Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Download
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Unfortunately pegged as the 'other' ultra-realistic modern war sim, Operation Flashpoint 2 has some catching up to do. In terms of impressing the hell out of us Armed Assault II is racing ahead, throwing its cards on the table and calling OpFlash 2's bluff. Which is the more realistic of the two? Who's got more pixels? Who's got the most precise ballistics? It's like some sort of simulation top trumps.
To be fair, OpFlash 2 has just left the gate. Though visually it's bounding ahead of ArmA2, we're left wondering about that all-important surfeit of indigestible attention to detail. Broods of obsessive military types are preening the game, ensuring that every weapon and vehicle is made to exact specifications. Immense spreads of landscape provide an ideal battleground for long-range, modern warfare. The Al playbook will rely heavily on tactics used by the US Army. But until these elements are seen working in tandem in a proper, playable version of the game, we're left pawing at these lovely in-engine screenshots.
We've seen a running prototype, a nowhere-near-final version of the game engine displaying the island of Skira. We've seen in-game sequences in which a platoon of soldiers under heavy mortar fire make their way uphill with a handful of APCs. There was an impressive amount of volumetric smoke in that one, more than we'd ever bore witness to before. This is a literal "fog of war" which appears in real combat claim Codies, produced by the combined heavy gunfire of the platoon. The ejecting brass makes a smell similar to farts too, we're told. Which is proof that some things are better off not simulated.
You Might Not realise it-perhaps because you're a reasonable human being - but there's a contingent : gamers who're ready to they get their grubby, disapproving paws on it. Their fears are rooted in the darkest recesses of the PC gamers ego, the part of their soul that spurns anything making even the vaguest concession to console gamers. Let's admit it, this is down to our intrinsic superiority complex; our defense mechanism to protect us from the fact that our gaming machine of choice is 10 times as expensive as any i console around. Hands up who's never Llooked at a niggling fault in a game and folamed it on a PlayStation?
"There's a myth, a fallacy," explains Ision Lenton, executive producer on OpFlash 2, "about a difference in IQ between console games and PC gamers.
It's important to state that we're not dumbing OpFlash down for consoles - if anything we're trying to raise the bar, in terms of what's acceptable, and what's too difficult to do, on consoles."
As if to give credence to the idea that I'm playing a PC game, I'm shot by & gunman hiding in trees 400 metres ,away. The round bores through my arm, pausing a critical wound, and putting me out of commission until one of my three co-op buddies can figure out which key whips out the field dressing. .They can't and I bleed out. I'm dead, and I've no idea who killed me. Brilliant, "That's Operation Flashpoint!" exclaims Lenton, before cringing at his bwn cheesiness.
Keep It Real
The original Operation Flashpoint, from Bohemia Interactive (who are now working on Armed Assault II) was a po-faced, ultra-serious simulation; an unfalteringly realistic depiction of modern warfare which had detail fans frothing at the mouth - this is what players are afraid of losing. However, OpFlash 2 is at the very least acutely aware of its heritage.
I "We had to change the US uniforms three times," despairs Lenton, explaining how they'd update textures every time the military decided to give their troops a new look.
The authenticity and realism continues, driven by over 400GB of research data. Weapon load-outs are visible on a soldier's person. Arming, say, a Javelin missile launcher takes a few minutes as you stoop to assemble the component parts, and the HUD it uses is exactly what you'd see were you to fire a real one. And you only get one shot too: the things cost $250k each, so you really don't want to miss your target. Bullets kill, and suppressing fire is an essential tactic in skirmishes. This certainly isn't Call of Duty - start . spraying rounds in the direction of the ' enemy and they'll take cover - the Al soldiers are as concerned with keeping their own life, as with ending yours.
So be at ease. OpFlash 2 isn't running an important series into the ground, in pursuit of some Far Cry 2-style action and adventure. If anything, it'll be the console gamers feeling the winds of change as their typically realism-light platform is brought kicking and screaming into a gritty world of genuine one-shot kills and strategic open-world combat.
