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Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising

Everyone gets everything he wants. Will Porter wanted a mission, and for his sins, Codemasters gave him one

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If you then set up a manoeuvre, they may call in armour support, and if they do that, what position would you be in? There's a lot more military tactical thinking going on than in your usual first-person shooter."

I attempt to ask another question, but the list isn't over... "If you make a wrong move, then everyone could be killed - how do you deal with that? Also, how close are you to medevac? How close to assistance? If you get injured, then that's going to affect your performance as well. If you don't get medical attention, then you could bleed to death. You can stay in command or get shipped out - but if you get out, then how will that affect the battle?"

As the battle rages on over the island, you'll be given a number of objectives that you'll be able to come at from any angle you desire. As the excellently named Lee Brimmicombe-Wood, the game's chief designer, explains to me later on, "We're not tramlining the player into just going down a scripted set of experiences or feelings." So in other words, if you want to flank the enemy miles over to the east, then you can - you just have to bear in mind that your foe could well be doing the same thing to you.

Whatever the case, though, as with the original game, Rambo-style theatrics will inevitably result in a rather swift demise. What's more, if you want to survive this mission, you've got to obey orders, and by the end you'll have to know how to give them as well. "Every soldier - thank God - that goes into war doesn't necessarily get killed," says Wafer.

"The idea is that we're recreating the tactics and also the body armour authentically, so - especially at the beginning of the game when you're not in command - if you do what you're told you're not necessarily going to be killed the moment you start playing. Also, you'll be with a highly trained group of AI soldiers; they'll be spotting things around you, pointing things out and shooting enemies. It isn't just you on your own versus the Chinese army."

With regard to the game's actual structure, the idea currently being kicked around is that different outcomes to your strategic manoeuvrings will have an effect on the next scenario you find yourself in (making matters harder or perhaps giving you a bit of an edge), lending a rather looser, more realistic feel to the comings and goings of war, while still keeping within the overall linear template of the storyline.

And a character-led storyline there will indeed be, bringing a human element to the flames and the cold, hard steel of war. This storyline will be complemented by a documentary-like grounded approach - something comparable to a more hard-nosed, serious attempt at what Epic were going for with Gears Of War.

As for the look and feel of the game's proceedings, well, it seems that Codies have the right people in town for that too. In fact, lead artist Michael Field is positively breathless as he flicks through some of the game's concept art with me. "It's a piece of modern warfare, but it's also very beautiful," he murmurs as we look at a tank belching flame in the darkness of night.

By the time we hit an image of vapour trails criss-crossing a blue sky, he's so absorbed in his work that his head tilts to the side and he just sits there smiling.

"One of the things you get from television reportage is a feeling of what we're trying to put into the game - the sheer power on display," chips in Clive Lindop. "When a tank fires, there's a wall of concussion, there's a massive flash, the ground shakes and a round as thick as your arm fires at thousands of miles an hour. It's that kind of punch that you often get a very visual signifier of in games, but we're trying to give
you a sense of the power all around you, and more importantly, your vulnerability.

As with the first game, there's that sense that you're not Superman. You're a guy with a gun with a helmet on that's about this thick - an inch of steel. That whole feeling of shock and awe in a game." And as a result of this, more than ever before, it's all about the long-range combat - projectiles lobbed from miles away bringing untimely death to one and all. There's never been a game quite like it.

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