Genre: FPS, simulation
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Release Date: October 3, 2005
The first thing I noticed when the fine developers at Bohemian sat down with me to demo Operation Flashpoint was that the graphics were… to put it kindly, not exactly cutting edge. In fact, they looked like just what they are, a port of low-power PC graphics from 2001. Given how many polys the Xbox can push, it was an initially disconcerting sight.
Seeing a bit more of the game started putting the graphics into perspective, though. Flashpoint is the rare Xbox title that isn’t interested in focusing on flashy visuals, or even on visuals that are anything but purely functional. The real meat of Flashpoint is in the incredibly sophisticated game engine, and in all the boggling gameplay options it leaves at the player’s disposal.
Cold War Crisis is essentially a port of the original Operation Flashpoint and its Resistance expansion for the PC. The original game rapidly built up an active community of die-hard fans, who keep writing mods and playing online with each other to this day. While the single-player campaign was praised at the time, it was really the fan-created content and the multiplayer that kept the game’s fans so loyal. The Xbox was a natural choice for the console port of the classic, as the Live service would provide the kind of multiplayer support the game needed. Still, it’s a testament to the complexity of the original Operation Flashpoint that Bohemian’s developers noted that some aspects of the original engine had to be trimmed down and simplified in order to make the game into something the Xbox could run. Fan-created content also won’t be distributed via Live, nor will the most recent expansion, Red Hammer.
Operation Flashpoint is often described as an FPS, and it is possible in the game to participate in battles as a soldier who views the world in a very FPS style. However, trying to compare it to the likes of Halo in terms of gameplay will just lead to confusion and sadness. Trying to play Flashpoint in the spirit of more aggressive FPS like Halo and Counterstrike will just get you killed very, very quickly.
Since Flashpoint is at heart a sim, it means realism is the order of the day when it comes to the first-person combat. When you fire, you have to stop moving and pause to set your shot up. Getting hit by enemy fire once is enough to kill you. The enemy will wear camouflage, so you often may not be able to make out enemy soldiers very well against the background. The weapons you use will be extremely authentic recreations of real-world Soviet and American weapons from 1985, as powerful and hard to control as their real-world counterparts.
Atmospheric conditions play a much larger role in Flashpoint than they do in any other similar game I’ve played. The engine can model the full range of real-world atmospheric conditions, from rain to all the light levels associated with different times of day. Challenges like fighting off enemies with the sun in your eyes or coping with night battles are commonplace, and when you’re not fighting for your life, chances are you’ll be marveling at the incredibly realistic way that time passes in-game.
You want to face your enemies in Flashpoint from as far away as possible, using a sniper’s rifle and very careful aim to take out your targets. There is an auto-aim option available to make the game a bit easier on the limits of the Xbox controller, but you can only use it at medium distances. You simply don’t ever want to be close to the enemy in Flashpoint combats, because then you’re likely to end up dead. Even at low difficulty levels, the game will prove to be a stiff challenge even for seasoned FPS vets.
In Operation Flashpoint, you never fight your battles alone. Like real soldiers, you’re always accompanied by your squad as you go into a new mission. In Flashpoint you act as the commander of your team, and have to issue to the other soldiers. They’ll succeed or fail in their missions based purely on the real-world variables the game engine simulates, and success usually rides on your ability to put genuine military strategies into play. Head-on assaults will usually fail, but if you have your soldiers flank or attack from behind, you’ll find that you begin to rapidly wipe out the enemy.
Like a real military, the American soldiers in Operation Flashpoint have a wide variety of vehicles at their disposal. The ones we saw at the E3 demo primarily consisted of jeeps, tanks, and helicopters, each with detailed and entirely realistic control schemes. Each vehicle has its own specialized control scheme that you need to learn, and the vehicles behave in an entire realistic way – so you can get killed while driving, or your vehicle can be destroyed by explosions and artillery. You’ll also have poor visibility while driving a vehicle, and won’t be able to mount much of an offense unless you happen to be in something like a tank.
Flashpoint has been a long time in the making, and has even been rumored to be cancelled a few times. But Bohemia Interactive’s reps gladly showed the game running on a real development Xbox, and were adamant that the game would be released this year. This version of the title will be the final iteration; otherwise Bohemia has focused all of their efforts on Operation Flashpoint 2, a PC sequel to the original that’s still graphically sparse and focused on realistically simulating combat situations. Fans that played the PC version probably won’t be interested, but Xbox owners who love realistic war games will definitely want to check out Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis.