I'm going to start with a rant, just a teeny one, sure this game might have a few bugs here and there, but what game doesn't? Black and White was so hellishly bugged on Land 5 it caused serious problems. But Flashpoint's bugs are not world shattering ones that break the game and they'll be fixed, I'm completely certain of that. Anyways I just wanted to let you the Gamer know that the real deal is Flashpoint has a certain amount of style and a wealth of game play for a tactical Soldier sim that I have never seen in another game.
Operation Flashpoint I would describe as a ground breaking game, it presents us with a new and fresh look at the world of army games, Sim or FPS or otherwise, it's hard to categorise OFP from the start because it has so many elements attached to it that it's hard to keep track of them in the review.
I'd like to call OFP a Complete Army Simulator, because it offers us several things that other games don't give, for one it gives us a First Person Shooter combined with a Sim that uses Squad Level commands. What does this mean to the layman or woman it means that dear reader, this Wolf is in heaven. Seriously though it also means you can drive/fly/ride just about anything in the game and have complete freedom of movement. You can command your own squads of soldiers or take daring single missions on your own over a large map miles and miles across. You can do the shooting in first or third person with complete control over the camera, drooling over the animation and the detail on the various weapons and vehicles. It's been said before in my preview BI really know their stuff.
The game play and interface is pretty simple and becomes almost second nature once you master it, the controls are well thought out and easy to get to in a fire fight, and trust me in OFP you'll be more than your fair share of them, but don't treat this like Quake III or Unreal Tournament. You do and you're dead. Because in this game the AI has some pretty nasty tricks and seems all too real at times. It uses tactics and utilises cover, retreats and even calls in assistance from its chosen squad or allies. You see an AI Soldier heft a hand grenade, run like hell because chances are you'll be seeing those words we dread. You are Dead.
Ok so in my usual style let's examine what you get for your money be it £'s or $'s, well personally I think you get a hell of a lot, the game is the first of its kind to offer episodic upgrades as the months roll by, OFP is being added to, with new vehicles and maps, missions, skins, faces, you name it and it's being added. Now that's last ability. OFP comes with a fully fledged and superbly executed Single Player Campaign, Single Player Missions and of course Multiplayer action. But it also comes with a built in and very powerful mission editor.
It's the same tool BI used to make OFP and it supports all the things that you can do with the Campaign, with it you can make cut scenes and you can make the vehicles and AI troops do all manner of cool things, I couldn't cover it all, but for my limited experience in the editor I've been able to construct a map that has a Truck pull into a base, unload soldiers who then wait for a Helicopter to land, the chopper waits for them, and you to get in, it then bugs out and picks up some more troops from six miles away, ferries you all to the drop zone and drops you off. It leaves, and as soon as you move forwards an Enemy Heli appears in a cut scene heading to the Village you're trying to suppress. And it's fairly easy to do in the Editor. BI are working on a set of more comprehensive docs for release soon. But not many games come with such a powerful and fairly easy (Once you get the hang of a few concepts) to use tool like this. And I take my hat off to BI for including it, because it increases the amount of replayability in the game. It allows you to make SP or MP missions for you or your friends and the mission sizes are very small thanks to BI's pbo compression technology.
Let's break this down into sections though.
Briefly touched on up there, so I'll elaborate a little more here. OFP's Game play is on foot or in one of the many vehicles in the game, in first or third person. You control your soldier through the mouse/keyboard combination and the WASD keys, I used to hate this method myself but since OFP I've grown to adore it.
You can move with complete freedom of movement and take up crouched, prone or standing/walking positions. Nope it doesn't stop there, you can put your gun on your back, sit down and even salute. Now that's interaction and marks another nice touch to OFP again. This shows that BI care for the enjoyment of the fans. When you get into a vehicle, you get in; the dashboard works the altimeter works and the whole gamut of gauges and dials work. This is a true enthusiasts dream and adds a much-added feeling of eye candy coupled with being there. Inside the vehicles the interiors are as richly detailed as the exteriors, with people actually showing up in seats and cargo spaces. There are so many nice touches it's hard to get a handle on just one. Press the view sight key while in a gunnery position on a tank and you get the authentic sight, do it while holding a H&K Mp5 and the view of the iron-sight appears allowing you to target realistically. That's the key here, close to real.
