E3 2005: Bohemia Interactive

By Scott Parrino 31 May 2005 0

E3 2005 Impressions

?Operation Flashpoint 2?, I scribbled on my notepad. ?No, no, no? a smiling Marek Spanel insisted. ?Not Operation Flashpoint 2.? 

That simple exchange with Bohemia Interactive?s lead developer underscored my visit with the famed developer of 2001?s Operation Flashpoint. That big, pink elephant sitting in the room was Codemasters, the troubled UK publisher which currently owns the rights to the Operation Flashpoint name. Because the publisher hasn?t released the rights to popular first-person shooter series, Bohemia isn?t able to use the name for the two new titles it?s developing, despite their obvious resemblance to the original game.

So instead of announcing two new Operation Flashpoint titles, Bohemia Interactive announced Armed Assault and an untitled, next-generation PC game. At Bohemia?s booth, we were treated to a detailed look at these two new titles which should stir the heart of any Operation Flashpoint fan.

First, let?s talk about Armed Assault. Although we didn?t actually see Armed Assault in action, it?s clear that Bohemia is working to develop a semi-sequel to Operation Flashpoint. Based on an updated game engine (which was used in military applications), players will once become part of an infantry force in a fictional historical setting. The same massive, open-ended game worlds which defined the 2001 first-person shooter will return once more in Armed Assault. In fact, the press release announcing the game promised a staggering 100 square kilometers of terrain to explore by foot, tank, or helicopter. In a nice touch acknowledging the importance of Operation Flashpoint?s fanbase, Armed Assault will be backwards compatible with modifications developed for Operation Flashpoint. For fans of the multiplayer mode, Bohemia has also addressed a shortcoming from the original game: Armed Assault will feature ?join in progress? support, meaning players joining a multiplayer server during rounds will be able to immediately hop into the action. It?s not clear how Armed Assault will come to North America, but look for the game later this year.

Armed Assault.

We spent the rest of the time watching Marek Spanel preview Bohemia?s next-generation PC title. This is an all-new game which bears only a passing semblance to the original Operation Flashpoint, set in a futuristic world of conflicts spread throughout the world. The new 3D engine truly looks magnificent; the textures and character models no longer have the jagged look which defined the original game. Instead, the smoothed character faces and detailed tanks seemed unbelievable when Spanel informed us that the new engine was capable of rendering hundreds of square kilometers. The new game can even render some amazing nighttime, sunset, rainy, and bright sunshine effects, including shadows and plenty of volumetric lighting. Additional touches such as full-featured foliage, wind effects, and destructible structures should add to the graphical niceties.

Bohemia's "next-gen" game.

Military intelligence will also take on an important role in the new game. Spanel showed us a brief sequence with the game?s AI in the form a conversation with a friendly soldier. By asking pointed questions of the soldier (?have you seen any enemies??), the soldier provided detailed information and, in some cases, new intelligence. How the player interacts with local civilians and fellow soldiers will also play a role. While it?s not yet clear how all of this data will be managed, but Spanel promised us that this new feature will play an important role in developing intelligence and affecting the outcome of the player?s missions and overall campaign.

This next-generation PC game will go several steps forward in its scope. While the original Operation Flashpoint created small squad battles between dozens of soldiers and supporting armor, Bohemia aims to create full battles across its huge maps. Naturally, much of the battle won?t be presented on screen, but the game engine will be handling the calculations in the background. The player will see a portion of that battle, whether they?re playing as an infantryman, helicopter pilot, or tank gunner. This ambitious design concept is really what makes Bohemia?s games as appealing as they are, so we?re excited to see this massive war simulation progressing forward.

Of course, the untitled game still has a long ways to go. We heard 2006 and even 2007 as possible release dates, to say nothing of the ongoing issues of the name and publisher. Gamers should look forward to hearing more from Marek Spanel and his team at Bohemia in the future.

Bohemia's "next-gen" game.

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