I I've never been more scared to write a review in my life. It feels like we've been pushing Flashpoint down your throats every day for the past 12 months now. What happens if it turns out to be crap? What happens if it's a bug-ridden mess, on par with the likes of Hidden & Dangerous in the potential-overimplementation stakes? We're already receiving the kind of flak over Black & White previously associated with bombing raids across war-torn Berlin - which, incidentally, we don't understand your objections to. It's a stunning piece of gaming software. We're not sure anyone really forgave us for speaking our minds over No One Lives Forever and you should see the letters we're getting from Erotica Island tans. Actually, you shouldn't. The one with the used prophylactic as proof that it worked made me come over ail queasy.
Anyway, the upshot is I've never wanted to back away from a review in all my life. You readers are starting to scare us. We can only wonder how long it will be before you actually decide to get violent in your disagreements with our reviews. The reason I'm quaking in my designer flares is because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that a percentage of you are going to disagree with my assessment of Operation Flashpoint. So in the finest tradition of all good cowards everywhere, I'm getting my retaliation in first.
I'd be very surprised if anyone reading this didn't yet know what Operation Flashpoint was. But I'm reliably informed that we have new members of the ZONE brotherhood every month so, for the final time, sit back as we put on our deep-timbre American voice and go: "Previously on Operation Flashpoint..."
The year is 1985, it's the most crucial stage of the Cold War and wouldn't you know it a rogue Communist faction led by a power-hungry Soviet General has decided to invade a series of NATO-held East European islands. Your part in the fight for global capitalism is manifold: a lowly grunt in the infantry, a tank commander, helicopter pilot, black ops saboteur, squad commander, even an A-10 pilot. During the course of the campaign you'll be fulfilling just about every role there is in the modern military, barring camp prostitute of course. Although there is a mission editor... This is because the Czech developer, Bohemia Interactive, has decided to treat us to a 'total package' military simulation. With the emphasis on simulation. If it's a vehicle and it's in the game world, you can control it. That includes helicopters, planes, tanks, trucks, jeeps, tractors, boats, parachutes and, of course, your own two feet. OK, the flight sim aspect won't be rivalling the likes of Falcon 4 or Comanche Hokum for realism, but can you name any other game that includes them all, often within the space of a single mission?
That's an important point actually - the structure of the missions. In fact, the structure of the whole game. This is a military simulation you see. This isn't a mere FPS with pretensions towards something bigger (a la Project for Counter-Strike!).
The first few missions in the campaign hammer home just how realistic the atmosphere can get. You begin as a mere private in the army. When you start you'll just be a small part of a squad, not a Hollywood-style one-man army on the lowest difficulty setting. Consequently, the only way you're likely to get through it alive is to throw away your traditional shooter instincts and actually think about your surroundings, take cover when you're being shot at and do what you're damn well told to do by your CO.
In practice it's very, very impressive the way the command system works. The level of AI on show in Flashpoint is remarkable to say the least. You'll start with your basic objectives - defend this base from approaching troops, take ttie village square and so on - but once in the game your squad's commander will assess the situation and bark out orders depending on where you and your buddies are, where the enemy is and where other supporting forces might be. Since this is totally reactive to the in-game dynamics (as well as being true for all NPCs, enemy included) every time you retry a mission it truly feels different to before. Of course the fun magnifies once you've risen high enough to take command yourself and you're the one barking out orders, but whatever your rank, the impression of being in a real war zone where chaos reigns supreme is as close to perfect as it's likely to get. In fact, this is so true to life that it has apparently provoked the interest of the real US military for use in training purposes. Which has to be better for the world than training them up on Doom.
Now doesn't all that sound good? Exactly. That's been our attitude towards Flashpoint since we first heard about it: "What, you mean you run around on foot, drive a tank, hop into a jeep and ride in the back of a transport helicopter? All in the same mission? Gnarty." (We first heard about it a long time ago and certain phrases have since fallen out of fashion with the 'kidz'.) That was the other point I wanted to make. The way that the multi-vehicle aspect isn't just a gimmick. You don't spend one level on foot, one level in a jeep, one level in a tank, one level in an Apache gunship and so on. The best way to demonstrate how complex and diverse the game can become is to simply describe a sample mission.
