If Codemasters is going to have a big hit on its hands with Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising the game's going to have to sell to more than just the hardcore military fans. While sales up there with Halo and Call of Duty is probably out of the question, a big multi-format project like this will need to sell millions of units to be classed as a success. With this in mind I donned my Call of Duty helmet and Halo battle armour to check out a few levels of Codies' war sim in order to find out if normal people will be able to last more than five seconds in Operation Flashpoint's brutal battlefield.
To give you the answer you probably didn't want: yes and no. Chances are that anyone groomed on the likes of Call of Duty, Halo, Resistance, Gears of War and Killzone will run up the first hill they encounter during Dragon Rising's tutorial level and be gunned down before they even get a whiff of any danger, let alone see it. This will then be repeated a few times, with a man hiding behind a small wall at the top of the hill taking you out over and over again until it becomes quite obvious that you're doing it wrong. This is not that open world Call of Duty you've dreamt of for years. This is a completely different take on the military first-person shooter, and you're going to have to learn the hard way.
Most of the time you'll be fighting against enemies that you can't even see, taking cover from tracer fire originating from a position only clearly visible through binoculars. Fire from that range isn't too accurate, but it's still dangerous to be walking about in the open. In order to move from position to position you'll need to get your squad mates to lay down suppressive fire on the enemy's location and then leg it to a new cover spot, repeating the procedure every time you move. It makes for a hugely tense experience, always knowing that your next step might be your last, but it's also not something that'll please everyone.
Part of what makes video games so enjoyable is how you can lose yourself in the experience, but in Dragon Rising you're constantly being taken out of it to take a look at the 'restart from last checkpoint' screen. It's part and parcel of the military sim experience, but that doesn't mean it's good fun and will be jarring to many gamers until they've come to terms with how the game needs to be played. Using your squad mates correctly, issuing orders to set defensive or offensive positions, and sending them to locations on the map all needs to be done if you're going to have any chance of completing a mission.
One shot to the head can be instant death, as you'd expect it to be, but you can do some running repairs to yourself and squad mates while out in the field. By equipping bandages you're able to patch up wounds to stop the bleeding, keeping you alive but not acting as a miracle health pack. There's also none of the usual 'keep out of trouble for a few moments to replenish your health' - you can hide, but you might bleed to death if you sit there doing nothing.