Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising – hands-on

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 AI 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.

So, with our fleshy mortal form now on top of the hill we’d triumphantly flanked the crap out of, we turned to our 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? We chose harassing fire, which we would later discover is a special kind of weapon’s fire designed to keep the enemy awake and worried. It didn’t work exactly as intended, and instead leveled half the town and killed a great many people. In some sense, that’s 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 Battlefield 2’s 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 II’s near-incomprehensible menu system, and during the short time we 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 AI 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.

Jul 21, 2009