Flashback: Operation Flashpoint

Posted by Martin:

Starting a new segment that will take place each Monday, and we’ll take you back to a game in one of our histories.

Since Tactical Shooter is probably one of my favorite genres, I’ll go back to the ultimate Tactical Shooter. Or, at least, what the developers were hoping to be the ultimate Tactical Shooter, but fell short somewhere along the line. Operation Flashpoint.thumb_apoxz3.jpg

Oh, how I wanted this game to be amazing. On paper, it should have been. An entire island was your battleground where combined forces fought each other providing you the opportunity to play as an infantryman, a tanker, and even an A-10 pilot. You were incredibly vulnerable, and would be forced to use your team, environment, and your wits to survive. Never had this grand scheme of combat been attempted.

However, it fell short somewhere along the way. This isn’t saying that it was a bad game. It was better than a lot of what was out there at the time. But it could have been more.

And before people start yelling about how computers were less capable back then and all that mumbo jumbo, I thought the graphics were actually pretty good. The iron sights aiming was useful, the character and vehicle models were fine, and the environment looked pretty spectacular at the time. The only real think that could have been improved was the urban environments, which could be described as “cookie cutter” at best.

I think the main problem was that they tried to do too much. When the game starts, it puts you in the role of an infantry man. Your first mission is to get in a truck and to assault a town. You take a hill, go down into a valley, and then make a final push through a town. The next few missions are very similar. Take a town, get rescued by air support, squad level tactics and the like. Pretty damned cool, if you ask me. It was a whole lot of fun.

But the more and more you play, the more the little things start to get on your nerves. The movement system was incredibly clumsy. It was tied to the animations of the player model, so if you let go of the movement key while your character was in the middle of a stride, you’d keep moving until the game decided it was good for you to stop moving. As such, precise movements as a footsoldier were almost impossible. Furthermore, this exacerbated itself when you got in the urban environments. Want to peek around that corner? You’re either going too far, or not far enough. And, since the game shied away from open field combat pretty quickly, this proved to be a major, major annoyance.

The next thing was the sounds. The voice acting was completely horrible. I made sure the “Kozlowski” character died every mission, just to make sure that there was a chance I wouldn’t have to listen to his inane banter again at the next mission briefing. But no, it never worked. Inevitably, he’d be there waiting for me. Let this be a lesson for all game programmers: HIRE VOICE ACTORS. Game programmers sound like the nerdlingers they are! Unfortunately, the sound design team also didn’t do very well with the rest of the game. The weapons sound incredibly muted. I realize that guns don’t sound like Hollywood’s versions of them, but since we can’t effectively replicate the concussion effects through home stereos, adding some bass to the gunshot only makes sense. Not so much with OFP. The guns sounded like sewing machines. And the little dinks, donks and plonks to signify your mission objectives changing? Also annoying.

However, the main gripe with the game is the fact it began to feel incredibly half-assed as you went along. Sure, you can be a tank commander, a helicopter pilot, and even an A-10 jockey. But these parts just felt so clunky, it wasn’t fun. The physics engine was a bit tedious to work with, and the controls were so simplified simply because the controls had to remain similar whether you were walking about on foot, or operation a helicopter. It’s a damned shame, too, simply because the part where you’re an infantry soldier is so much fun.

When I picked up the game, I wasn’t looking to be the hero in the giant conflict of whatever the island was called. Too many games try that already, and while it’s kind of fun to singlehandedly repel the invaders from Planet X, some times you want to feel as you’re part of something much greater. And that’s why I bought Flashpoint. I wanted to be part of a giant conflict, calling down airstrikes as I was being pinned in a town. I wanted to be a grunt, watching the conflict from the trenches. I wanted to be a part of giant battles, doing my operationflashpoint2.jpgsmall part to ensure victory. And the first part of the game delivered that perfectly, minor problems aside. But then, it just kept going with what they wanted you to do. Want to fly a helicopter? Sure! Want to fly a helicopter, even though your MOS is infantry? Sure! Hell, hop in a tank while you’re at it! These things drive themselves! I sincerely believe that had the developers focused on making the game primarly about the infantry soldier, it would have been a much better experience. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have tanks, helicopters, and planes. You don’t have to have the player control them in order for the entire game to be fun. Having A-10s strafe the tank column bearing down on your position is just as fun as fighting against the simplified controls to make your A-10 strafe the tanks. In fact, I’d say some of the best missions in all of single player gaming are when you’re outnumbered, outgunned, and doing every last thing you know how to do to survive, much less complete the mission. And while OFP started with this mission mentality, it quickly faltered, leading to the disappointing realization that the game could have been so much more.

So, did I enjoy the game when I played it? For the most part. But more-so, it left me wanting more. I’m hoping that with the current developments in hardware technology, it will soon become possible to play what I was originally hoping for. Truthfully, it’s my hopes for Clancy’s “End of War” game that whet my appetite and made me reminisce about the original game that tried to do the same thing, did pretty well, but in the end, could have been implemented better. Let’s hope that the future brings me what I’m looking for.

Chris says:

I enjoyed the hell out of this game… for a few missions. After that, just like Martin’s experience, it all fizzled out. OFP had much potential to be an amazing game, but the clunky controls just completely robbed it of any chance it had. The voice acting was so bad that this game could be memorable for that alone. I also felt that it tried to do too much. As impressive as it was to know you could pilot an A-10 or drive a tank or be an infantryman, the game strayed from it’s strengths to offer diverse features. OFP is a fun game to revisit for a few minutes – and those few minutes will leave you wanting more… but what you are left wanting can’t be had by playing Operation Flashpoint.

Kon inserts:

Anyone here think of mods? To me, the best aspect of computer gaming (aside from increased visuals) is that of modding. One can literally make a game his own through modification of files. Anything from character stats to entire rebuilds of games can be made. Due to a crushing exam paper deadline, I am short on time to do any real research into Mods for Operation Flash Point (OFP), But I am sure there are mods out there. Let me know what you guys find, I am eager to make this game work at its best.

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One Response to Flashback: Operation Flashpoint

  1. Dan says:

    I played this game a long long time ago. Not being much of a First Person Shooter kind of guy, I picked it up on Martin’s recommendation, and we played a few co-op or multiplayer games or whatever. It was fun for a while, but I never really got into it…

    I’m more of a Fallout kind of guy…

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