LOS ANGELES--Bohemia Interactive made quite a splash in 2001 with Operation Flashpoint, a military-themed first-person shooter that had an incredibly unique take on the genre. Rather than blasting through level after level, Flashpoint put you on the ground on a virtual island that was more than 100 square kilometers in size and tasked you to carry out a series of missions (on foot or in vehicles) to defeat the enemy. It was incredibly immersive and very cool. Unfortunately, Bohemia had a falling out with publisher Codemasters, but now we get to talk about Armed Assault, a game that for all essential purposes is the sequel to Operation Flashpoint, though we should point out that it's an entirely new franchise and a new setting.
Armed Assault is a modern-day, military-themed game that's set on a fictional island that's split in two. The northern part of the island is a totalitarian dictatorship that is equipped with Soviet bloc weapons and equipment, while the southern part of the island is a democratic nation that's allied to the United States. (Shades of the Korea peninsula, anyone?) The US military has deployed trainers and advisers to help train the south's military, but when war erupts, it'll be up to you to help turn the tide and win the war.
The island in Armed Assault is quite a bit larger than the one in Operation Flashpoint, and the campaign will have approximately 20 missions spread out across the map. We're told that 12 of these missions will be critical to the plot, with the remainder being side missions that you can pursue to make the main plot missions a bit easier to accomplish. The cool thing now is that you get to choose what you do next, as you'll have a map of the island and a list of what missions are available to you.
If you played Operation Flashpoint, then you know that these missions can be downright huge in scale, covering multiple kilometers. As before, you have a variety of vehicles at your disposal, ranging from Cobra gunships to M1 tanks, as well as a number of other vehicles from the US arsenal. Or, you can always hoof it on foot as an infantryman. The good news is that in Armed Assault, you'll now be able to switch to different troops in your squad (in Operation Flashpoint you were always limited to the central character of the mission). We got a chance to see this in action, as the US troops mounted an assault on an enemy-held town. The demonstrator showed us the M1s in action and then switched to a sniper on a distance hill, picking off enemy troops hiding in town. And for those of you with nightmares of Operation Flashpoint's difficulty (you only had one save game per mission, and since missions easily took more than an hour each, that led to a lot of frustration), the good news is that it sounds like there are a lot more autosave points in Armed Assault.
Multiplayer sounds pretty cool, as well. There will be cooperative support for two players, at least. And if you're looking for more conflict against your fellow humans, there's a capture-the-island mode that takes place on the entire island. What's really impressive is that we're told that there's basically no limit to how many players can jump in this mode, so you can have huge teams battling for strategic points on the vast island. Think Battlefield 2 but on an incredible scale. If that's the case, then we're definitely going to keep an eye out for Armed Assault. The game is scheduled to launch in the third quarter of the year, though Bohemia is still looking for a North American publisher.