Review: Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (Sony PS3)

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Genre: Tactical first-person shooter
Release date: 10/06/2009

It may have escaped your attention, but the release of the latest instalment of one of the biggest first-person shooter franchises of all time has sent many a high profile game’s release date scurrying into 2010 in fear. Codemasters obviously feel that Operation Flashpoint has something different to offer, taking a more tactical approach compared to the more gung-ho FPS we’re all used to.

PC gamers may be familiar with the original Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis which was developed by Bohemia Interactive; following an acrimonious split the sequel has been produced in-house by Codemasters utilising the Ego engine used in many of their recent racing games to great effect. Is Dragon Rising worthy of bearing the Operation Flashpoint name? Let’s find out!

Let’s Review

1. Story/Modes

The game is set on the fictional island of Skira (loosely based on the real island of Kiska which is located near Alaska). In dispute since the end of WW2, Skira is officially a Russian territory with a US and Japanese presence due to the discovery of oil fields. Wanting all that lovely oil for themselves, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army launch an assault on Skira, leading Russia to ask the United States for help in freeing the island from its communist occupants. You play as a US marine deployed to engage the entrenched PLA and stop the conflict reaching the mainland. The introduction sequence explaining all this is sadly pretty much the only time the plot is mentioned in any detail.

Aside from the main campaign, there are two multiplayer modes on offer which I’ll cover later on.

Story/Modes Rating: Mediocre

2. Graphics

After reading that Operation Flashpoint would be using the Ego engine used to great effect in DiRT 2, I had high hopes that the graphics would as good, if not better. Sadly that’s not the case; there’s nothing particularly bad about the way the game looks, but it’s not going to win any awards either. The presentation is generally sparse, the menus and pre mission briefings all look very slick, but the main problem is the fact that the Xbox 360 version of the game looks a lot better. The PS3 version reviewed here, looks distinguishably worse, with a “Ëœwashed out’ effect and less detail and texture quality when compared with it’s 360 counterpart. There really is no excuse for inferior PS3 conversions anymore; especially when the PS3 version of DiRT 2 was done so well.

On the plus side, the frame rate holds up even when the action on screen becomes pretty frantic, the day-night cycle used in some missions works well and the weapons all look extremely realistic.

Graphics Rating: Decent


3. Sound

The in game audio is one of the high points; it really fits in with the style of such a strategic affair. No epic score à la the Halo series here, just the sounds of nature around you mixed with gunfire and satisfying explosions.

The voice work of your team mates is top notch as they point out what’s happening on the battlefield to you; it definitely adds to the realism the game is aiming for.

Sound Rating: Very good


4. Control and Gameplay

The first thing to point out about Operation Flashpoint is that unlike most other games in the genre, the difficulty setting doesn’t affect how many bullets will kill you or your enemies, but varies the amount of information shown on your HUD; the harder you set the game, the less you’ll see. The hardest difficulty also removes mid mission checkpoints.

You would hope that a game so strategic in character would have a tutorial which eases you into the nuances of the game: you’d be wrong. The first level merely offers some tips on how to go about things, but if you’re a gamer more used to the “Ëœpoint gun and shoot’ approach, don’t expect this to be nearly enough of a grounding in commanding your squad. The squad commands themselves can be a real pain in the heat of battle; the game uses a radial system that you flick through using the d-pad, which seems simple enough; but when you’re under enemy fire it can get extremely confusing trying to find the right command.

Once you’ve finally learnt how to order your squad around; the next problem is the fact that they are often maddeningly incompetent; you’ll find them standing in the way of enemy fire without any attempt to find cover and when you do give them orders, they seem to only follow them half the time.

Putting aside these issues, there is some excellent strategy based game play here; the open world environment gives the player the opportunity to take on the objectives in any way they wish; whether you prefer the stealthy approach or more full on assaults, how you do things is totally up to you.

The missions mainly follow the “Ëœgo here-blow stuff up-repeat ad nauseum’ approach, although there are a few indoor and vehicular distractions to spic things up a bit.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Above Average

5. Replayability

Operation Flashpoint’s four player co-op campaign is its saving grace here; no more useless squad AI makes things much more fun; if you can find three friends willing to play through the campaign with you then do; this is how the game should be played. If not for this, there wouldn’t many reasons to replay the campaign again, unless you’re some kind of sadomasochist.

Multiplayer offers up two types of play; Annihilation is standard death match fare, while Infiltration is a more tactical affair where you’ll be tasked with destroying an objective. With so many high profile online multiplayer games already released this time of year; it’s hard to see many people playing this online for long.

Replayability Rating: Mediocre

6. Balance

There aren’t many games that frustrate me enough to launch a pad at the wall; but I got close to that point at times during Operation Flashpoint! Having crept my way through a level, engaged the enemy using the element of surprise in my favour, I’d often find a previously unseen enemy would managed to kill me even though I was hidden behind cover. Missions can become more a question of trial and error, learning where the enemy spawns and reacting to them, but with checkpoints so far apart on harder difficulties this can be a real pain. The previously mentioned lack of tutorial doesn’t help newcomers to the genre either.

Balance Rating: Below average


7. Originality

While Operation Flashpoint is a sequel, it’s pretty much unlike anything else this generation of consoles has to offer; as far as sheer tactical experiences go. It’s a breath of fresh air to slow things down and take a slower, more cautious approach rather than the all guns blazing methods we see so often.

Originality Rating: Enjoyable

8. Addictiveness

If I didn’t have to review this game, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to complete the solo campaign; the unforgiving AI and checkpoints had me at breaking point! However, once again the four player co-op is Operation Flashpoint’s saving grace, giving more of a reason to keep playing. Whether or not you’ll find yourself playing this for long stretches is down to your personal frustration tolerance levels; as you may have guessed mine are fairly low!

Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre


9.Appeal Factor

The problem with a game this tactical is that its appeal is definitely limited to a certain niche of gamer; more usually found on PC than console. The fact that Operation Flashpoint offers something different to the usual first person shooter is in its favour, but the question remains: are that many console gamers are willing to step outside their comfort zone?

Appeal Factor Rating: Decent

10. Miscellaneous

In addition to the main campaign; there are a number of smaller co-op missions which can be unlocked by playing the main game. Bonus missions were also given out for pre-ordering the game; luckily the codes are multi-use and a quick internet search should find them easily.

Codemasters have DLC planned for the game, with the “ËœSkirmish’ DLC due for release via the PSN on 04 December, costing $3.99.

Miscellaneous Rating: Decent

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Mediocre
Graphics Rating: Decent
Sound Rating: Very Good
Control and Gameplay Rating: Above average
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
Balance Rating: Below average
Originality Rating: Enjoyable
Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre
Appeal Factor Rating: Decent
Miscellaneous Rating: Decent
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a bit like the gaming equivalent of Marmite; you’ll either love it or hate it. If you have three friends to play through the campaign with and/or huge amounts of patience there is a good gaming experience to be found. It’s just a shame that Codemasters haven’t done more to make the game accessible to those less used to such a tactical simulation.

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