First Impressions: Operation Flashpoint

We take an early look at Codemasters' upcoming squad-based shooter. New screens inside.

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With the popularity of recently released squad-based shooters, it comes as no surprise that Codemasters acquired Operation Flashpoint from Prague-based developer Bohemia Interactive Studios. Operation Flashpoint places players in the role of a NATO soldier, who is sent to the Soviet Union to help Gorbachev's government fight a rebel faction controlling a remote island community. Though players start the game as a private, they can progress in rank, depending on how well they perform during missions. It's also possible to perform poorly and finish the game as a low-ranked soldier. After reaching a certain rank, players gain control over an entire squad of troops, which they can actually control by clicking on them and telling them where to go.

The first sets of missions start out with basic objectives but increase in difficulty as the game progresses. For example, one of the early missions requires players to be the lone soldier, who must infiltrate an enemy-controlled city to steal a jeep, while another puts players in a full squad that must engage the enemy head-on inside of a city. It's obvious that the development team is spending much of its time making Operation Flashpoint as realistic as possible, and since some of the team members served on Eastern Block military units, most of what players will see is an accurate representation of battle. When players are fired upon, their squad members won't automatically lock onto the enemy and begin to fire; instead, some soldiers will run around in a confused state, trying to track the enemies down. In addition, if players are squad leaders and they decide to get down on the ground, other members in their squad will follow their lead and jump down to the ground.

Battle tactics are also realistically portrayed, with soldiers carrying bazookas and firing an initial barrage of rockets in the general direction of the enemy before players engage them at close range. Once inside the towns, both the enemy and other squad members hide behind buildings and other objects to get protection from opposing fire. Even smaller details, such as accurately aiming a weapon, are incredibly realistic - for example, a small dot appears around players' crosshairs whenever they begin walking. This dot is meant to represent the actual direction that players' rifles are facing, and unless it's perfectly lined with players' crosshairs, their chances of hitting a target are very slim; but the dot does remain in the center of players' crosshairs as long as they remain still.

A large portion of Operation Flashpoint's missions takes place in vehicles. While the development team is focusing on making the game realistic, it doesn't want to make the simulation sections deep, so players can hop right into a vehicle and take off or drive away immediately. Still, while the simulation sections lack the depth of a devoted simulator game, they do have realistic physics. In one mission, players are required to pilot a Cobra gunship and attack a convoy of enemy trucks. If they charge toward the convoy too quickly, their helicopter will overshoot the target by a significant distance; so they'll have to slow down before they approach a target. They'll have access to other air-to-ground aircraft, like the A-10, in other missions.

Operation Flashpoint offers a multiplayer mode, but it was not functional at the time of its demonstration. Codemasters plans to release Operation Flashpoint in March 2001.

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