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Believe us when we say it's been well worth the wait...
Itâ??s been a long time since Bohemia Interactive Studios (BiS) launched Operation Flashpoint on an unsuspecting gaming audience, single-handedly setting a benchmark for military simulators that many argue has yet to be surpassed.
A sequel to the title was first confirmed by Codemasters back in April 2003, however since then weâ??ve had very little to go on with the exception of delay announcements. Even more conspicuous is the continued absence of Operation Flashpoint for the Xbox, featuring full Xbox Live compatibility â?“ originally slated for an Autumn 2003 release!
Hidden away in a little room, TVG had the opportunity to chat with Marek Spanel Executive Director from Bohemia Interactive Studios who presented both titles to us and reassured us that the wait has well been worth it.
Set in the year 2010 where heightened tensions across the globe have created a need for military operations to ensure ongoing stability, players take the role of a soldier within an international coalition contingent deployed to locations throughout Europe and Asia.
Realising that the team could have easily rehashed Operation Flashpoint with a new graphics engine and brought it to the market years ago, BiS wisely decided against this, taking the time to re-invent the franchise, the genre and arguably creating one of the most advanced simulations weâ??ve ever seen. E3â??05 has been chock full of next-generation promises, however thereâ??s been little to top what the guys from Prague are currently sitting on.
The most significant aspect away from a noticeable change in the graphics engine which weâ??ll get onto later is the sophisticated AI technique that creates a completely dynamic environment. As we arrive into the next-generation the claims of sophisticated AI stack up as much as polygon counts did in the 90â??s; believe us when we say thereâ??s nothing like Operation Flashpoint 2 currently on the market or in development. Virtually everything is driven by the AI, not only ensuring that thereâ??s a different experience every time you play but also driving home the point that everything happens for a reason. Of course there are scripted moments to drive the storyline and progress through the game, however every characterâ??s actions within the game world happen for a reason â?“ itâ??s something BiS like to call knowledge.
This philosophy governs every character within the game, be it civilians or military; one time through the game you could see a helicopter flying overhead while another time it may not be there, itâ??s all based on events so the helicopter would be flying to a destination for a very definite reason. The playerâ??s actions will also have a direct consequence on the events unfolding within the game world; so a guns blaring approach may find innocent civilians scared of you or worse pick up arms and try to fight you off, whilst a more humanitarian approach would endear yourself to them and reward the player with a greater co-operation. Equally your fellow comrades will be less willing to assist and cover you if you treat them carelessly, but if you look after and ensure their protected you can ensure that a close-knit â??Band of Brothersâ? feeling runs throughout your legion.
This comes into its own when the game takes into account being able to converse with every character within the game, whether theyâ??re civilians or your fellow squad members. Although the interface is slightly clunky at present, thereâ??s a huge number of questions available for you to ask when it comes to identifying crucial information; one example saw the main character asking a civilian whether theyâ??d seen any military force recently, who identified that there was an enemy installation in a nearby village. None of this is scripted, it all happens on-the-fly and creates one of the most sophisticated gaming experiences weâ??ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
Taking into account all of these aspects, Operation Flashpoint 2 presents a truly dynamic experience, where the playerâ??s decisions and actions have a profound affect on the game and the world around you; sit down and imagine a game where your actions in one town, could have repercussions on the next and a hostile force set up to greet you. Obviously there were far more permutations then a 30 minute demonstration could possibly hope to encompass, however itâ??s worth just thinking exactly how far this could stretch because thatâ??s what BiS are aiming for and looking to achieve.
The game takes physics to the extreme, so not only do vehicles (be they land, sea or air) look far more convincing then before but actually features a fully integrated destructible model that helps to bring buildings down with unmatched realism â?“ a mortar fired from a tank crashed into a building and left a wake of destruction, which continued to collapse after a significant time all based on real-world forces. Wandering into such a derelict building can be a hazardous occasion, as Marek explained when a precariously balanced bit of debris fell on his head. Nothing about this is scripted so youâ??ll never see buildings or vehicles destroyed in the same way; it was honestly remarkable and highlighted just how far Operation Flashpoint 2 is above the vast majority of physics-driven titles out there. Bullets as well react differently based on a variety of factors such as the angle of impact and the target structure along, significantly highlighted with trace fire shooting off in the horizon; itâ??s something that BiS like to call kinetic energy, the dispersal of energy from the bullet to the point of contact and whether it penetrates or deflects.
BiS have gone to great lengths to ensure the authenticity of the game, so much so that every object within the game has been digitally scanned into the game as opposed to just creating a model from blueprints. The engine is truly next-generation and supports everything from High-Definition Lighting to multiple Normal Maps; foliage within the game is rendered procedurally, ranging from dense sprite based vegetation to full polygon trees with the bark realistically bumpy. Despite the intricacies the engine is fully scaleable, ensuring that those with lower spec machines will still be able to run the sophisticated AI and advanced physics without a problem, although exact specifications were not discussed. Marek did suggest that the struggles faced in bringing Operation Flashpoint to the Xbox, had resulted in optimisations that have significantly benefited its PC sequel, none more so then the fact that the number of characters on the map has risen from the thousands into the tens of thousands!
The game features a fully functioning weather system, which again has a direct influence on the game; thanks to the joys of HD lighting, youâ??ll find situations in which it can be used to your advantage or disadvantage, such as blinding opponents looking into the sun. A huge number of conditions are promised, ranging from blistering hot sunny days to torrential rain downpour.
Perhaps the only source of confusion lays in the future distribution of Operation Flashpoint 2, with the suggestion that Codemasters may no longer be around for the ride, despite the fact that they hold onto the copyright of Operation Flashpoint and thus a rename would be required. Despite the fact that the title has already been in development for a significant time, the release still appears to be a little way off with a Q4 2006 release currently slated; in addition an Xbox 360 version has been suggested, although weâ??ll have to wait for official confirmation on this.