Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising

Posted by Rio Sunday, October 11, 2009

We check out the two multiplayer modes in Codemasters' upcoming realistic military shooter.

"This is not really a Rambo game."

So says Codemasters executive producer Sion Lenton of the upcoming Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. He's not exaggerating either--in this hyper-realistic first-person shooter, going lone wolf will often get you cut down in the line of fire. Success in Dragon Rising, therefore, is measured in steps where every decision you make on the battlefield needs to be carefully considered and expertly executed. Codemasters reps, including Lenton, recently visited GameSpot offices to show off the multiplayer modes in the game, which look to be just as demanding as those found when playing solo.

There's a fair bit of lore in Dragon Rising's near-future campaign setting, but the essential facts are these: The year is 2011 and China, Russia, and the US are feuding over an oil-rich island off the eastern coast of Russia. The island, known as Skira, is a real place, though Lenton told us that the in-game layout of Skira is actually based on an Alaskan island deemed to be more topographically interesting than the real thing. The campaign follows the fire teams on the ground as they look to sort out the Skira kerfuffle in the only way that makes sense in video games: gunning it out.

Though you can play the campaign solo or with a friend via co-operative play, our focus was on the game's multiplayer modes. There are two modes to speak of: Annihilation and Infiltration. Annihilation mode is essentially Deathmatch with two teams going up against one another on a specific section of Skira. Infiltration mode tasks teams with certain objectives--one team might look to assault and destroy a specific target, for example. The difference here is that the attacking team will have fewer forces at hand but will be better equipped, while the defending force will have more numbers but fewer weapons at hand.

In both Annihilation and Infiltration modes, each human player involved in a match will have a squad of three AI-controlled soldiers. Just as in the single-player game, you'll be able to issue orders to your squadmates, essentially making them an effective part of your attack (or defense). The command radial menu at your disposal is unchanged from the single-player game and will let you set targets for your squadmates to maneuver to, as well as set more specific orders, such as formation and specific rules of engagement. As Lenton told us, the AI squadmates have been designed to be self-sufficient and a help in battle (they even have minds of their own, it seems, and won't run willy-nilly into a kill zone despite your direct orders). At the same time, the AI commands are specific enough for players who want to dig deeper into the menus and really micromanage their fellow soldiers.

In the Annihilation match we watched, two teams of forces battled it out in a timed match, with both teams looking to take control of a bridge that acted as a choke point on the map. The same realistic injury model is fully in place in multiplayer--where one shot can take you out or severely injure you. If you take a bullet in the arm, your aim will be affected; if you take one in the leg, you'll be hobbling...and leaking blood all the while. If you don't get patched up, either by a medic or with a medikit in your pack, it'll be over for you. Despite the game's huge maps, you'll be respawned near any of your surviving squadmates; though if you all die, you'll respawn back at the start, which can result in quite a hike to get back to the action.

In the Infiltration match we saw, the attacking team's long hike to the objective gave the defending team time to set up the defenses. With more troops at your disposal, you can instruct squads to man strategic points, such as sandbag placements or mounted guns, as you wait for the attack to begin. The special ops team--armed with better weapons like sniper rifles, mines, and so on--will need to do some recon before they attack to try to figure out where enemy troops are stationed.

Running on the Ego engine that also powers Codemasters' racing games, such as the Dirt and Gird series, Dragon Rising has a look all its own. It is one that, according to Lenton, borrows more inspiration from war-time documentaries than feature films. As a result, the game's got a grimy look to it, full of sophisticated particle effects that add a layer of grit and haze to your surroundings and makes enemy soldiers that are already tough to find in the huge levels that much more difficult to spot.

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is about as far from run-and-gun action as you can imagine, and that slower pace will require a measure of patience on behalf of the player who will need to front-load lots of planning into a level before the bullets start flying. Those with a head for strategy, heads up: Dragon Rising is set for deployment on October 6.


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