OpFlash 2's setting is the based-on-a-real-place island of Skira: a 220km2 military playground, peppered with conflict between the US and China. Across the two separate three-day campaigns, you'll command a four-man team on a series of missions. Most of these take place in small areas of the map, but when you get access to aircraft missions will have wider arenas.
The primary campaign sees you take on an infantry role, engaging the enemy at mid-to-long range using whatever means are handy. On occasion you'll have access to some heavy ordnance, such as howitzers and air strikes. The massive explosions these cause are rendered beautifully: there's no dramatic eruption of flame, rather you'll see a 100ft tall column of dirt stab the sky moments before the deep boom of the explosion reaches you. These are treats, and for the most part you'll be using your wits and your rifles.
Commands can be delivered to Al teammates through a radial menu, with position-sensitive orders (orders to move, for example) being directed by your crosshair. You effectively point at things you want your men to run to -much how a real squad leader would dole out directives - while also telling them how you want them to behave as they go. This allows for cautious approaches, with your team only firing on your lead, or aggressive flanking manoeuvres over large distances.
For more control over these tactical movements, you'll also have access to your military map, on which you can perfectly hone your strategies, as well as get the lay of the land. Orders can be queued up to be carried out in sequence too, and then called off when this inevitably go tits up. Teammates will act and move intelligently without your guiding hand, though when it comes to breaking stalemates the ability to effectively manage your team is crucial.
Saying that, if you traipse around like a mental bastard firing madly into the air, they'll - rightly - tell you to feck off before doing their own thing. To hell with the chain of command, and all that.
On top of the infantry campaign, OpFlash 2 features a special forces campaign which focuses on stealth. This runs alongside the infantry campaign, with missions overlapping at some key points. You might, for example, infiltrate an enemy-controlled village at 4am as the special forces team to destroy some key structures and sabotage Chinese artillery support. Then, during the Infantry campaign, you'll arrive at the weakened village at 10am as part of a larger operation to take control of the region.
At any point you can break away from your mission. Skira is fully loaded into memory from start-up, so there's not a loading screen between you and the opposite end of the island. You'd fail your mission - as most missions come with a completion time attached - but you'd come across some intelligently spawned enemies and allies. The wider conflict is realistically played out across Skira, and the engine keeps track of incursions, retaliations, troop and armour movements and other dynamic, ever-changing war facts. You might bump into a retreating armoured unit, or a small, pinned-down Chinese force -but things will be where they're supposed to be, and you won't encounter a platoon of chirpy US marines wandering in Chinese territory.
Here Be Dragons
Moving away from your objective isn't just a means of abandoning your mission though. In the scenario I played, my attempts to escort an armoured unit using my Humvee were scuppered by a pair of APCs perched between me and my target, situated atop a mountain 3km away. Rather than staying out of the APC's firing range, I opted to take the long way round. By driving in a huge semicircle I rounded the enemy units and drove my Humvee to the edge of destruction by ploughing up the steep incline towards my target. It didn't work, as I was picked off by a patrol, but it shows to what degree the geography allows for an open-ended mission structure.
I have a few concerns, firstly with the game's driving model. The Humvee was the only vehicle we were given to test, and it felt both rigid and floaty -like driving an armored cloud. This is surprising as OpFlash 2 is built on the same technology powering racers DiRT and GRID. And while Codemasters promised increases in the draw distance of details like grass and trees (the landscape stretches out for 36km), what we've been shown so far features some ropey and bland horizons.
You can count on those concerns being at the very least recognised by Codemasters in the run up to release. Either way, they're niggling troubles. Not only is OpFlash 2 not the blight on a PC classic some pessimists are expecting, it's a worthy successor to the original. This is a modern war sim with authenticity at its core, and a level of accessibility that concedes nothing to the blockbuster scripted behemoths of Call of Duty and Gears of War.
If Mohammed Cant go to the mountain, and I can't go to E3, then Codemasters will simply have to let me play Operation Flashpoint-Dragon Rising here at Zone Towers.
