicated servers and cheating countermeasures means you won’t find a proper game online until Codemasters steps in to clean up their little mess. It’s absolutely a shame too, since all the components for a great match are all there. They just need to be put together better.
On a final note, I’d like to apologize for this review being in a written format. Since I purhased my copy, I have been excited about editing another video review for you. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is truly a game to see in action, but the software Fraps doesn’t record Flashpoint very well. Otherwise, I’d happily be presenting you with a lovely video review this morning. Normally, that isn’t something I’d bring up in a review, but considering the number of PC gamers who love to use Fraps and show off their skills on Youtube, it’s definitely worth mentioning.
If you’re not careful, OFDR will absorb you. It’s difficult, but addicting. Since Codemasters promises monthly DLC for OFDR, some of which will be free of charge, it seems there will be replay to come for a long time.
I loved Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, but it is not a game for everyone. For fans of GRAW, GRAW2, and the Rainbox Six series (with the exception of Vegas), this game is a must buy. For everyone else, because of the up and down graphics, the slightly higher than average difficulty, and the weakness in multiplayer support, it is a game that I think you should try first before you buy.
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