As a thoroughly realistic military shooter, it achieves everything it sets out to achieve. But next to the brash set-pieces of Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare, it feels sterile without the smoke and mirrors. Be assured though, if it's realism you seek, Operation Flashpoint will gratefully satisfy your military needs.

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is frightening from a number of angles. Most notably, the harsh reality of war. Having been cleansed by the belief that all soldiers have regenerating health for years, it's quite frightening to turn around, see an enemy and watch the screen fade to black. This is real life, and real life is frighteningly difficult.

Operation Flashpoint puts you in the shoes of one man in a four-person squadron. You're a part of the US army, taking on the Chinese in an effort to free Russia. A flashy introduction movie sets the scene, drawing on real-life military conflicts to develop a near future showdown. The single-player campaign is set across 11 blisteringly large maps, whereby objectives will have you trekking the landscape and earning your worth in a much greater scale of battle.

The scale is one of Flashpoint's down-points. While the back of the game's box uses the "35 mile draw distance" as a selling point — you'll come to wish it weren't so. Running the length of the map to the next objective may be the reality of real life military action — but it quickly becomes tiresome here. It doesn't help that the maps are so graphically sparse also. While everything looks nice from a distance, closing in on plants and shrubbery is far from a visual treat, with jagged, low textures sticking out like a sore thumb against generally pretty background vistas.

Given the size of the maps - and the layout of opposing forces - you'll need to work carefully with your four man squad to effectively take them out. Hitting the R1 button brings up a radial menu which can be used to assign troop layout and position. It can be cumbersome but, most importantly, it gets the job done; giving an almost strategy element to proceedings. It's worth noting that when you do successfully pull off a well thought-out maneuver, you'll feel incredibly fulfilled.

Alas, those moments are few and far inbetween as death is something you'll come acquainted to in Operation Flashpoint. While the easier difficulty (and that's "Normal" by the way, there's no "Easy" here) plots targets on a compass at the top of the screen, you're never given indication of distance, meaning you'll constantly be scouting the area for enemy position, without giving yourself away. If you're used to the Call Of Duty style barge in and shoot everything style of gameplay, you'll find yourself on the floor in seconds. Everything takes planning in Flashpoint, even down to the slow laborious task of changing weapons.


And yet while that won't be to everyone's tastes, we're certain there are people reading this review thinking Operation Flashpoint is exactly the game they've been looking for. People like racing simulation, why not military simulation? It's a niche that Codemasters are targeting, and those with the interest and patience will be well served here.