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Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising Review

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More wartime simulation than a balls-out shooter

★★★★

Before committing to one of this season’s blockbuster blasters, think about what you really, really want: the bombastic adrenaline rush of intense, tightly-scripted gun battles where quick wits and an itchy trigger finger are all that stands between you and death, or the atmospheric, slow-burning alternative where strategy, planning and patience are the name of the game as a single bullet can send your crashing into the mud.

For players searching for harsh realism rather than high drama, Dragon Rising is a sharp choice. Hurling players into a sprawling theatre of war rather than confined battlefields, Dragon Rising encourages players to look at their environment and plan each attack with care, the open-world approach meaning there are a myriad approaches to every skirmish, but each undermined by smart computer-controlled opponents who’ll use every trick in the book to outfox you. And while most wartime blasters deliver their thrills through extreme gunplay and overt machismo, the joys of Dragon Rising come through its convincing sense of realism where just about anything is possible, the crushing sense of dread that hangs in the air before every battle, and the engrossing four-player co-op mode where you can play through the entire solo campaign online with a group of friends.

But with Dragon Rising’s brave approach – which is closer to a wartime simulation than a balls-out shooter – come problems: the profound excitement of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s fierce firefights is missing, meaning the game will take longer to grab you by the collar and drag you into the experience; the awkward menus can make it tricky to command your computer-controlled comrades, adding a niggling layer of stress that’s missing in simpler, more direct shooters; and the staging of action in a variety of muddy fields lacks the variety of colourful locales seen in other big-hitting blasters, a fact made worse by a poor assortment of missions that offer few fresh challenges as the final chapters unfold.

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