Oscar Foxtrot: Delta Romeo
In the gaming world there have always been two separate groups of games, beyond the obvious groupings of genre and casual versus hardcore. There are the popular mainstream titles. Everyone who games at least knows they exist, even if they're not overly familiar with them. From StarCraft to Halo, Quake to Prototype, Myth to Ground Control, most gamers are at least somewhat familiar with these titles. Then there's the latter group to which the Operation Flashpoint series belongs. Games in the latter category are something of a niche. Most gamers may or may not have heard of them, many gamers know little about them, and fewer still would have much of any skill in playing them. Yet there are those faithful few who will seek them out and seem to know more about what makes up excellence in the genre than any who have ever designed the games.
More times than not, the obscure games are made up of complicated simulators. Aircraft simulators, tank simulators, mechanized bipedal tanks, and so on. The original Operation Flashpoint was unique in its role. Like so many others it was a simulator. But instead of focusing on a single vehicle or range of vehicles and the controls to run them, it simulated something different: the experience of a modern soldier. Originally developed by Czech studio Bohemia Interactive, published and supported by Codemasters, Operation Flashpoint broke the mold for a first person shooter by creating a highly dangerous tactical game that simulated far more realistic combat conditions than the action games that we've all come to know. Unfortunately for fans, Bohemia split away from Codemasters before an Operation Flashpoint 2 could be made and went independent. They've followed up with their own similar titles in the ArmA series, thus becoming the true spiritual successors to Operation Flashpoint and soaking up much of the former fan base. The net result was that ArmA lost the funding and polish that Codemasters is famous for providing, and Codemasters lost the design talent that created the genre.
Now we have a new Operation Flashpoint branded sequel, designed by an internal Codemasters team. It should be said right at the start that a different team has a different flavor. Those who enjoyed that original Flashpoint will likely have followed Bohemia to their new ArmA series. Armed with that knowledge, Codemasters have set out to make something a little different that may appeal to a new crowd, while keeping it familiar and tactical enough to try winning back some of the old fans. While the original was eventually ported to the XBox in 2005, it was a game that was always a PC game at heart. Indeed such large sweeping and complicated games often suffer some difficulty in adapting to console and fare much better with a full 105 keys to play with. With Dragon Rising, there's a very clear attempt to unify the platforms and create a game that plays the same on all platforms. I can hear the PC crowd yelling “dumbed down” from here. And in that, they would be at least somewhat correct, but “dumbed down” doesn't always mean “not fun.”
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