There’s no run and gun heroics here. Every bullet can kill you. This is real war, where a solid strategy matters far more than a perfect aim. We’ll give you everything you needed to make the right decisions and ensure your fire teams makes it through alive. Then, we’ll shoot you in the back of the head before blowing ourselves up on a nearby tree. Unfortunately, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a game of two halves. The first half is one of tremendous joy, and one of the better multiplayer experiences around due to the fun moments that arise from a great co-op game. The other half however reeks of frustration and missed opportunity.
After deliberating on the ideal analogy for longer than I would’ve liked, Dragon Rising is like a night out. It begins well dressed, giving a fabulous impression of sophistication and class; as you navigate the early roads ahead, you’re filled with excitement at what may lay before you. The night kicks in, the adrenaline of the engagement pouring through your veins, the patience needed for the pull, the feeling of rejection when you’re put down; whilst key moments, they are ultimately overshadowed as you share a barrel of laughs with friends. However, as the night draws on, the alcohol continues to flow, a couple of confrontations with your friends begin to put a dampener on your night and by the end of it you end up in a pool of your ambition.
With first impressions so keen, opening with a simply stunning menu will never go amiss. The wonderfully contrasting mix of greyscale and yellow, and the epic wablings and operatic harmonies of the overture just ooze that Codemasters quality that DiRT2 highlighted so well.
For a game centred around realism, it then seems strange at the contrast that is obvious throughout gameplay. The reload sequences, whilst being frustratingly long, are the actual actions a solider would take to load another clip, and thus really help add to that realism, but as a military simulator it seems incredibly odd to emit certain possibilities. With no magical regeneration, or loosely dropped health packs, the health system means you will bleed out if you leave your wounds untreated. So why is the animation for patching yourself (or a teammate) up a timer? Where are the bone crunching animations like in Far Cry 2? Even the most recent Alone in the Dark had you targeting your wounds and patching them up. The vehicles are even worse though: not only do they handle appallingly, the fade to black for entering and exiting is just another animation that is distinctly lacking, and compared to the rest of the game, they are vastly inferior graphically.
Combat wise, the game stands up well. With an impressive array of weaponry at your disposal, the mechanics are well implemented, but its the enemy AI that excels. Being flanked is not something I take kindly too, which the enemy AI seems to understand and therefore does it in spades. They will provide covering fire as troops sweep round and shoot you in the side – not to worry I thought, I’ll counter that by taking you out first. So with the initial enemies dispatched imagine my dismay at being taken out from behind – they really are brutal: if they can’t shoot you in the face, then they will flank you, if they can’t flank you they will call in for reinforcements, and if reinforcement doesn’t work then the attack chopper will just have to do. This being said, how do they always know where I am? Even crawling through tall grass to pop up a good 50 metres further east, to then be shot instantly, makes it quite difficult to flank the enemy on your own.
Luckily, you are not on your own though. With up to three friends, you can progress through the entire campaign and have a joyous time doing it. That is unless you’re playing using the dreadful team AI. Whether they’re in your fire squad or not, they are truly horrendous – if the anti-tank soldier in your squad is not controlled by a brain touting friend, you may as well abandon ship there. Our first attempt at the mission resulted in him getting gunned down for standing wide out in the open, second time for blowing himself up with by firing a missile against a tree before the final time of just lying down and not doing anything, thus failing the mission. If they’re not taking it upon themselves to obliterate each other then they might even try to dispatch you. Perhaps it’s my fault; I was taking out the Chinese at my own leisure, picking them off from a distance with a scope, before I was rudely interrupted with a chopper rocket to the face. Nothing compares though, to spending half an hour slowly and carefully advancing through a mission trying to aid and rescue a pair of crewman only to have upon our arrival one of them shoot the other before cementing himself to the floor and refusing to move resulting in his untimely death.
Dragon Rising is one of those very strange games. What it does well, it does really well and ultimately makes the game enjoyable and it’s a testament to that fact that despite all its flaws, I will continue to advance and complete Hardcore mode. It’s just a shame that a game with so much potential fell so short of a goal so easily in sight.
Graphics: The island is fantastic, yet it seems wasted: 7/10
Sound: Whether its the sound of a round being fired or the opening soundtrack, it sounds fantastic: 8/10
Gameplay: With a solid underlying shooter, its a shame that the cracks begin to show: 7/10
Overall: A good, fun shooter that excels in multiplayer but fails to reach the heights it could have.