I'm Aflaid of Americans.
In a world of entertaining, brightly-colored video games about can-do, transforming legendary star-shaped whoosits and blissfully clueless overeating princesses, it's good to know we can still count on the occasional game that lets us worry about a plausible, real(ish)-world military flare-up that could make the whole global geopolitical situation go from police-action sketchy to Missile-Crisis precarious overnight.... right? I mean, don't we all feel that way, sometimes? Thanks for covering our butts there, Codemasters.
[image1]Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising doesn't bother with some all-too familiar Kuma-esque tactical skirmish, in some godforsaken slum lousy with sand and IEDs, a battle that nobody's likely to remember even though it really happened. Instead, it crunches the sim-numbers and calculates a bigger scenario, just plausible enough to be kinda scary—and just 'realistic' enough to elevate the first-person shooter genre above the ubiquitous, regenerating-life-bar Rambo-fest.
The more or less present-day set-up surrounds the Chinese who seems to be crunching some numbers of their own, weighing the odds, opportunities, and possible payoff for a military gamble in an ongoing territorial dispute with the Russians. And apparently, it's worth the risk for the Chinese to try and hold the island of Skira, just off the north coast of Japan, for the untapped petroleum reserves recently discovered there. Factors assumed by the Chinese: The Russians won't miss it—and if they do, they're welcome to try and do something about it. The variable that (literally) blows up in their faces: The U.S. Marines based in the region—who proceed to intervene on behalf of the Russians.
Dragon Rising is a first-person tactical shooter, but it's also an open-environment, sandbox-style game that attempts to accurately present the 108-square-mile island, which is itself based on the real-world island of Kiska, at the same location. (Kinda makes you wonder why they even bothered to change the name at all, dunnit?) Real-time estimates for crossing the in-game island range from nine hours on foot to twenty minutes via helicopter. Terrain types include 1000-foot mountain ridges, low lakelands, various minor waterways, a number of small townships or other settlements—abandoned by the resident civilians prior to the U.S. landing, it seems—and even the base of a stratovolcano at one end of the island (in a goofier game, this might promise at least one 'lava level'... but thankfully, that's not really the Codemasters style.)
[image2]Mechanically, it's a familiar first-person shooter, at least in the broadest sense, but Dragon Rising makes use of a context-sensitive radial menu scheme to order up to three additional A.I. squad-mates to lay down suppression fire, take cover, follow, or what have you. Good thing for those squad-mates too, because there's a lot of ground to cover—even visually—and a lot of things can go wrong.
The designers boast that the game has a draw-distance of over 30 kilometers. And here's some more impressive arithmetic: When explosions from direct weapons fire or called-in artillery or air strikes throw up debris, dust, and smoke—or as fires continue to burn—the amount and effects of the various and sundry particulate crap they throw into the air are simulated on an individual, per-weapon/yield/explosion basis. Seeing the advancing chain of explosions from an incoming salvo of shells kabooming their way toward you is one thing; making your way to the next objective amid lingering clouds of dust and smoke that blind your view of the horizon—and whatever enemies may be lurking there—is quite another.
Dragon Rising will feature 50+ vehicles for land, air, and sea-ops, including tanks, landing-craft, boats, APCs, and the like. There will also, obviously, be certain vehicles that players do not use directly but instead call upon in particular situations (for example, in the case of air strikes). There will also be a huge range of weapons, around 70 at last estimate, along with the concomitant sights, optics, ancillary launchers and other equip-mods, for both the U.S.M.C. and PLA (Chinese) forces.
[image3]Multiplayer options (8 for consoles, 32 for PC) will include story/campaign co-op (one human for each AI-controlled squad-mate), plus more familiar Infiltration and Annihilation modes. Additional multiplayer modes are slated for release after the main game becomes available.
With its sobering premise, gritty visual presentation, and unique take on difficulty-variance (not based on AI levels or sustainable damage, but on how much helpful data the player receives via the user interface), Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is one of the titles we're most excited about for this coming October. Be sure to come back and check out our full review of this simulated, hypothetical military-superpower clash—assuming, of course, that it's still 'hypothetical' by then.