Codemasters Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising review
Computerised war tends not to be particularly realistic.
Real soldiers don't miraculously recover from near-fatal wounds by lurking behind the nearest wall, as in Call of Duty. The original Operation Flashpoint (OFP) was renowned for its realism, tactics and AI. Dragon Rising has been developed by a different team but retains the original's tactical emphasis.
The island of Skira is a huge, drably realistic world of forests and grasslands punctuated by the odd building. You'll often have to trek across miles of hostile territory on foot. For faster travel, you can commandeer vehicles including jeeps, tanks and even helicopters. All these are hard to control, but pelting along dirt roads at break-neck speed is still fun.
Most of the 11 missions follow a simple pattern: reach an enemy emplacement without getting killed, destroy it and evacuate. A couple of rescue missions break up the formula, along with secondary objectives, most of which also involve large explosions. Gameplay and scenery can be repetitive. Limited respawn checkpoints mean that you'll cover the same ground a lot, although changing enemy tactics add variety.
At times the game is both realistic and fun. There's something hugely thrilling about sneaking past enemy soldiers so close that you can hear them moving in the undergrowth. If you're a traditional FPS fan, it takes a lot of restraint not to run at them, all guns blazing, but survival here requires patience and careful movement.
Your squad isn't too bright, but they're good at spotting enemies. You can issue orders, which is essential if you want to keep them alive. Sadly, the controls take after the console version of the game, so tactical options are built around a sequence of four-way radial menus. This can rob you of precious seconds as you navigate multiple menus to order an artillery strike or retreat.
For fans of the tactical FPS genre, Dragon Rising has all the right ingredients, even if they could have been better implemented. However, it's not as good as Arma II (What's New, Shopper 260) from the team behind the original OFP.
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