Not quite an “infantry simulator” like the original, but engaging nonetheless.
I spent some time with the new Operation Flashpoint recently, and to be honest, I like it a lot. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original due to its punishingly unforgiving emulation of squad-level infantry combat – which is also exactly the reason quite a number of people liked it. Dragon Rising, however, has a more balanced approach, doing a decent job at blending two different kinds of tension – the shooty-fun kind and the I-am-sweating-bullets kind – for which I’m thankful for. It’s certainly a lot simpler, easygoing, and straightforward compared to its predecessor, and is really a sequel in name only (look to ArmA for comparison), which I find that much more enjoyable for a game.
The interface is however the clunkiest piece of trash I’ve seen for a good while. Possibly worse than OpFlash itself.
The armoured fist, 21st century style.
The ‘plot’ is the usual resource war between the USA and China, this time over oil in Skira – a relocated Kiska, basically – which the PLA had taken from the Russians. The player jumps between various members of the US task force sent to retake the island over a period of several days. Like Crysis, but with the Chinese instead (and without the frickin’ laser beams, literal or otherwise).
Aesthetically, the game looks great even on the Medium settings, running smoothly despite the long draw distances and often large scale of missions (involving several kilometres of running and occasional gunning). The audio department is rather generic, but competent. In particular, the weapon animations and sounds are not as ‘meaty’ as say, Far Cry 2‘s, but feel very natural and in-tune with the more subdued pace of combat compared to other action games.
The majority of combat in this game: quick shots at general body mass, and a lot of scooting for cover.
When your screen is this screwed up, a dressing might be a good idea.
Even compared to other modern games, the sheer scale of gameplay is refreshing; the player can more or less control how the entire mission goes, the only fixed terms being the order of objectives. The route you take is entirely up to you – you can choose to avoid (or engage) as many enemies as you want. Mission plans can (and will) change on the fly depending on the situation, and you will have to adapt accordingly. This degree of tactical depth is one of the main draws of this game.
Of course, it also has problems coming out the wazoo, ranging from key/interface malfunctions (I managed to lose my mouse cursor once) to physics engine errors. The enemy AI is aggressive and smart one second and frozen in the middle of the road waiting for me to blow their brains out the next. The friendly AI can’t seem to understand that I’m an ally and doesn’t like getting hit by missiles in the back.
Stay far, far away from squadmates when they equip something explosive.
The player is outnumbered in pretty much every single mission; maneuverability will be your best asset.
Overall, the inherent difficulty and strict focus of the game, and the numerous bugs and problems, means that it’s only really worth recommending it to people who already enjoy this sort of game. For most others, this will just be needlessly frustrating on the level of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 PC.