We're pulling out of an island due to overwhelming Russian forces. I'm riding in a Colonel's jeep who's describing the desperate nature of the situation. We pull up in a small town where US troops are boarding transports to take them to the evacuation point. The Colonel tells me to get out of the jeep, get into a truck and drive one of the squads to safety. I hop out, run over and climb in the driver's seat, the others boarding in the back. As we drive off, a radio report comes in of fighting to the west, so I'm ordered to investigate. I leave the convoy and drive my squad towards the noise. We hear fighting so we leave the obvious target of the truck, get out and charge forward on foot. Suddenly we're in a pitched battle with Russian troops and civilian resistance members.
The other thing that helps is that the playing area isn't contained. Like IGI, Flashpoint has huge go-anywhere landscapes. Unlike IGI, these aren't simply randomly generated, unpopulated mountains. If I'd wanted to, for instance, I could have driven the truck several miles to the south of the fighting, got out, and snuck up on the enemy from the cover of a forest. Each island is completely simulated in every mission. You probably won't want to go exploring but there's nothing to stop you grabbing an unlocked car and heading off anyway.
Why Oh Why Oh Why?
This sounds like the greatest game ever to grace the PC world doesn't it? So why am I convinced that some of you are going to hate it and think I'm a lying scumbag in the pocket of the publishers due to the exclusive tag on our review? Here's why. It doesn't look finished.
I think it's safe to say that Operation Flashpoint is perhaps the most under-polished-looking game that we've seen in a long time. Codemasters has done its best to paper over the cracks and amend the more obvious things. Initially the 3D models all had movement routines that made them look like Parkinson's Disease sufferers when they were standing still, and had the kind of bent wrists that you'll only see on late-night Channel Four chat shows - but it's still a rough game in many places.
You'll probably wonder why a couple of sections of road seem to hover a foot or two above the ground. You'll be curious as to why the sound volume goes up and down during cut-scenes. You'll ask yourselves why the player seems to board a boat from about 50ft away when he was previously standing right next to it. You'll question why there are so few multiplayer missions, or why some of the order commands don't work correctly, or why disappear when you go inside a targeting enemies in tanks is only house. And so on.
possible from certain views, or It's likely that the problems why the doorways sometimes Flashpoint has will anger many of you in the same way the bugs in Hidden & Dangerous ctod. Here's my response. Are you ready? I don't care.
As far as I'm concerned, the positives in Flashpoint far outweigh the negatives -especially considering that the positives are pretty much everything about the gameplay and the negatives are little more than cosmetic niceties. Flashpoint may well be the most underpolished game we've seen, but it's also one of the most ambitious and - if you've come to know anything during your 100-plus issues with us (other than our love of daffodils and Moira Stuart) - it's that we prize ambition over all else in our gaming treats. Set your sights high and you'll earn our respect. Flashpoint has aimed very high indeed and, for the most part, has hit its targets.
Hail To The Chimp
Mentioning H&D is perhaps the best way to sum up why Flashpoint has received a good review. Despite all of the A! problems, bugs, holes in the floor and texture clipping that the squad-based WWII thinker-shooter had (these genre classifications are becoming more and more specific every day), it kept you coming back, time and again, because it was SDP (So Damn Playable). The same is true of Operation Flashpoint I can live with the problems because I keep wanting to come back to it. Some of you will hate the multiplayer side of the game but I think it has the potential to be huge (see side panel). If you think there aren't enough missions in the game, the mission editor provides you with all you need to keep going (see other side panel).
Some of you will hate it, there's no getting around that. Most of you, hopefully, will become as absorbed by the atmosphere, engrossed by the gameplay and impressed by the ambition as we are. Try the demo on last month's CD for a sample. Flashpoint deserves your attention, a real contender for Game Of The Year if ever there was one.
Command friends and influence people military-style.
For most people there's only one online team-combat game of choice Lucidly Flashpoint seems to cater for those of us whose Counter-Strike skills weren't honed by years of Quake and Doom training. Multiplayer Flashpoint is all about discipline and restraint You don't go in all guns blazing because you will die. You take cover, you follow your Commander's orders, you jump In a tank If there's one available Although the game only comes with a bare handful of missions (and only a couple of those are really proper co-op battles) there are already more than 100 online clans waiting to enter the field of battle We'll go into depth in our online section In a month or two.
Download Operation Flashpoint
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Operation Flashpoint Screenshots and Media
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