Now I have my PC back in the land of the operational, I'm getting around to reinstalling all my games. Last night it was the turn of Operation Flashpoint.
Flashpoint is still an absolutely breathtaking game, even after a couple of years. Some people complain about the graphics, but other than a bit of chunkiness, and the horrible trees, I think it still stands up pretty well, particularly when you consider just how big the levels are and the standard of the AI. I'm still absolutely in love with the weapon view, that allows you to use the iron sights of the weapons, which is really the only way you can hit targets at ranges beyond 20 or 30 metres, especially if they're moving. It's almost like being back on a full bore firing range with the ATC.
It's still gloriously hard, though I'm much more adept at surviving levels now than I was when I first bought the game, the Sniper Team and Battlegrounds single missions remaining some of my favourites. Flashpoint is possibly the only really essential PC title of the last two years, and surprisingly, the official expansions haven't been lazy cash-ins, but have added real genuine improvements to the game, as well as lots of content.
What still keeps me playing this game is the in-game atmosphere. It drips tension and oozes fear. More often than not, your first instinct is self-preservation, rather than achieving objectives. Running off heroically into battle like Audie Murphy will invariably just get you killed, so it's in your best interests to stick with the rest of your squad and try not to look important enough to shoot. Combat sometimes feel bewildering - there's so much going on trying to keep track and stay alive is occasionally an overwhelmingly difficult task. This is all part of the game's fell of authenticity - it's certainly killed any illusions I had of soldiering being a glamourous pursuit. Hours of desperate sprints for cover or crawling whilst under fire and panicked snap-shots put paid to that. I really can't say enough nice things about this game - after the difficult bedding in period where you get used to the learning curve, it hits you with superlative experience after experience. The relative lack of scripting really opens things up, too, giving you a relative amount of freedom to achieve your objectives, should something disasterous occur, like 3/4 of your squad being wiped out by a grenade or tank. I love it.