Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Operation Rescue

I felt compelled to play Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, almost as though it was my "duty" as a gamer, given the current state of affairs with war videogames, and help spread the word. Many have compared OF2 to Arma 2 in an unfavorable light, yet both games have clear similarities. In trying to distance itself from the phony patriotism and sense of grandeur of other shooters, OF2 actually honors, even if to a small degree, the soldiers of any nationality who have gone to war.

OF2 truly presents a refreshing change of pace for a FPS, as you slowly cover positions, work as a team, and issue orders. Console port or not, the controls feel utterly responsive and polished on the PC. The field manual attempts to cover the basics in combat strategies and does so nicely. The team dynamics are basic but solid, it reminded me of the great Swat 4. Every time you load the campaign, the thorough stats kindly remind you need to score more points.There is, in fact, a newer game in the franchise, which unfortunately hasn't exactly gotten glowing reviews.

Taking place on the fictional island of Skira, yet based on the topography of the real-life island of Kiska, the game portrays the Chinese PLA's attempt to seize control of Skira and its newly discovered deposits of oil, by taking it away from the Russian Federation, who calls for American reinforcements, after which a sandbox-style battle in the island occurs. The game was developed by Codemasters, who did not develop the first game, which was made by Bohemia Interactive instead, who would go on to make the Arma series.
In a game that has no cinematics, what is the gameplay like? Rather deep, actually. The movements the marines can make are versatile, and you can issue orders on site or from a map, as well as calling for air support. The radar is more like a compass, which intentionally tells you very little about enemy presence. Vehicle control is smooth, reminding me of Far Cry 2. You can even lower the enemy's morale by being aggressive. And yes, when things get out of control, you feel something akin to fear, in the way a horror game might scare you. OF2 is also difficult, but in the way MDK2 was; always motivating you for another go, because of how rewarding the game is when you get something right.
This brings me to the reason why I picked up this game. For a series of games that have the gameplay depth of Pong, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is far too ideologically charged, even insultingly so. It has become the greatest affront in gaming, dumbing down armed conflicts, global politics, and breeding a sector of twitchy gamers. Let's consider some glaring differences between the two games, to wit; in OF2, Russia and America are allies against China. In CoD:MW, not only are Russia and America enemies, but on the brink of something much more than a minor conflict. In OF2, you make long stretches on foot, whereas in CoD:MW, you land right into combat, like James Bond. And of course, in the former, a well placed bullet kills you, unlike in the latter.
After two patches, the game has grown equally in content and multiplayer possibilities. Considering the number of mods and still-thriving online community, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is money well spent indeed. And it may be one of those rare games that entertain while telling you a bit about the world you live in.