Last week we got to check out Codemasters Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, a brutal sandbox shooter that brings the player as close to war as they'll ever want to be. Being the second iteration to the series, the first being Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, we are taken to the island of Skira off the coast of Russia. Even though this is a fictitious story line, Codemasters has done a great job at making it feel like a genuine battle.
Russia has been in control of Skira since World War II. Jumping to 2011, the world is in an energy crisis and, unlike the Cold War Crisis, the Russians are asking us for help against the Chinese People Liberation Army who have invaded for the island's oil resources. In the demo, we are introduced to the smaller island named Skirinka. In our first mission we are preparing for the D-day invasion of Skira.
You play as a four person fire team with up to four player co-op, or the with AI soldiers. On your team will be one leader, an engineer, machine gunner and medic. We were told the AI soldiers are pretty darn smart, obeying every order you give. They are not intelligent enough to take control themselves if you give a poorly thought out objective, but carry out your commands respectfully. As the leader, you can assign individual orders to each of your teammates by splitting them apart, having one lay down a suppressing fire or flanking a direction, the tactics are endless.
While we played, it was really kind of creepy hearing bullets zoom past my head. The shots sounded real and it was hard to tell what direction they were coming from, as it would in real life. Like a real soldier, you can only carry so much in your inventory including a few weapons, binoculars and bandages. Also, with the "bleeding system" there is no hiding to recover. Your wounds have to be healed or losing your eight pints of blood will lead in death. Injuries will affect your speed, vision and overall performance. Players can choose from over 60 authentic weapons and things that go "boom!" Along with that, you'll have access to over 25 land, water and air vehicles.
There are three difficulty levels with 11 missions in campaign: assisted, experienced and hardcore. Assisted is, well, assisted. Yellow smoke rises and guides you to your goal. Hardcore is intense to the point where you can probably only take one hit. In experienced and hardcore mode, the visual queues become less and enemy indicators will disappear. Some missions will also be timed, but you won't know how much, just that you are ordered to carry out the mission quickly. During our mission we got to see an air raid from afar and out amongst the exploding field for we were playing co-op on two TVs. It was interesting to see the points of view side by side.
The game will have three multiplayer modes. One is the four player co-op campaign mode mentioned above. The second is will be a PvP for eight players, four teams versus four teams, allowing a 32 character deathmatch. Lastly, an infiltration mode will allow two US teams against six Chinese teams, but with the US having better equipment and weapons against a bigger force.
Codemasters idea with Dragon Rising is to put "the fear" back into first person shooters. Even in the title screen, music of Mongolian Throat Singers resonate and truly capture the sorrow of war. This is not your "I'm a badass American" war-game, but a visceral experience with real war authenticity. You can expect to see Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising on the XBox 360, PS3 and PC October 6th.