Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis
|a game by||Bohemia Interactive|
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And so it continued in a similar vein for several hours. We took delivery of the preview beta code several weeks ago and to say we were a little bit excited is akin to saying James Brown is a little bit funky. But what's surprising is how people have reacted to actually playing the game. Those of us for whom Flashpoint has been some kind of Holy Grail seem to have taken to it with the appropriate levels of reverence. It's looking like it will fulfil our dreams of military simulation perfectly. But others have been put off by the seemingly complex nature of the game. Counter-Strike already provides them with realistic-looking military ops, but it plays in a more immediate (and therefore fun) manner. That's the first test that developer Bohemia will have to pass, convincing the Rambo brigade to slow down and think their way through a scenario for a change. This is not likely to be a pick-up-and-play, instant-gratification kind of a game. It's a tactical simulator. Play it like an arcade game - gung-ho guns-ablaze do-or-die over-the-top Boys-Own stuff - and you'll spend most of the time looking at the historical quotes that accompany each death scene.
I'm not going to waste time going over the background once again, bar the following condensed version for you Johnny-come-latelies. Cold War... infantry simulation... NATO vs Russia... real army tactics... multirole... vehicles, tanks and helicopters... advanced AI and tactical engine... multiplayer... made in Czech Republic. By far the biggest test is the AI engine and from what we're seeing here, it's very impressive indeed. Soldiers seem to run around, taking cover and hitting the deck when the shooting starts, following orders (and, impressively, giving them out in the middle of ever-changing tactical situations). Significantly better titan the A1 seen in the multiplayer co-op modes anyway, but that's more down to our lack of tactical nous than any problems with the game. If Bohemia can get the promised voice-over Net software working properly, and you can find players who are willing to take orders rather than the anarchistic, good for nothings that litter, then this could be a big hit online.
Other Flashpoint promises are also looking good. The multi-vehicle aspect seems to work well, with tanks proving an especially good laugh in multiplayer mode. The great thing is vehicles aren't just thrown in willy-nilly. In the early campaign missions, as you are still working your way through the ranks, you'll do little more than ride in the back of trucks or transport choppers. As you progress, you'll find yourself taking jeeps for a spin or stealing civilian cars to get out from behind enemy lines. Then there are the combat helicopters that you train up and eventually pilot. But it never feels gratuitous. You never think, 'this is just a jeep mission', 'this is just a tank mission...' All of which is testament to how adaptable the mission editor that comes packed with the game is (see side panel) and how well Bohemia seem to be using it. Missions feel suitably grand in scale. The confusion of war is impressively realised, something of an all-important first for a game of this type.
Having said all that, let us inject a note of caution if we may. Impressive as the concept, thought, AI engine and technical content is, it's crucial that Bohemia polish the title immensely before they release it. Granted, all we've seen is early preview code, but given just how good Flashpoint has the potential to be, it would be a crime against life itself if the imminent release schedule forces the Czech group to cut comers now. We're not talking about fancy front ends or FMV sequences here. What we mean is how the game hangs together. Making the gameplay run in a fluid, enjoyable nature. Our advice, assuming Bohemia are paying any attention to us, is to let its publishers, Codemasters, take a hands-on role in the final stages, relying on its already proven talent in this field to give us the game Flashpoint deserves to be. If we have another Hidden & Dangerous, potential-overimplementation deal here, then there really is no justice in the world.