Remembering: Operation Flashpoint (Arma: Cold War Assault)

Operation Flashpoint: a ugly figure of a soldier and his mustache
Back in the ’80s, soldiers were blocky and heavily mustached.

A new category! ‘Remembering’ is the friendly version of ‘Skipping’ – I still can’t be bothered to play the game (again), but this time I’ve played it so much in the past that I can actually say something about it. The first game to be remembered is ‘Operation Flashpoint’ or as young people call it ‘Arma: Cold War Assault’ because of legal reasons.

Even by 2001 standards ‘Operation Flashpoint’ wasn’t a pretty game. Today looking at the game’s graphics is outright painful. Apart from taking a few screenshots to share the pain, I will be careful not to ruin my fond memories.

The game is a military simulation/tactical first person shooter, that takes place on several fictional Eastern European islands in the late ’80s. I remember being awed by the sheer size of the world. You could drive a truck for minutes in one direction without hitting the coast. The graphics were rough, but Bohemia Interactive still managed to make the world feel real, and atmospheric. It wasn’t a colorful over the top fantasy world. It was a green-brownish backwater-place in Europe and it was convincing.

There were no chairs left because of the Cold War going on. Everybody was stroking their guns simultaneously because of the tension.

The other part I really liked about the game was the campaign – at least up to a certain point. More on that later. To me it felt very immersive. Starting out as some lazy US Army recruit who’s only one week left in the middle of nowhere and then suddenly being dragged into a fast growing international military conflict – it was exciting. Especially because of the huge freedom the gameplay allowed. I remember after a very unsuccessful partially scripted battle, I was dragging my wounded character into the woods for safety but several enemy soldiers kept hunting me. I managed to take them out one by one, rambo-style, crawling from cover to cover until someone shot me in the face. That was an awesome gaming moment. I had never experienced anything like it in a video game before.

Alas, as with all games of the series, at some point of the campaign you are promoted to squad commander. A moment, for me at last, where the games rough edges were too much for me. I found commanding my fellow soldiers to be impractical and difficult. It also took away tension from the ‘oh my, how will I get out of this situation’-feeling of the game, which for me made up a lot of the atmosphere. And while it was fun to play around with all the military vehicles I never felt compelled to learn how to master them. It also had a very weird soundtrack – not in a good way.

Operation Flashpoint: brown jeep in brown landscape
A demonstration of the game’s color palette.

I realize that ‘Operation Flashpoint’ was primarily famous for it’s multiplayer mode, as are all the Arma games, but I never got into that. What’s the point of video games if you have to deal with actual humans in them?

I still don’t want to play Operation Flashpoint again. It will always have a place in my heart, but I don’t want to fight brownish-green figures in a muddy looking brownish-green landscape. I did check however if somebody made a mod to play the campaign in ‘Arma 3’ and somebody did. I will install it and never play it. Done!

I think somebody already hit it hard.

Info: Operation Flashpoint shouldn’t be played for fun, but as an important part of gaming history. Go educate yourself on Steam.

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