Name: Operation Flashpoint
Developer: Bohemia Interactive Studio's
Price: £29.99
Min System Spec: PII400 64mb Ram 3-D Card
Recommended System Spec: PIII600 128Ram 32mb 3-D card
Official Web Site http://www.flashpoint1985.com
Reviewed By: Fugue & Mack

Operation Flashpoint: Cold war crisis.

We haven't been looking forward to reviewing Flashpoint, mainly because it's hard to know where to start. So we have split the whole thing into very legible (we hope) sections and will give you as always a guide to the game from a H&D fans perspective, this is after all why we are here.

So what is it? (As if you didn't already know), a FPS? Well no, a Tank Sim? er not exactly. A Flight Sim? well yes, but no not really. It is in fact all three bundled together into one of the most ambitious wargames ever conceived, does it succeed? Well read on and find out.

The Story.

The year is 1985 and a bunch of heavily armed Russians from a rogue communist faction have invaded a group of NATO controlled East European islands. Your task is simple, use all the available resources to beat back the pesky Ruskies and be the all-conquering hero.

Sounds easy? Think again! Czech developers Bohemia Interactive have created a monster of a game that breaks new ground in military sims, at its simplest the game is a squad based first/third person shooter. But this game has a twist, namely you have at your disposal a mass of different vehicles and aircraft, all of which can be commandeered and used to take you into battle and blow the enemy to kingdom come. That's it in a nutshell, but we wouldn't be doing the game any justice without more details so here comes the waffle.

Game Structure.

Well this is pretty standard really; the game was shipped with 11 Single missions ranging from special ops demolition jobs to Helicopter/Tank attacks and a campaign. Also included are 5 multiplayer missions, but more on that later. Sadly there is no option to play as either side in the campaign, so you start your career as a lowly American Corporal in a small unit.

To help you get around the map available during the briefing can be called up at any point and displays objectives, visible targets etc. A compass and watch (should you need the time) can be popped up on screen but unfortunately a bug renders these useless and can only be used again by restarting.

So the campaign, well missions basically consist of following your commander, shoot at the enemy, attack/defend/blow up something and don't die. Well maybe that's a bit over simplified, so here's a rundown of one mission which will give you an idea of the scale of the game.

Objective 1, attack a village getting past patrols then destroy a AAA unit stationed there. Objective 2, Attack another village getting past more patrols then destroy a second AAA unit. Objective 3, Run for cover when enemy armour arrives on the scene and wait while AH1 Cobra Helicopters blast them with rockets and machine guns. Objective 4 hold the village when even more troops arrive.

The player can only save missions at one point, so you need to pick your moment carefully. At certain points the retry position gets updated so with a bit of caution you can effectively restart at two points but this is best not relied upon.

In between these all action battles are cutscenes (using the game engine) which help the story along, and some "no action" missions where you meet so and so and take something back to HQ etc. However if there is one thing missing from the story its continuity, just as you get into your role as Corporal Armstrong you are magically teleported into the body of a tank commander. Two missions later you jump into the body a special ops commando, then back to Corporal Armstrong again who is now a Lieutenant in charge of his own squad. Eh? Ok the variation is nice but it kind of spoils the flow of the story.

Models: Vehicles/Soldiers

All the vehicles in OFP are very detailed, the weapons are a bit disappointing in 1st person view (very reminiscent of the Delta Force games) but still look quite good. Tanks/APC's and aircraft are all excellent, all move quite realistically and watching Cobra helicopter gunships attacking tanks etc is a treat. Controlling them however is another matter.

Overall driving around in a vehicle is not too bad, the controls are a little bit twitchy compared to H&D. As for the aircraft well all we can say is they will test the most battle hardened virtual pilot. The lack of joystick support in the full version is a bit strange; it's a shame because the controls take most of the fun out of flying the aircraft. Be prepared to put in some serious practice.

The vehicle physics are a mixed bag, hit an enemy tank with a Sabot round or RPG and it will jump/rock then skid about, very good. Hit a light vehicle however and you could watch it leap 100 ft high then spend 30 seconds bouncing around. There are reports of mid air collisions leaving both parties untouched and helicopters landing on their rotors only to get airborne again. This really needs some more work. Tanks etc have a damage indicator which tells you when to run for cover, with support trucks nearby a blackened tank can be fixed fairly quickly. For some strange reason driving a tank into (shallow) water will cause it to self-destruct. On the whole I found driving around in tanks far less satisfying than running around on foot, however watching a bunch of M1A1 Abrams MBT's going into battle is very impressive.

The soldiers are nicely animated though look a little blocky, faces are pretty featureless (but then you will be spending most of your time looking through your sights). Stance options are the familiar Stand/crouch/prone with the added ability to sprint as well as run. The movements look ok, some enemies/team-mates when sprinting look a little odd, almost speeded up but on the whole its pretty good. Gore effects are by modern standards pretty tame, no flying limbs or sprays of blood, just some very red corpses lying around.

As with the vehicles men can be patched up by a medic, it works better than the demo (the AI seems better) and plays an important role in staying alive long enough to finish a mission.

The Weapons.

No huge range of weaponry to chose from here, equipment is assigned to you and your team before you go. Standard US weapons include M16/M16+ 203 grenade launcher, M60 machine gun, HK MP5S, hand grenades and sniper rifles. Demolition charges/binoculars etc are available in some but not all missions.

The Russians have equivalents e.g. AK47 that can be harvested from dead bodies. Heavy weapons include LAW's, RPG's etc for engaging armour. Only one main weapon can be carried at a time although LAW's and RPG's can be slung on shoulders with light weapons in hands.

Now the interesting bits, also at your disposal are Tanks; M1A1 Abrams & M60 Patton. APC's; M113 and a variety of jeeps and trucks. The Russians are no lightweights with T72/T80 and T55 Tanks plus BMP-1 APC's and ZSU-23 Shilka AAA guns.

If you get tired of ground warfare then you have the option of taking to the air in AH1- Cobra/ UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters or the formidable A-10 Thunderbolt. On the Russian side are Mi-24 Hinds and Mi-17 Helicopters but no aircraft. All can be steered from either perspective but in general 3rd person is better for getting around and keeping an eye on what is going on.

As an infantryman you have several view options, a 1st / 3rd person view which allows fairly accurate aiming aided in both views by a right mouse button zoom function. However the designers have added a third option which switches to an "in weapon" sight only view, this allows very accurate aiming and enables special sights on LAW's and sniper rifles.

Grenades are aimed using a small circle, which frankly seems to give little indication as to where the thing will actually land; it's a shame because it seemed to work well in the demo. (Or maybe I just need more practice

 

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