Life in the military isn’t for everyone. For us, the fresh air, vigorous exercise and ruthless discipline required were primary turn-offs, not to mention being thrust onto the frontline dodging bullets and explosions from all directions. Thank goodness, then, for games like Operation Flashpoint that allow us to look down the ole’ iron sights in a realistic battlefield situation without the risk of our heads popping like overripe melons.
Cast as 2nd Lt. Mulholland, leader of a four-man squad, stationed on the fictional island of Skira, your job is to weed out the entrenched enemy utilising advanced military tactics lifted straight out of the US Marine Corps handbook. Chinese PLA forces have set up encampments all over the island’s 220 square kilometre expanse in a bid to mine the Russian oil buried beneath its surface. Or something. We weren’t really listening.
Operation Flashpoint is the anti-Call of Duty, punishing brazen, head-on assaults with a swift bullet to the brain. Previously aimed at the PC audience, the game’s presence on consoles has prompted the developer to resort to console-friendly pop-up radial menus, which might slightly antagonise the aforementioned desktop squaddies.
Issuing orders to your team is both simple and streamlined for console and PC users alike, despite the compromises made to controllers. Establishing and executing your strategies and commands is remarkably effortless once you familiarise yourself with the control scheme. Happily, your team’s AI is reliable too – save for the odd unusual glitch – carrying out your orders with military efficiency.
You’ll quickly learn that there’s a lot of shooting from range in Operation Flashpoint, as engaging the enemy up close is suicidal. You’ll need to be prepared to line up distant collections of pixels in your scope for the majority of Dragon Rising’s campaign as that’s really the crux of the game and (presumably) true to the realities of war.
For the less patient player, there are a number of gameplay assists that ease the steep difficulty curve somewhat: where the full-fat unassisted game removes the HUD, checkpoints and helpful feedback of any kind (such as the animated crosshair that indicates a successful hit on an enemy), the lower difficulty levels provide all of the above. Playing the unassisted experience might prove a bit much for some – dying face-down in the dirt with a cranial puncture wound without a checkpoint to fall back to is a bitter pill to swallow when you’ve worked your arse off to complete an exceptionally gruelling objective.
For the devoted hardcore, tackling the campaign missions without the luxury of assists or check-pointing will undoubtedly sort the men from the boys. Regardless of the level of challenge you choose however, the AI remains constant, so the enemy put up just as much of a fight on the easier settings as they do on the highest. Occasionally, though, you’ll see an enemy troop attempting to crawl out of trouble as bullets kick up dust around him – an unintentional but not unwelcome bit of comedy on the developer’s part.