Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising

Kombo’s Review Policy: Our reviews are written for you. Our goal is to write honest, to-the-point reviews that don’t waste your time. This is why we’ve split our reviews into four sections: What the Game’s About, What’s Hot, What’s Not and Final Word, so that you can easily find the information you want from our reviews.

What the Game’s About
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is the sequel to the original PC hit, Operation Flashpoint. Dragon Rising takes place in a slightly altered present and near future, in which a desperate struggle for oil has caused China to go rogue. Past conflicts with Russia over the fictitious, oil-rich island, Skira, send China and Russia into war. Since oil is involved I guess the United States feels compelled to get bloody with our old allies, the Russians, and that’s where you come in. That’s right, you’re one of the soldiers who probably shouldn’t even be on Skira in the first place. Suit up!

What’s Hot
Operation Flashpoint is a series which focuses military simulation. From start to finish in Dragon Rising you’re in charge of a group of four soldiers who perform tasks comparable to an average soldier in a real war. The environments are planned to resemble real landscapes, and bases and outposts are positioned strategically as they would be in a real war, really far apart.

You aren’t a super soldier who’s delivered weapons of mass destruction to blow up whatever he wants; if you want a tank you have to commandeer one yourself straight from the battlefield. Fortunately when you’re in a situation where a tank is necessary, one won’t be hard to find. Where Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising truly excels is its realistic weapon choice and functionality. There are around 70 weapons, each of which functions much like its real-world counterpart, and each weapon is useful under certain circumstances.

The multiplayer modes are a lot of fun, and they really extend the life of the game. The co-operative play is engaging, and a lot more fun than single player. Since it’s just you and 3 other real people, it’s a lot easier to coordinate an offensive than it is to try and get the AI allies to do what you want. An impressive array of statistics are tracked, and there’s a leveling system similar to Halo 3’s where you get a new symbol, but you don’t really unlock any new weapons or anything. This system adds a sense of progression in the multiplayer modes that is almost essential to any successful multiplayer game nowadays.

What’s Not
When I booted up Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising for the first time, I paused at the menu for a moment. As a reviewer it’s my job to analyze the game from all aspects, so I started with the menu music. It started off beautiful, like something straight out of the movie Hero. However, about a minute into the song, a man who sounded like a Buddhist monk joined in, but he wasn’t singing, it sounded like he was retching. It was as though they fed him a vomit inducing drug before they recorded his vocal parts. The rest of Dragon Rising carries on in a similar manner, starting off beautifully, but ultimately leaves you feeling sick. There is a growing crowd of people who appreciate the game because it’s ambitious. It’s true that there are lots of weapons and vehicles, and as a simulation it’s realistic and hardcore, but it takes more than ambition to make a fun game.

Dragon Rising is dragged down by flaws in the game in nearly every facet. There are visual glitches, speech problems, crappy music, absolutely horrid artificial intelligence, and little variety in game play. I’ll briefly expound on my rationale for each of the above categories.

For visual glitches, every time you start a level your weapon briefly loads as a very low-resolution model, I guess to save on loading times. This isn’t that big of a deal, but it starts you off with a sour taste in your mouth and makes you wonder if it was really worth another second or two off the loading time to tear away some of the realism on which the game is founded. In addition to that, and a much more offending glitch, in one match I spawned with no weapon in my hands. My character was running around, pretending like he was holding a gun. If I pulled the trigger, bullets would be fired from my hands. It was fun for a few minutes, but the lack of iron sights ruined my enjoyment of that glitch.

The character speech is stitched together, very much resembling the voice of a GPS device. It’s very easy to tell where one piece ends and one piece begins. For example, one of your allies will say “Enemy rifleman” – clip – “100 yards” – clip – “east.” This alone isn’t too distracting and is really understandable, but when your allies think you’re in danger they’ll yell these messages to you frantically. If the danger leaves, they stop yelling. If the danger leaves halfway through a sentence they’ll yell the first half of the sentence, and then calmly speak the last half. This is just another annoyance that detracts from the oh-so-important realism of the game.

The artificial intelligence in Dragon Rising changes depending on what difficulty you’re playing. On the Normal (easy) difficulty the enemies have terrible aim, don’t hide very well, and pretty much just run around until they’re shot to death. Unfortunately your artificial intelligence allies share all of these same traits, and when you’re on Normal difficulty you probably aren’t used to the game, you aren’t used to the way your allies move, and you probably aren’t ready to do a lot of AI babysitting, but you have to anyways.

In a particularly awful display of AI failure, in the third mission there’s a segment where you have to load your crew into a tank (you HAVE to, it’s you and your 3 allies versus a whole village of enemies). Your best 2 options are either drive the tank yourself and have an ally shoot, in which case your ally is a horrible gunner and misses all the time, or you can be the gunner and have an ally drive. This was particularly bad. Your AI driver won’t go anywhere unless you tell him to, and as a gunner it’s nearly impossible to issue move commands. To issue the move command you have to point your reticle to a place on the ground and execute the command, but as a gunner in a tank you can’t really aim downward, so you can only tell them to move somewhere way off on the horizon. You can use the overhead map, but it’s hard to figure out just where you want the tank to go from this awkward overhead perspective, and it takes a while to switch in and out of the map. I finally got my ally to drive the tank into the village only to have him get the tank stuck in between two buildings. I failed the mission after nearly an hour of trying to coordinate some of the stupidest AI players I’ve ever encountered.

As for the lack of multiplayer variety, aside from the co-operative multiplayer there are only 2 competitive multiplayer modes, both of which require you to interact with the stupid AI teammates. That’s enough to make them nearly unplayable in my eyes.

Final Word
When played in the multiplayer co-operative mode, the game is brilliant. The only artificial intelligence players you have to deal with are the ones you’re trying to shoot, and if they’re dumb on the easy difficulty it’s okay! The game is brutal as a realistic military simulator, but hey, nobody ever said it was fun to be a soldier. Unfortunately this is a video game, and if it’s not fun, it’s not a good game. Add to this all of the glitches and problems in the rest of the game and you’re left with a game that’s not worth a $60 price tag. If you’re looking for a realistic warfare game and you only want co-op, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is going to be a good choice, otherwise you might as well wait for Modern Warfare 2.