After the lack of leaning, one of this game's most exasperating flaws is the way corpses disappear. There you are ready to scavenge a nice Chinese QBZ95M assault rifle or 67-II LMG to replace your ammo-less M16A4 (weapon models and animations are beautiful throughout) when all of a sudden the body you're jogging towards disappears into thin air. It doesn't happen every time and most battlespaces are liberally scattered with weapon crates, but it's not the sort of nonsense you expect from a serious squaddy sim.

And talking of things I really didn't expect to see in Dragon Rising, it's probably time to mention the game's creaky peer-to-peer multiplayer. For a title that supports 32-player mayhem and has potentially massive clan appeal, the current absence of dedicated server code is downright baffling [tell that to Infinity Ward - Ed]. I've just fled from a worst-case session in which opening doors, switching weapons, and operating vehicles was nigh-on impossible thanks to lag. Without a server support patch, some anti-hack protection, and, ideally, the ability to join games already in progress, the future for multiplay looks bleak, which is a shame because there's definitely promise there.

Co-op allows you to take-on the campaign in the company of up to three mates, Annihilation is a no-nonsense team mode in which two sides grapple over a strategic location like a bridge or village, and Infiltration - arguably the most interesting form of off-the-shelf MP - casts one small group of combatants as spec-ops attackers, the rest as defending grunts.

Whatever the mode, your role and load-out depend on the squad slot you grab before the action commences. Fancy eviscerating tanks and reducing houses to smoking ruins with a single trigger squeeze? Go AT gunner. Want to feel the love of your fellow team-members radiating from your screen? Go medic. I think the most fun I've had is playing a defensive engineer in Infiltration mode. Step 1: Grab a buggy at the spawn point and race down to the objective. Step 2: Scamper around sowing land mines in likely avenues of approach. Step 3: Take up overwatch position and await satisfying crump of unexpectedly airborne spec-ops foes.

4
No fixed-wing flying machines, sadly.

Bizarrely, without multiplay or editor experimentation, you won't get to experience many of the best vehicles in the game. The Codies transport department has done a splendid job of building a fleet of helos, jeeps and armoured vehicles only to be shafted by the folk responsible for the campaign. Apart from the odd Humvee or jeep ride, the story segment is completely devoid of vehicular thrills. I waited patiently for the mission that would put me in an Abrams tank or missile-spitting Cobra attack helicopter, or encourage me to half-inch a civilian car, bus or tractor. It never came.

The ridiculous thing about this self-enforced driving ban is vehicles are one of Dragon Rising's best-executed features. They are certainly friendlier and more convincing than their ArmA II equivalents. Being underpinned by Havok physics probably has a hand in that. You certainly notice the middleware when you're sliding around Skira in a Joint Ops-style dune buggy, or attempting to land a helo on uneven ground.

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