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Gamespot have posted E3 Hands-On Impressions (but not of what we thought...)

[Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising] E3 2005 Hands-On Impressions

As of right now, Bohemia Interactive's latest PC project exists in something of a state of flux.

Designed to be the sequel to its excellent 2001 military shooter, Operation Flashpoint, the game that would be [Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising] is currently without a US publisher or official release date.

The reason? Codemasters, Operation Flashpoint's publisher, still owns the franchise name, and currently Bohemia is engaged in something of a struggle with them over the game's release.

However, undeterred, Bohemia is championing ahead with the project, and even if they have to call it something else, they'll find a way to get the game out.

In a small meeting room at E3 2005, Bohemia gave us a look at what we'll call [Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising].

The original Flashpoint was an interesting game, in that it took a very realistic approach to its gameplay.

Battles were largely squad-based, and combat generally took place over long distances, with lots of carefully placed shots, rather than the kind of fast-paced, run and gun shooting found in many modern-day shooters. For those who enjoyed this brand of shooting gameplay,

[Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising] seems like it won't disappoint. We were shown a few different battle scenarios, and the mechanics seemed to work very much the same. One new aspect to battles is just the sheer number of units that will be available on-screen during the game.

Battlefields will be around 400 square kilometers in size, and literally hundreds of soldiers and vehicles will be able to coexist on them.

One example of this was shown to us, and it was quite impressive watching huge groups of allied soldiers march across a battlefield with tanks and other vehicles following along.

Whereas the original Flashpoint took place in 1985 during Cold War operations, Flashpoint 2 will take place during a fictional near-future conflict in the year 2010.

You'll be able to play in three different areas, including Southeast Asia, Central Europe and Africa, and you'll play as three different soldier types during each section of the game, including a Marine Corps solider, a US Army officer and a Special Ops operative.

As you play the game, you'll be able to upgrade your squads and soldiers through what Bohemia refers to as something of an RPG-like leveling system.

In another nod to RPGs, you'll also be able to chat it up in real time with NPC allies, and learn valuable reconnaissance intel from them.

Obviously, a big draw for Flashpoint 2 will be its improved visuals. The first Flashpoint was a good looking game for its time, but the dedicated fans of the series are likely looking forward to what Bohemia can do with current generation PC technology.

A big part of the visual upgrade is the damage modeling, which is fully dynamic across the many set pieces you'll find on the battlefield.

The developers showed us one example, where when driving a tank, a nearby building was targeted and fired upon. The first hit did a little damage, but nothing too devastating. The next hit took a big chunk out of it, and the next one practically eradicated it.

The developers state that no two explosions will look quite the same, as the debris will always fall dynamically. This, coupled with the huge numbers of units on-screen at once, and the generally upgraded soldier models and environmental designs, should prove to be a big upgrade from the first game.

Of course, Flashpoint 2 will feature online multiplayer. Bohemia wasn't able to provide exact details of what kinds of modes, or how many players you'll be able to compete with or against, but they stated that they plan to make the multiplayer a big part of the game, and will try to squeeze in as many players as they possibly can.

One notable improvement over the original Flashpoint's multiplayer is that in this game, you'll be able to join battles in progress. In the first Flashpoint, you'd have to wait for an open server, or sit in the chat lobby waiting for your friends to finish. That won't be the case, here.

Another thing that Bohemia wanted to emphasize was that they recognize and appreciate the fan communities that have developed from Flashpoint and its expansion packs. While not the biggest game in the US, the game certainly had its fans here, and internationally, Flashpoint developed a big mod community.

Flashpoint 2 will once again include a robust map editor for committed players to mess around with, and like the first game, Bohemia fully intends to support the game with new content long after its release.

The cloud that currently sits over [Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising]'s release possibilities is certainly unfortunate, but Bohemia seems thoroughly undeterred by the situation. One way or another, they fully intend to release the game, so you won't have to worry about them just giving up on the project any time soon.

While the demo we were shown had some rough edges, we're excited about the prospects that this shooter holds.

We can only hope that Bohemia's gung-ho attitude continues, and that they keep hammering away on the game and get it a North American release. We'll be sure to bring you more on [Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising] in the near future.

By Alex Navarro, GameSpot  POSTED: 05/20/05 08:34 PM

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