The year is 2001, FFX had just come out,everyone was excited by the imminent release of MGS2 and console hype was at an all-time high due to the imminent release of the gamecube and xbox. A little known, low budget developer has just released a new PC game (in Europe only) with underwhelming graphics, an unintuitive UI and a multitude of potentially game-ending bugs. The game was called Operation Flashpoint: Cold war crisis and was universally lauded as being one of the most innovative and unique gaming experiences around and would carry on to win a multitude of awards.
So what made the game so good that reviews could simply gloss over the mutiple problems that plauged the game at launch? Firstly the scope of the game was simply unheard of at the time, the player could drive tanks, planes, helicopters, shoot tens of weapons, command armies of soldiers and vehicles all across 3 huge islands based on islands found in real life. The game was also shockingly realistic down to the fact it (usually) took 1 single bullet to die and death could come from hundreds of metres away (or even kilometers away if we are talking artillery and the likes).
Tanks were to be feared as infantrymen, you couldn't run without getting tired affecting accuracy and you were expected to be able to hit targets 100s of metres away taking into account factors as bullet drop and time to target. The island may have been your sandbox but you were as vunerable as anyone else in the game. There is one mission in the single player campaign that truelly bought the strengths of the game together to create one of the greatest missions in any game I have ever played.
Your soldier is resting at base when a command from Hq comes over the radio. Your mission is to take part in a huge offensive to take the town of Montignac from Soviet hands, your squad will be supported by some light armour and air support in the form of some UH-60 blackhawk helicopters.
As you reach a hill overlooking the town your squad disembarks and opens fire on the Russians below taking out a fair number of them, they pose little threat to the combined might of the small army sent to capture the town. The squad leader orders the men to advance and eventually you reach the town wiping out the remaining Russians as they attempt to flee. The mission was easy, too easy.
Suddenly a command comes over the radio, everyone is to retreat immediately and without hesitation. At this point no-one knows what is going on, your squad leader orders everyone to leg it back to the transports.
The US forces are ordered back to base but as your transport is driving away from the town it is ambushed by Russians using the forest as cover. Everyone disembarks and it is total chaos as one by one the US soldiers are taken out by the elite Russian forces all around them. Everyone starts legging it to the forest where hopefully you can escape the massacre. A command comes over the radio: a Blackhawk helicopter is en-route to pick up survivors and transport them to safety!
As the Blackhawk approaches the soldiers the soldiers are all relieved but suddenly a Hind d attack helicopter comes out of nowhere and takes out the blackhawk (whats a Hind D doing in the forest?). Your last hope of rescue is gone and the remaining soldiers flee further into the forest. The Hind D cuts them all down with its gatling gun as they run for their lives. Night is approaching, you are saved by the darkness but you are the only one left. Your mission begins now.
You start in the forest as the sun is just coming up, it is early in the morning and you are all alone in enemy territory surrounded by the bodies of your former teamates with only a map, a compass and your trusty M16 to back you up. After exploring a bit around your starting area you will hear a long range radio message telling all survivors to regroup at a co-ordinate on the map quite along way (it would take a couple of hours walking probably).
From there it is up to you how to get there using any means neccesary. I started by moving up to the edge of the forest where I spotted a 4 man patrol about a hundred metres ahead of me. I proceeded to do battle with them taking cover inbetween the trees in the forest. Unfortunately the gunfire drew the attention of a BMP tank which was nearby which moved towards my location to investigate. I hid amongst the bodies of the soldiers I had killed and fortunately the BMP ignored me and went its way.
Taking a look at my map I noticed a small town in the vicinity. When I arrived the town was largely unguarded, I managed to sneak around without being spotted and I noticed a small civilian car on one of the roads. I promptly jacked the car and started going my way when a Russian guard noticed the noise i was making and opened fire. luckily The car shielded me from most of the bullets and he only managed to wound me in the arm as I drove away. Unluckily the noise drew the attention of the BMP from before which had just returned to the town after checking out the forest.
It proceeded to chase me for a while down the road to no avail as I managed to lose it with my expert driving skills. I left the town behind thinking I was in the clear with the BMP staring at me from the outskirts of the town (the driver of it was probably waving his fist in the air shouting obscenities in Russian). I wasn't however as the Russians had called in backup in the form of an attack helicopter. I noticed this all too late and I was stuck in the open facing off against a Hind with only my puny Eastern European car to protect my soft flesh.
It opened fire with the machinegun as I futiley attempted to outrun it. The hind managed to completed total the driving mechanism of the car and I decided that being in the car was probably not in my best interest at the time. Luckily there was a forest very close by which I could probably lose the helicopter in. I proceeded to sprint with all my speed away from the bad helicopter and once again found myself in a forest by myself. Or so I thought. The missions ends and I find myself surrounded by Russians, around me are the bodies of many Americans presumably they were gunned down as they tried to get to the extraction point by the Russians waiting in the forest. Luckily THE RESISTANCE will come and save the day but that is another mission for another day....
A video of someone completing the mission, appears to be on 2x speed or maybe even more:
This mission was truly something else. In all the missions before hand you were held by the hand on what to do by your leader and you had the other US forces backing you up. Infact in alot of the missions you didn't even have to fire a single shot to win them, just stay alive. This mission turns the game on its head and gives you a taster of what is to come in terms of difficulty and gameplay.
Another thing that struck me was the number of ways that the mission could be completed. Some people managed to retrieve a LAW missle from one of the dead US soldiers in the forest and take out the BMP. Others managed to avoid detection altogether by using the cover effectively. Some people even avoided the mission altogether by failing the inital assault on Montignac in the previous mission and retreating much earlier therefore reaching the base before the Russians had time to prepare their ambush.
The mission is packed full of pure adrenaline as you attempt to take on overwhelming odds and escape from impossible odds and pure terror as you attempt to sneak past the Russians patrolling the map. it doesn't help that you are only allowed 1 save for the entire mission. It truly pins home the truth that you are just another soldier in the huge war. No heroics, no bullet soaking super soldier, just you trying to survive in the brutal one shot one kill world that is Operation Flashpoint.
note. The pictures are not from the mission, I don't have the game installed at the moment. note2. If you are thinking of getting Operation Flashpoint don't get the Xbox version, it sucks. note3. Arma was a disapointment :(