The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I knew this valley would be a deathtrap. Rolling grass for six
hundred meters, high tree line perches on the perimeter, moonlight
glare turning helmets into fireflies – this is a sniper’s hunting
trail, and I just ordered my men into the heart of it. But there’s no
point in being hard on myself. I had no choice. Our birds were on their
way. The only way to provide cover was to cross the valley and take out
the SAMs. We almost made it. We could have made it. Even with death
looming from every direction, I suppressed the snipers long enough for
my squad to sprint into cover. Sure, my efforts rewarded me with a
bullet to the chest, but the blow shouldn’t have been fatal. From the
blackened tree canopy, my boys flanked the snipers to open a clear path
for our medic to patch me up. But he never arrived. He didn’t take a
bullet of his own, and he didn’t freeze up from panic. As I lay there
bleeding out, I could see he was stuck on a boulder, running aimlessly
in place, unaware that his current path was taking him nowhere. It
wasn’t a bullet that killed me. It was a *** bug.
Such is life
in Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. When this game is working the
way it should, the intensity is nearly unbearable. You can feel your
character’s heart racing through the controller’s vibration, and if you
catch the glimpse of a tracer bullet going overhead, you thank the
makers that you are given a second to drop into the prone position.
From 300 to 400 meters, enemies are cunning strategists, spreading out
into different formations and flanking at opportune times. Countering
assaults with tactics of your own is easily handled through a slick
menu system. Again, when the functionality is working, the
simulation-like battles are enthralling tests of skill unlike any
you’ve seen on console.
The entire campaign (which spans 11
lengthy missions) can be played cooperatively by a group of four. This
is the ideal way to play Flashpoint. Yes, it is an empowering
experience to tell your AI squad to assault a building or to cease fire
for a stealth operation, but you never know what you are going to get
from them. They may malfunction, read a situation wrong to the point it
makes them seem suicidal, or worse yet, ignore everything you say.
Human teammates reduce the frustration and make the game all the more
But playing this way doesn’t fix the game completely.
My team lost the ability to use health packs, would respawn with
invisible weapons, and would finish levels only to find out we failed
an objective along the way but were never told. While enemies are
intelligent from a distance, you can see their AI buckling in
close-quarters skirmishes. Sometimes they’ll just stand there like
mannequins taking bullet after bullet.
The realistic scale is
instrumental in opening the doors for strategies, but to a fault. Most
levels are bogged down with vast amounts of walking. Vast as in most of
your time in specific levels is dedicated to the trek leading up to the
fights. Vehicles are a rarity, and even if one can be found, the
slippery controls often spell suicide for your team. Running 1.5 km to
an evacuation point with no conflict along the way is not a fun way to
spend an afternoon.
Nor are the competitive modes, Annihilation
and Infiltration. Spawn points are too far removed from the action, and
only having eight human-controlled players on these vast maps doesn’t
make for exciting engagements. Throwing idiotic computer-controlled
soldiers into the mix and refusing players a choice of weapons before
rounds doesn’t help either.
Basically, only play this game if
your friends are willing to run at your side. When the game is
functioning as intended, it can be brilliant. But don’t let your guard
down. Problems will arise, and your most difficult challenge may be
combating a bout of boredom.
Email the author Andrew Reiner, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.