The original Operation Flashpoint came out in 2001 and met with a huge fan following. Now seven years later, Codemasters is hard at work on Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising, and while original developer Bohemia Interactive the huge fan following is still in place...only now they're making the game. According to the gentlemen from Codemasters who were presenting OF2 on Thursday morning, the team is filled with fans of the original game, dedicated to doing the franchise justice with this ambitious sequel.

While the original Operation Flashpoint took place on a set of fictitious islands in 1985, the new game is firmly based in reality. The game takes place on Skira Island off the coast of Russia, which the Russians captured from the Chinese and never got around to returning. Now the Chinese want it back, and the Russians have turned to the Americans for help. The entire island is your stomping ground, but pack a lunch if you plan to walk. It'll take 4 and a half hours to cross the terrain on foot, or 20 minutes using the fastest aircraft in the game.

Realism is a key factor for operation Flashpoint 2, and the developers have gathered over 400GB of data on weapons, vehicles, and tactics to help them in bringing the conflict to life. Weapons will load authentically, vehicles with travel at realistic speeds, and both will deteriorate over time, so don't get too used to any of them.

Another point the devs touched on was the sheer amount of work going into making sure that each soldier has a distinctive look. They showed hundreds of different faces, all created with the goal of letting players get to know their teammates. They want you to be able to look at a character's face and know that he's your machine gunner and not your sniper.

There wasn't too much in the way of gameplay shown, but they did present us with a distance demo to get a feel for the sense of scale OF2 delivers. A squad based on top of some rolling hills stops, and the character uses binoculars to sight a tank 800 yards away, calling in an air strike to blow the armor to bits. The celebration lasted for only a few seconds before enemies popped up over a nearby ridge, signaling the end of the demo. Drat.


As for multiplayer, Codemasters is thinking pretty huge as well. While PC will support 32 players online and console versions a much more modest 8, AI soldiers will be ever-present on the field, with up to 100 appearing at any given time. You're part of a much larger conflict, and they aim to make sure you know it. For those of you with friends *sniffle* there'll also be online co-op available.

From the brief glimpse of gameplay I received, the game is looking rather solid, and it should, running on a modified version of the GRID engine. Yes, the squad-based FPS is using a racing game engine as its core, but have you seen said racing game? It translates very nicely into a gritty shooter.

So far the only bad thing about Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising is that we aren't going to get our hands on it until 2009. While I was only a modest fan of the original, the sequel could very well top it in every regard.