Operation Flashpoint has been popping in and out of my radar throughout most of this year, like some kind of energetic meerkat. I visited Codemasters, and whilst the trip focused more on the DiRT 2 side of things, I think I can breach the NDA I signed to let you know that through a crack in a window I saw a designer putting a wall into the game. That’s right, I had insider knowledge there was at least one wall in this new flashy and pointy Operation Flashpoint.
It wasn’t until a press event for upcoming Codemasters titles that I actually got to see the game in action and even play it. From that moment I was hooked and waiting for this game to come out. But can it live up to the hype I had created inside my head?
The game starts out fantastically with a wonderful intro akin to the videos of “kinetic typography” as the cool kids call it. It is from this start that you begin to see the depth of the detail the developers went to; not only did they create an immense island for you to run amok in, there is also a deep and realistic backstory for those who like that sort of thing.
The unfortunate fact about the game, is for those not familiar with the series, it is stifling to get into, as Operation Flashpoint is incongruous with conventional shooters. If you are looking for a game to go from one action scene to the next, Operation Flashpoint will not be your cup of tea. Additionally, for those who aren’t shamelessly British and actually drink other things, this game will not be your coffee, your red bull or your rum and coke.
There is a large amount of down time in which you will be moving between areas of the island: the island is huge. I’m talking about an island the size of Cliffy B’s bravado here, an island that would take you nine hours to walk from one coast to the other. However, if you were masochistic enough to actually want to try such a feat, you’d need the PC version for its Mission Editor, as the console version will limit your exploration to the confines of the mission.
It is this fantastic setting that provides you with one of the greatest elements within Operation Flashpoint, and that is freedom. If you think leaving the path and going up the hill for better cover will be the better option, you are free to do it. If you think going 10 minutes out of your way so you are able to stay out of the enemy’s sights long enough to creep behind them, again, you are free to do so. The sheer scale of tactics that can be employed is staggering too, from formations to flanking and all the rules of engagement in between.
This is both a blessing and a curse. I do not know of any other game that does what Codemasters have done with Operation Flashpoint to the scale they have gone to with this title. It’s the most realistic shooter I have ever played, and I’m someone who plays on a generally easier setting on most shooters. Where running and gunning is an option. In those games, I can be Rambo, I can be Robocop, or I can be a dude playing a dude dressed as another dude. But in Operation Flashpoint, if you play like that dude, you’re certainly going to be a dead man. You have to employ tactics; they are a necessity, not some superfluous extra.
Difficulty in games is often a treacherous ground to tread. Generally, while playing games on a high difficulty, enemies have more hit points, which makes the game frustrating rather than tactical. Operation Flashpoint steps around this pitfall with an impressive swagger. The various difficulties affect your interface mostly; as a harder setting will cause enemy place markers to fade from your map quickly, it’ll remove your compass (a tool which shows which direction the enemies are in), and it’ll remove your cross hairs, forcing you to rely on each gun’s sights. Each normally vital factor removed from your experience makes the game more challenging by making it more realistic and immersive.
The multiplayer element of the game is a mixed bag, with my experience seeing the main problem in one distinct area: players. This is a game about tactics, a game where the AI can be merciless and where cohesion between you and your squad is vital. Yet, when everyone online runs about thinking they’re playing Call of Duty, the tactics sort of fall flat. However, co-operative multiplayer is so good that I need to find a new superlative to describe it. Incrubulous? Yeah, that’ll do. Grab a headset and some friends, and this game reaches a peak of gameplay that everybody needs to try.
Despite how good the game is, it has its share of bugs, however, which range from some model clipping to awkward collision detection on vehicles. In all honesty though, none of these problems detract from the game in any way. They are enough to make you go “aw, that sucks” and then immediately forget it and get on with the game.
If you are searching for a realistic shooter, or for a game to lose yourself in through advanced tactical action, then look no further. In fact, read no further, just go out and buy Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising right now.
The interface variations that are dependant on the difficulty setting make this game stand out from the crowd, and everything from the menu screen to the openining to cinematic is slick and polished.
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Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is deep, tactical and immersive. It's easily one of the most engaging games of the year.
The sound effects are superb, and the voice acting is excellent, but be wary about spending too much time on a menu screen.
The game has an excellent campaign mode, where combat will vary on each playthrough, topped by a fantastic co-operative experience.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising stands as a glowing example that not every shooter needs to be a constant action movie, providing an immersive and compelling experience that will leave you painting your face and crawling through your neighbour's garden.