Operation Flashpoint 2 E3 2005 Hands-On Impressions

We sit down with Bohemia Interactive to find out what's going on with the sequel to its critically acclaimed military shooter.

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As of right now, Bohemia Interactive's latest PC project exists in something of a state of flux. Designed to be the sequel to the excellent 2001 military shooter, Operation Flashpoint, the game that would be Operation Flashpoint 2 is currently without a US publisher or official release date. The reason? Codemasters, Operation Flashpoint's publisher, still owns the franchise name, and currently Bohemia is engaged in something of a struggle with Codemasters over the game's release. However, undeterred, Bohemia is championing ahead with the project, and even if it has to call it something else, it'll find a way to get the game out. In a small meeting room at E3 2005, Bohemia gave us a look at what we'll call Operation Flashpoint 2.

The original Flashpoint was an interesting game in that its gameplay took a realistic approach. Battles were largely squad-based, and combat generally took place over long distances, with lots of carefully placed shots, rather than the kind of fast-paced, run-and-gun shooting found in many modern-day shooters. For those who enjoy this brand of shooting gameplay, Operation Flashpoint 2 seems like it won't disappoint. We were shown a few different battle scenarios, and the mechanics seemed to work very much the same. One new aspect to battles is the sheer number of units that will be available onscreen during the game. Battlefields will be around 400 square kilometers in size, and hundreds of soldiers and vehicles will be able to coexist on them. One example of this was shown to us, and it was quite impressive watching huge groups of allied soldiers march across a battlefield with tanks and other vehicles following along.

Whereas the original Flashpoint took place in 1985 during Cold War operations, Flashpoint 2 will take place during a fictional near-future conflict in the year 2010. You'll be able to play in three different areas, including Southeast Asia, Central Europe, and Africa, and you'll play as three different soldier types during each section of the game, including a Marine Corps solider, a US Army officer, and a Special Ops operative. As you play the game, you'll be able to upgrade your squads and soldiers through what Bohemia refers to as something of an RPG-like leveling system. In another nod to RPGs, you'll also be able to chat it up in real time with non-player character allies and learn valuable intel from them.

Obviously, a big draw for Flashpoint 2 will be its improved visuals. The first Flashpoint was a good-looking game for its time, but the dedicated fans of the series are likely looking forward to what Bohemia can do with current-generation PC technology. A big part of the visual upgrade is the damage modeling, which is fully dynamic across the many set pieces you'll find on the battlefield. The developers showed us one example, where when driving a tank, a nearby building was targeted and fired upon. The first hit did a little damage, but nothing too devastating. The next hit took a big chunk out of it, and the third one practically eradicated it. The developers state that no two explosions will look quite the same, as the debris will always fall dynamically. This, coupled with the huge number of units onscreen at once and the generally upgraded soldier models and environmental designs, should prove to be a big upgrade from the first game.

Of course, Flashpoint 2 will feature online multiplayer. Bohemia wasn't able to provide exact details of what kinds of modes or how many players you'll be able to compete with or against, but it stated that it plans to make the multiplayer a big part of the game and will try to squeeze in as many players as it possibly can. One notable improvement over the original Flashpoint's multiplayer is that in this game you'll be able to join battles in progress. In the first Flashpoint, you had to wait for an open server or sit in the chat lobby waiting for your friends to finish. That won't be the case here.

Another thing that Bohemia wanted to emphasize was that it recognizes and appreciates the fan communities that have developed from Flashpoint and its expansion packs. While not the biggest game in the US, the game certainly had its fans here, and internationally, Flashpoint developed a big mod community. Flashpoint 2 will once again include a robust map editor for committed players to mess around with, and like it did with the first game, Bohemia fully intends to support the game with new content long after its release.

The cloud that currently sits over Operation Flashpoint 2's release possibilities is certainly unfortunate, but Bohemia seems thoroughly undeterred by the situation. One way or another, it fully intends to release the game, so you won't have to worry about the company just giving up on the project. While the demo we were shown had some rough edges, we're excited about the prospects that this shooter holds. We can only hope that Bohemia's gung-ho attitude continues and that it keeps hammering away on the game and gets it a North American release. We'll be sure to bring you more on Operation Flashpoint 2 in the near future.

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