Operation Flashpoint: GOTY
A couple of weeks ago I installed and fired up Operation Flashpoint GOTY Edition. It’s been years since I played this and missed the old game. It was a friday night and I ended up playing through the night until 4 PM the next day. Yeah – it’s that good.
Operation Flashpoint came out in mid 2001 from Bohemia Interactive and Codemasters. I would say it’s a tactical shooter a la Ghost Recon, but that is just an understatement. The game greatly depends on the role you play. While most of the game you are a private, or an officer commanding a squad, you can also be a tank commander or a plane or heli pilot. Action takes place on islands that are miles wide. You are free to roam, and how you approach objectives is mainly up to you. You can attack head on, or circle around and flank. Freedom is particularly a big part of the game. For example in one mission you have to blow up some helicopters at an airport. You can do this with satchel charges, RPGs, grenades, or my favorite – steal a helicopter and blow the shit out the other ones, the Shilkas (AA tanks), the T80s guarding the airport, and not to mention the troops in the area.
The game is much like a military simulation. In fact the engine under the hood (Real Virtuality 1) of this game was even used for a real military simulator called VBS1, or Virtual Battlespace Systems 1. The simulator was sold to multiple countries including Israel, New Zealand, Canada and the good ‘ol US of A. That should give you an idea what kind of power this piece of code has.
Being as close to a military simulation without impairing the fun factor means two shots usually take you or any other soldier down. Being shot in the legs results in not being able to stand. The compromise between realism and gameplay is evident when you can heal at a medic and then be fine and dandy again. In real life, the wounds would put you out of commission for months or eventually kill you. Also, the damage modeling on the vehicles is somewhat forgiving. For example, most tanks take two shots from other tanks and missiles. In reality this may not be so, but what I appreciate is that if you’re in a tank a shot is able to kill your person outright even if the tank may still be operable. I find this to be close to reality as a well placed shot can kill an entire crew. Aircraft are not so close to reality and very simplified but that is fair considering there is so much already into this game. I wouldn’t want to be buried in instrument panels and endless buttons just to take off. It’s a good balance between fun and realism.
Operation Flashpoint Game of the Year Edition includes Cold War Crisis, Gold Edition and Resistance. Effectively this means you get 3 campaigns. The original, Cold War Crisis takes you into the feet of a US soldier stationed on an island called Everon. As you can probably tell from the name the action takes place during the 80′s. A rogue Russian general fed up with Cold War politics, takes control of some tanks, planes, helicopters and troops to invade the island. I won’t ruin the plot for you so let’s just say you get quite a nice run out of this campaign. You will be fighting for your life, commanding squads and tanks or flying helicopters and planes. The campaign takes place in form of missions, in which you are allowed to save only once, so you must pick a good time. I found this to be quite annoying, actually as I had to complete the same mission multiple times because I would get sniped or picked off unexpectedly. Playing on harder difficulty settings means that you most likely will be repeating some missions. The limited save option does have one advantage though – it forces you to think like a real soldier and keep your head down.
The Gold Edition brings the Red Hammer campaign which puts you in the role of a soldier of the invading russian army. You get to do much of the same things as in the Everon campaign, but I found this to be the weakest of the three. It was very hard at times as I would get killed very easily. In some missions you have to solo entire squads of enemy soldiers which requires previous knowledge of their whereabouts. Not knowing this is almost impossible as being spotted unknowingly means you will be dead. The save only once per mission restriction was very annoying in this campaign.
Then there is Resistance. The third and last campaign was easily the best one. You play as a resistance commander leading your freedom fighters to kick Ruskie ass. You begin with a lousy shotgun and work your way up to tanks and helicopters by the end of the campaign. What rocks in this, is that the men and equipment you get is accumulative, meaning you will keep any weapons your squad picks up until they are lost. Each mission you get one or two new recruits up to the maxiumum of 12 (depending on the mission). This adds a new level of strategy and hoarding to the game that I very much enjoy. I would try to salvage machine guns, rocket launchers, satchel charges and mines as they were very useful against vehicles. Sniper rifles would also give you an edge over the enemy. The only things you can’t keep are the vehicles. That is a bit of a bummer considering how useful they are. A helicopter would make a mission incredibly easy, although BMPs and smaller vehicles are practically death traps as every enemy squad has one or two AT/RPG soldiers in it.
I would like to talk a little bit about the arsenal of Operation Flashpoint as that is a big part of the game and a reason why I like it. Being a military simulator means having an accurate selection of weapons would add to the immersion. You get Ak-47s, AK-74s, SVD Dragunovs, M21s, Bizons, MP5s, RPG-Nhs, Tokarevs, 92 Berettas, PKM, M60s, a simple shotgun, and that’s just what I remember. Vehicles include T55s, T72s, T80s, A1 Abrams, M60s, trucks, cars, motorcycles, Hinds, AH-1 Cobras, AH-64 Apaches, A-10s, Su-25s, and Chinooks.
Customization is also part of the game, as you can always download more weapons, vehicles, aircraft, scenery objects, and missions made with the in-game mission editor.
There are a few issues that I have with the game that keep it from perfection. As I mentioned before being able to save more than once per mission would be very useful, although the game updates your retry position sometimes up to 3 times per mission. The controls are also a bit cumbersome. Your character doesn’t respond instantly to controls as in regular 3D shooters. Switching weapons is a pain as you have to bring a small menu and scroll through with your mouse wheel and select the option. This takes way too long and in the middle of combat it will get you killed. Interacting with vehicles is also annoying due to that menu. What they should have done is have the number keys control the weapons, and the mouse wheel control squad commands. Instead it’s the other way around.
And there are bugs. The game is a great outdoor simulation, but when you walk into a building beware as you might end up falling through the floors. On one instance I actually went through the wall and ended up falling to the ground on the outside of the building. Fortunately you don’t have to go into buildings often.
Overall Operation Flashpoint is a game that was unique at it’s time and still is today. Even the sequels failed to deliver the same quality as the original and consequently the franchise has never made it big. A comparable game are the Battlefield series from EA. They are targeted for online play and if I had to compare the two in terms of fun, I would pick Battlefield. Op Flash also has a multiplayer option and the coop missions were great. Otherwise playing the versus mode degenerates into a sniper fest. But if you want some great single player action Op Flash is the way to go.
If you like guns, all things military and like computer games and have some time to burn, check it out. You should be able to find the GOTY edition for dirt cheap nowadays. The graphics are dated, but they still look decent. After all,it’s not the graphics that make the game, it’s the game play. It’s great to have both, but budgets are limited.
Should you decide to play it, try the Everon campaign first, you may skip Red Hammer as it’s not that good and doesn’t add anything to the game, and then play Resistance. Or just skip straight to Resistance if you’re short on time. There are also a number of single missions, not including the ones online.