It's all there in the bible, that irrefutable fact book of sensible things. And so, not one to question God's word, Codies dutifully plonked me in front of their punishingly authentic military shooter and allowed me to die from gunshot wounds to 1,000 different points on my being. A fate apparently only slightly Jess painful than having to hike about the cavernous halls of LA's sweaty I gaming expo.
Dragon Rising is ultra-realistic, far pfrom the medipacks of Medal of Honor f and even further from the regenerating health magic of Call of Duty. Yes, it's one of "those" games, the ones where bullets make you absolutely dead, or where, if you're simply grazed by some shrapnel, the wound will pump blood realistically Lail over your uniform.
Codies have had to change uniform designs repeatedly as real-life military forces insist on updating them. Their gun models are meticulously crafted replicas of their real-life counterparts. They've a research document an inch thick about tracer rounds. Anybody would think they've got something to prove.
And they do. Since developers Bohemia split to make ArmA and its sequel, Codies have been keen to prove just how much like the original OpFlash their own follow-up will be. It's a battle of realism, and as I stupidly traipsed up a hillside towards an enemy under cover, only to catch a bullet in the face, I realised who was on the winning team.
The Al in Dragon Rising has, according to the devs, had its systems built around an actual army handbook - a guide to, among other things, the correct way to move across a battlefield, the correct time to attack, and the correct time to take cover. In this instance, walking in a straight line towards an enemy encampment was not something the handbook would suggest.
Over the next few attempts I approached the situation using different methods. Taking pot shots from a distance worked well enough, causing the two enemy troops to remain behind cover. Coupling this with a command to my fire team to flank led to a successful bit of soldiering. My men swept through a forest on the western side of the hill, meeting the enemy side-on and fatally propelling small bits of metal into their bodies. On another occasion, I'd sniped the enemy before they could get behind cover, only to have them jump out at the last minute in an I-wasn't-dead-after-all sort of movement and shoot me dead.
For all our talk of headshots from four miles away, very few of your rounds will deliver an instant kill. On lower difficulty settings, the Al remains identical, what changes are the on-screen aids you're given.
The more you bump up the difficulty, the more HUD furniture falls away. Crosshairs disappear and kill indicators vanish until eventually you're left with effectively the same information a soldier in the field would have. This makes sense, when the alternative is to make the enemy "a bit thick" and your skin like Kevlar.
A Real Bfg Attack
So, with my fleshy mortal form now on top of the hill I'd triumphantly flanked the crap out of, I turned to my next objective: dismantling a town by means of Howitzer artillery fire. The radial command menu is used to facilitate this, allowing you to snake through a series of technically minded options before landing on the "fire for effect" command.
For instance, what are you a fan of? Barrage fire? Or harassing fire? Or one of the other two kinds of fire that the game allows you to choose from? I chose harassing fire, which I'd later discover is a special kind of weapons fire designed to keep the enemy awake and worried. It didn't work exactly as intended, and instead levelled half the town and killed a great many people. In some sense, that'sm probably as bad for enemy morale as disrupting their sleeping patterns.
Dragon Rising's command menu is something we've seen before - the closest comparison is Battlefield2s radial menu, in which you're only ever given four options, each represented by a direction. Side-by-side, it's the antithesis of ArmA Il's near-incomprehensible menu system, and during the short time I spent playing Dragon Rising it appears to be just as capable. Context sensitivity means that the options you're presented with change depending on what you mouse over, and at no point do you feel out of control of your fire team.
There are still a few things to be worried about. Vehicles still feel weirdly top-heavy and just odd to drive, and the Al often likes to escape to remote areas of the map and just shuffle back and forth for a while, but these are likely the very reasons why Dragon Rising's been delayed until later this year. Having suffered the faults of ArmA II last month, it'd be a massive shame to see another military sim fall foul of the bugs and quirks that seem attracted to this genre like wasps to an ultra-realistic jam sandwich.