Operation Flashpoint E3 2005 Hands-On Impressions
The Xbox version of Bohemia's cult hit PC shooter is still in development. We take a hands-on look at E3 2005.
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During our time spent at Bohemia Interactive's E3 2005 meeting room, we were shown a demo of the upcoming Xbox version of its military-themed PC shooter from 2001, Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis. Like the developer's other project, the PC sequel to Flashpoint, Flashpoint for the Xbox exists in a state of limbo while the developer deals with some legal struggles with current publisher Codemasters. And again, like with the PC project, Bohemia continues to work on Flashpoint for the Xbox undeterred.
On the PC, Operation Flashpoint was a realistically designed military shooter set in 1985, during the Cold War conflict. You played the game as multiple soldiers stationed on an island in the North Atlantic, which was then invaded by Soviet forces. The island itself was the entire scope of the game's battlefields, and despite the fact that it was more than 200 square kilometers in size, you could travel anywhere on the island during a mission, assuming, of course, you could actually survive that long against enemy forces. Flashpoint required a precise style of gameplay that involved careful shooting over large distances--far more realistic than the typical run-and-gun shooters found nowadays. Though the game's singular focus on realistic tactics polarized some audiences, the game found a cult following here in the US, and it was actually quite successful abroad.
OK, so enough of the history lesson. What you want to know is how the game stacks up on the Xbox. Many of the changes made to the game are minor fixes for issues in the PC game, such as fixes for collision issues, better-looking environmental vegetation and background ambience, and some slight shifts in weapon balancing, such as fixing it so the Americans rightly throw timed grenades rather than the impact grenades, which the Russians now throw. One big change is that pretty much all the content from the Operation Flashpoint: Resistance expansion pack should be included in the game, making for what the developers call roughly two to three games' worth of content in one package. Full Xbox Live support will be included, complete with competitive and cooperative multiplayer, tracked statistics across all multiplayer games, and downloadable content. Even better, you'll be able to create your own multiplayer missions within the game and upload them to play with your friends.
Now, with all of that said, there were areas of the game that didn't really sit well with us, namely the graphics. Bohemia is doing its best to upgrade the basic visuals of the game by including higher-resolution soldier models and doing what it can to the environments to up the quality. Unfortunately, because this is an Xbox game, the resolution has been lowered somewhat, and in some cases, the engagement distances during battles have been lowered to accommodate this. The new models are certainly better than the crusty models found in the PC game, but even still, what we've seen of Flashpoint's visuals in the Xbox version has left something of a sour taste in our mouths. We know that this game was originally released in 2001, and in that regard, Bohemia does seem to be making strides in improving the visuals, but compared to much of what's out on the Xbox currently, the graphics just don't look like they measure up.
Fortunately, graphics aren't everything, and during our time spent playing the game and checking out the scope of the demo, we came away pleased with how the rest of the game is progressing. Should Bohemia get its publishing issues out of the way and bring the game to the US, we expect it to provide another enjoyable tactical shooting experience for the Xbox. While we're skeptical about how well it will be received by the Xbox audience, simply because of how old a game it is and how many other military shooters there are already on the console, Flashpoint really does seem different enough to justify its existence on the console, and we hope it gets its retail release. We'll bring you more on Operation Flashpoint for the Xbox soon.