There are a number of roles you can take on during OFP from Sniper to Spec Ops, from Spec Ops to Engineer or officer and they all are pretty much realistically implemented. You can check them out in the Editor too and see what kind of gear you might get. BI have taken great pains to make the whole OFP fun as hell and I have to agree with my peers mostly who have given this game good reviews because it's close to perfect in my eyes as to what it sets out to achieve.
Later on in the game you're able to order your troops around and get them in and out of vehicles. APC's, Helicopters and other things.
OFP comes complete with a map and a watch and compass for when you're playing on Veteran Mode, this mode is the most challenging because there are no on-screen hints to find your target or waypoint markers, you use the map and your eyes/compass. Highly original and fun if a little frustrating.
For those of us who can't hack that we have Cadet mode, with lots of markers and pointers. Which eases new players into the game. I'll tell you now OFP is complex in that it might take a while to get used to the level of interactivity and it might take a while to learn some of the commands on the order menu. You'll probably be shot like I was ogling the Graphics.
Talking of these:
Graphics in OFP, now I have heard a lot of people ripping into the GFX engine but let's look at this for a moment folks, does it say that they're supposed to be the latest in jaw dropping and sparky with lots of direct x whistles and bells GFX, or are they supposed to be gritty green/brown warlike real looking GFX? Put the detail on Max and wham up the res and look at the sky in some of the missions, tell me it doesn't look wonderful and I'll get my M21 and come around to show you the error of your ways. Just kidding, but you get my point I hope? Use Hardware T&L and you'll like the results.
The soldiers are textured nicely, their faces look pretty damn impressive, they blink, they smile they look angry they look sad, they even fidget, what more do you want? They could go take a leak I suppose if you really really want them to. Actually now I have said that I challenge anyone with editing skills to come up with a picture from OFP of that particular scene, or better still a cut scene in game.
What's more they will fidget while in the bays and passenger seats of the vehicles, looking at each other and you. It's great.
The vehicles themselves are really detailed, smoke billows from the exhausts and dust from the tracks, but the textures really stand out, looking at them under high res you'd think that they were real. You can see in through the cockpit glass of a AH-1 Helicopter and see the pilot and gunner with crystal clarity. Also while I'm talking GFX I'll mention the animation, that's top notch too, the running, crawling, kneeling motions are captured extremely well with only a few minor glitches at times, but they're hardly noticeable. Friendly AI and Enemy AI use all the ranges of movement I've seen and use them at the right time, crawling into cover and kneeling to pop off a shot.
OFP's Ai is probably some of the best AI I have seen in a game of this kind or a FPS in a while, they are sometimes frighteningly realistic in their reactions to your approach and tactics, you can open fire at a sentry only to find his friends circle around your position while you're engaged in keeping out of the line of fire. Next thing, there's gunfire and hand grenades. Often you can use the Editor to set up mock battles and watch them unfold. It's another fun thing to do. Buddy AI is of a similar high quality and very rarely makes mistakes.
OFP's sound from the gorgeous and from the sweeping music to the radio chatter, order voices, pain screams and gunfire it's all done in a top quality way, crisp and clear with hardly a stutter. It adds to the atmosphere and gives you the advanced feeling of being there, there's nothing quite as scary as hearing the sound of a tank hammering a knock knock on your APC. Apart from it hitting that is.
To sum up OFP is a great game, one that deserves to do well, it's hard and it's a challenge and it has a few bugs here and there. None of them are game breakers though. If you're into tactical Delta Force or Rainbow Six style games but want a whole lot more then you can't do any better than Operation Flashpoint.
Now I'm off to go and kick some ass with my AH-1 Cobra, Hasta La Vista and all that.