Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising - PS3 - Review
You can’t go in without a plan. Maybe you could get away with it when facing a couple of online newbies, but when tackling the AI, strategy is a must. Whether you’re ready or not, enemy soldiers will be watching, often from within seclusion or standing so far away that you won’t even notice their presence until the first bullet is fired. By then it might be too late; this isn’t a game of instant bandages and auto-regenerating shields. This is a game that, while not 100% true to its realistic claim, is much less forgiving than the leading first-person shooters.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising doesn’t look brutal. It’s not until you die suddenly at the hands of AI soldiers (programmed with more depth than you’ll ever expect) that the game begins to show its true colors.
Armed with little more than a machinegun (it has a secondary function for shooting grenades but is still fairly weak), throwing grenades, and a medic pack to stop wounds from bleeding, the game’s introductory mission is not easy. This is a huge contrast from the average shooter (or any action game for that matter), especially when you add in the tutorial elements, which should by all accounts make the first mission a dud. It isn’t.
Exploring the world for the first time, you’ll be greeted by controls that are painfully slow. At least, that’s the first thought that will come to mind – that the controls are indeed painful. But within a matter of minutes, that feeling goes away. The slow speed no longer feels unnatural, which is somewhat shocking when you consider what a lack of speed has done to other action games. In this case, however, it was intentional; the developers weren’t looking to make a Halo or Call of Duty clone. They weren’t trying to make a game that could have made its way into arcades (not that many shooters did, but had arcades lasted, the industry appeared to be heading in that direction). The developers were aiming for realism, and like it or not, superhuman running speeds do not fit into that realm.
Dragon Rising is somewhat of a squad-based shooter, allowing players to hook up with others for team-based action or enter a single-player game with a bunch of AI comrades. The latter puts you in a familiar setting where you’ll use the D-pad to issue commands and hope your allies listen. They won’t always, but this is definitely the kind of feature that will come in handy whenever a hard-to-see enemy turns you into body bag material. Though it isn’t foolproof, one of the ways of dealing with this frequent challenge is to use your allies to go in first and distract them. If you’re lucky, they might actually kill the enemy and eliminate the threat altogether.
The other control features stay close to the genre’s unofficial rulebook, minus the over-the-top jumping ability found in so many shooters. You won’t be leaping sky-high in Dragon Rising, but you can get behind the wheel of an abandoned vehicle and start driving instantly, proving that some fictional elements will always be necessary in games – even games that are trying to be realistic.
If you like to cruise aimlessly, it should be noted that these vehicles can’t compare to Far Cry 2. Also, the first-person view is a little weird since the camera is positioned just behind the vehicle’s front end, and when you enter and exit, the screen goes black to compensate for the lack of animations. Aside from being a visual nuisance – not to mention a cheap way to avoid producing a graphic effect that’s fairly standard these days – the black screen can be somewhat dangerous. If you exit while driving (crazy, yes, but Grand Theft Auto taught me to do it), you’ll have to look around for a couple seconds to figure out where your car went after the black screen is lifted. That’s a far cry from, well, Far Cry’s way of handling it, and certainly can’t compare to the Grand Theft Auto series, which visualizes everything in real-time regardless of the character’s viewpoint.
However, Dragon Rising isn’t really about the vehicles, nor was it made to be a graphically breathtaking game. Contrary to most shooters, the realism comes from the gameplay, not the graphics. Unlike the screenshots on the box and some that are online, which were handpicked (and possibly enhanced) for promotional purposes, the actual in-game graphics are average. There are a couple of cool visual touches, my favorite being the subtle focus changes that occur when using the scope, which selectively and realistically blurs unnecessary parts of the background. But the environments are iffy, the explosions are plain, the death animations are generic, and most structures are rock-solid objects that can’t be destroyed.
Dragon Rising may not be for everyone, and it may not have the power to turn heads in the way its graphically-rich competitors can. But if you want a deeper, more challenging (and at times more meaningful) shooter experience than the average run-and-gun FPS, Dragon Rising can provide you with one that ranked realism as high as its entertainment value without sacrificing a thing.
Review Scoring Details for Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
Intense and often brutal, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a deep, strategy-filled combat experience. Its flaws, mind you, are technical and visual; the combat, however, is excellent.
Excluding a few moments of amusement, Dragon Rising is far from being the best-looking PS3 shooter.
Not much to it. The music and sound effects are too subtle for their own good. In the case of a war game, that wasn't necessarily the most sound decision the developers could make.
Brace yourself for one of the most difficult first-person shooters of the year.
Not exactly a fresh concept, but certainly a fresh execution for a console FPS.
The slower pace of the game is not as easy to embrace when facing real combatants; it's still intense but isn't quite as rewarding.
An excellent shooter that, like so many, fails to deliver a flawless experience, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is a game that most everyone should play. It wasn't designed for everyone; the average Halo junkie may not be amused by Dragon Rising's cutthroat gameplay. But everyone should at least give it a try, if only to see that there are other ways of developing a first-person shooter, some of which can be wonderful – as long as you give them the chance.