If you've missed some previous reports, there's a situation here you need to catch up on. Operation Flashpoint 2 no longer exists. Or at least, Bohemia Interactive has split with its publisher and lost the rights to the name, which means the long-awaited sequel is now operating under a codename. Or actually, a variety of codenames, our favourite being OFP2.
What the final name will be is unclear - Bohemia is reluctant to announce anything, because there's still a chance it will patch things up with Codemasters. And if not, the new publisher will probably put a committee on the case and call it something like War On Terror 2010.
The good news is twofold. First, nothing else has changed, and whatever it ends up being called, this will be a true and faithful sequel to Operation Flashpoint. And second, without any evil marketing types in the way, we actually get to see the bloody thing now.
Before you get too excited however, it's still very much a work in progress, perhaps 30 per cent complete and at least 18 months away. Nonetheless, it's possible to get a pretty good picture of where things are heading - bigger and better obviously, but with an unrestricted, open-ended design brief that can only be compared with the likes of STALKER and the Elder Scrolls series. Bohemia MD Marek Spanél talks us through his vision.
"It's a different concept from the original game. We've got a fully dynamic environment, where basically the only givens you have are your starting position and one of several possible enemy positions. Objectives are dynamically generated as well. This means that unlike in Flashpoint, where you had fixed missions like 'move to this point and attack this village', now you might have some main objectives, like 'liberate the country', with smaller ones assigned along the way. You might be going somewhere and you receive a request: 'We need a squad here', so you go and do that."
NEW WORLD ORDER
The level of freedom implied is impressive, but it's almost daunting at the same time. Nevertheless, Spanél assures us that you always have something to do, or indeed a choice of several things to do, depending on how you want to play the game.
"You might have a list of options, like go to this village and grab these papers, or go here and attack this, and meanwhile someone's attacked your base, so you have to defeat them. Or maybe they don't attack - that's the dynamic nature."
The setting for the game is the near future. A number of dangerous, erm, flashpoints have developed across Europe and Asia, and you play part of an international coalition sent to intervene. Through the course of the game you assume three different characters, each corresponding to a separate, self-contained chapter of the game.
In chapter one, you're a US Marine Corps soldier. In chapter two, you play a US Army officer, a ruthless careerist who has to juggle the politics of promotion with the needs of his own squad. And in chapter three you're a Special Operative, seeing the war from a very different perspective. Each chapter will be persistent, with plots and events evolving according to your actions.
"We've also added a role-playing style to the action style that's already there," says Spanél. "So as well as the persistent stories, we've got conversations, character development, skill, attributes and personalities for the soldiers in your squad. You can also talk to characters in the game and ask about facts in the game world, and it all fits into the whole picture."
SUPER SIZE ME
The world of OFP2 is also set to be a lot bigger - and busier - than the islands of Flashpoint, and a full-scale war will often be raging around you. "We want the maps to be filled by troops," says Spanél. "On screen you might have several hundred units, but in total on the map you have a statistical calculation for tens of thousands of units fighting a dynamic conflict."