War. The great philosopher Plato once remarked that only the dead have seen the end of it. Now gamers across the world can get a little closer to the brutal, unforgiving reality of modern war in Operation Flashpoint’s long-awaited sequel, Dragon Rising. What sets this title apart from any other generic war game, you ask? Some might argue it’s the complex command system that lets you put any squad member anywhere at any time to do anything. Others might say it’s the savage realism that every bullet is a potential nail in your coffin—that there is no such thing as a one-man team. And still others would claim it’s the wide array of the world’s most modern weapons of war seamlessly infused with the genius plethora of vehicles. Any way you look at it, there is something for everyone if you fight hard enough.
North of Japan there lies a territory viciously fought over for centuries. Having first been claimed by China early in the 15th century, the remote island of Skira has also been ruled by Russian and Japanese forces alike over the course of hundreds of years. Now, Russia has secured most recent control of the oil-rich island as the global economic crisis reaches its lowest point in years, driving the demand for oil and other various natural resources to an all-time high. China now rushes in and Japan charges, putting the world on the brink of a full-scale war. Enter the United States Marine Corps. United Nations has requested America’s unrivaled power to cease the bloodshed. As the elite, it is your sovereign duty to free Skira from the oppression it now faces. But be wary—this is real war; suit up accordingly, because no two battles are alike.
Operation Flashpoint has more guns and gizmos than anyone could reasonably request, which immediately throws the player into the full chaos that is war. As the insurgents, marines will have enemy forces set up all over the island in the places they least expect with the firepower to keep them off their beloved island. The player must choose the appropriate weapon for each situation—no glitch or cheat guns here; every weapon is different. Upon entering the battlezone, players will be outfitted with several trinkets specially designed for that specific mission. Paradrop into the hills at night, and your squadron will wield advanced, long-rage sniper rifles with NVG, mines, a flashlight, a pistol, a medical pack, a combat knife, and a few blocks of C4 with a detonator. Choose your shots carefully, however; your only source of extra ammunition will be caches or bodies, which immediately thrusts you into a survivor state of mind. Yes, that’s right—if you don’t take care of your squad members, you’ll be scavenging clips off their bodies as well.
Your best friends are your squad members. They will heal you when you are incapacitated, give you suppressing fire when requested, assault a building when ordered, and even drive you to the nearest village so you can use the bathroom (or slaughter the enemy forces who beat you to it). How could one controller possibly contain enough coordination to command your troops with such precision, you might be wondering? Well, it’s really quite simple. Codemasters has taken the R1 button and transformed it into a command center. Simply tap it once, and a directional pad-shaped menu will open up with an option for every direction—up, down, left, and right. Broken up into easy-to-assess categories such as Offense, Defense, ROE, Follow Me, you won’t spend long getting your squad to do exactly what you want. Your command module even adapts to the situation. If you’re shot, call for a medic. If you’re driving, call for support gunners. If you’re looking at an enemy outpost, call for leftward flanking. Even if it is a little unwieldy at first, players will eventually get the hang of it. The only way it could be easier is if you could talk to your squad mates. But wait, you can!
If you have an internet connection, a PlayStation Network account, and a microphone, you have all you need to drop into the battle with your friends. Multiplayer isn’t as grueling as the campaign since human intellect is still superior to computer A.I. If you just can’t seem to capture an enemy village or save a friendly AAC, just hop online and try again with three of your buddies. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will become easier however. Your A.I. friendlies are programmed marines, while your friends may just be, well, friends. Still, the intensity increases in multiplayer due to the fact that one stray bullet could put you out of an hour-long mission with your friends, and nobody wants to be the dead guy in spectator mode. Thus, Codemasters has ingeniously sculpted a war simulation that doesn’t buckle under the weight of today’s incredible demand for a AAA multiplayer experience. War remains war.
Dragon Rising may not be the most fun game to pick up and play, but it has definitely earned the title of the most realistic. In an era of one-man teams, glitches and hacks, it may take some time for players to adjust to the tactical challenges of a real war simulation. Granted, the game isn’t perfect by any standard, but one would be hard pressed to be able to say that it wasn’t a job well done by Codemasters. If you are looking for a genuinely brutal war experience, look no farther. The adrenaline will rush. Your palms will be sweaty. Your forehead will be beating. You will be at war.