Games are becoming more realistic with every release as game developers strive for the ultimate immersive experience. But who really wants to go to war? Apparently, judging from the European sales of Codemaster’s war sim Operation Flashpoint, gamers are still looking for that ultimate combat experience.Operation Flashpoint is set the mid 80’s, a time when the Cold War was still in full flow with the US and Russia still playing cat and mouse games with a lot of hot air.

The game is set Europe on a group of fictional islands which suddenly get invaded by an unknown force. The main area of conflict is an island called Everon and it’s thought the Russians are up to their pesky tricks by carrying out an invasion. As part of NATO the US military goes into investigate and after reconnaissance flights fail to return ground troops are sent in. This is where the real action begins playing the part of a rookie soldier called Armstrong.

The single player game kicks off with some pretty nice in-game cutscenes to set up the scenario, then on from there you move to the training. The training is basic stuff like movement, weapon firing as well as getting you familiar with the more basic commands used in combat. Bohemia really want to pull you into the story by making use of the in-game cutscenes for the storytelling and it works pretty well helping to link different missions/sections together.Once the training is out the way the game starts in earnest. A word of warning for all budding FPS fans, this is not a game, this is war. There’s none of this “oh I must pick up a health pack” rubbish, one shot in a vital spot and your down and out. Take a shot in the leg or arm then its time to call for help. When out on a mission you’ll be accompanied by other men in the platoon including a medic. Operation Flashpoint allows you to communicate with other member in the platoon via radio and should you take a hit you cam call up the medic to patch you up. The team leader will radio you the medic’s position and you’ll probably have to crawl over and instruct him to get to work.Operation Flashpoint is all about tactics and communication. The radio is your best friend when out in the field. There’s a stack load of commands that you can issue to the rest of the platoon or team leader. For example spot an enemy, then inform your pother troops, take out an enemy or secure a position then you better let them know so they can react to the current status of the mission.The controls in the game are pretty straightforward.

The controls you’ll use most of the time are for movement. You can crawl, walk, run, even stash your weapon on your back when the fire dies down. To accompany the movement are the comms keys. There are commands and info you can issue to your troops to keep them abreast of the conflict and these vary depending on where you are or what you are doing.The AI overall seems to be well thought out but it does have a few problems. For example, if you get close to an enemy they don’t seem to respond at all. If you walk up to an enemy you would expect him to blow you away with one shot, instead they sometimes don’t react at all making them easy targets at close range. Getting in close is hard enough though, you’ll usually find yourself crawling around behind trees and bushes just so you’re not picked off at a distance. As the game progresses you will also take command of a platoon and issue orders to your troops. This is handled via the in-game interface which is a little fiddly when first start using it. The rest of the platoon do react well to issued commands making the commanding of your troops a pleasant if not unnerving experience.

Operation Flashpoint is not just about ground warfare, Bohemia interactive have made this the ultimate experience by adding vehicles to s**e up the action. The developers wanted to make the game as realistic as possible and so have added a whole stack of vehicles to the game. Unlike most similar titles where vehicles are just there as static scenery or AI controlled objects Operation Flashpoint allows you to take control of just about anything in the game. From jeeps, helicopters, tanks and aircraft, you can control them all.Taking command of the game’s many vehicles is really simple due to the design of the game’s interface. When you approach a stationary vehicle a sub-menu pops up in the bottom right with options. You can then use the mouse wheel to scroll though the options and issue a command like ‘get in truck’. Once in the vehicle you’re in complete control. Driving, or flying is really easy, the same controls for movement are used for vehicles. Don’t expect a full-blown chopper sim when you pilot a chopper though, it ain’t going to happen. The way the vehicles are controlled has actually been done very well, they are simple enough to master making it easy for any gamer to get to grips with, Bohemia have chosen gameplay over realism. With around 30 vehicles in the game and multiple positions in certain vehicles you are spoilt for choice.So how does it look, well the games graphics are mixed bag.

The terrain in Operation Flashpoint is slightly on the bland side and pretty chunky in places. Trees, shrubs and other landscape features are not the best we’ve seen, they do tend to look ropey in places and a bit on the drab side. At the other end of the scale the soldiers look good and where Bohemia has certainly done a lot of work is on the many vehicles. The detail on the tanks, helicopters, aircraft and other ground vehicles is certainly top-notch and a real credit to Bohemia. The game also comes with the standard FPS mode or if you prefer you can whack it into 3rd person. Having either option is a nice feature and both work well.As far as performance goes we have been playing the game on d PIII 650, 256 Meg RAM and a GeForce 2 GTS and its run exceptionally well at 1024 x768 with detail cranked up.The game’s sound, like the graphics, can be a slight irritation. The radio chatter is pretty ‘robotic’ sounding and when a whole string of commands comes over the radio it will probably drive you nuts even if it does heighten the tension. The rest of the sound in the game is well done, the vehicle and weapon sounds a very realistic and distinct which is helps when identifying nearby vehicles or aircraft. Bohemia have also added heavy breathing to the character, the faster and further you run the heavier your breathing gets. After running through a forest full pelt you feel positively knackerd, and that’s without leaving the comfort of your chair ?One of the most disappointing things about Operation Flashpoint when it was released in Europe was the lack of a dedicated server mode.

Fortunately Bohemia will shortly be releasing the dedicated server portion of the game and it will be a lot easier to get online get involved in the action. At the moment multiplayer games are supported by Gamespy Arcade so you can always hop on there until the next update.Any gamer that fancies tinkering around with mods and editing will be pleased to know the game comes with it’s own mission editor. You can choose to create scenarios based on islands included with the game. Units can be placed, AI levels set and mission objectives a*igned, it’s all very well done and pretty easy to use after a bit of practice. Scenarios for different types of mode can be set, single player, co-op or all out war. The addition of the mission editor should really increase the longevity of the game and keep gamers hooked on the game for some time to come as more downloadable scenarios made by fans become available.

Operation Flashpoint is certainly an ambitious title and Bohemia have obviously gone all-out to create a game where gameplay is everything. The game does have its faults like the limited one save per mission feature but there’s so much here to keep you coming back for more. With Bohemia releasing additional patches they have been improving the game and adding new features like weapons and units proving they are keen to support the game throughout its life span. As a complete war simulation this has to be the best one around and I can certainly see Counterstrike players getting addicted to this. It has tactics, strategy and more features than you can shake an M16 at. As far as we’re concerned this should be on every tactical shooter fan’s game shelf.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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