As we all know, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising is positioned as the realistic war game - the fact to Modern Warfare's fiction, if you like - and Codemasters' ballsy approach has worked well: the game is enjoying a third week in UK charts top-five surrounded by blockbuster competition.
I once got lectured by a man at a wedding about Operation Flashpoint. I'd made the mistake of mentioning what I do for a living, but instead of smiling, nodding and pretending to listen while I explained just what a burden it is deciding between two numbers all the time, he went a little purple and asked if I'd heard of ArmA. I didn't have time to answer before he launched into a fifteen-minute tirade against Codemasters, accusing them of being traitorous and misleading money-grabbers for making a game under the name Operation Flashpoint while its real creators Bohemia Interactive, supported by a real community of real fans, were making real sequels to the most real war game ever made and didn't I think it would be worth writing an exposť about that?
Remarkably it's been eight years since the release of the original Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis. The ultra-realistic tactical shooter veered drastically from the route the FPS was taking, aiming for hardcore realism and extreme difficulty in a gaming world that was about to ditch the ubiquitous medpack for regenerating health. Since then the original developer, Bohemia, has released an updated sequel, ArmA: Armed Assault, and is currently working on ArmA 2. In a much-publicised split, Bohemia retain the rights to make sequels, but publisher Codemasters has the rights to the game's name. Hence their unofficial sequel, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. Confused? Just forget about it all, and focus on being excited about what OPF:DR has to offer.
"I love war movies and I love the bits when people die in war movies," says Sion Lenton, executive producer of Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, with a disturbing glint in his eye. More specifically, Lenton's talking about the lengths he went to in order to ensure this updated version doesn't skimp on the horrors of war. "Catastrophic damage" is how he describes the injury model in this long-awaited sequel to the 2001 cult PC hit, which left many FPS addicts weak-kneed with its brutal realism, and his dedication to detail extends to letting the animation team film him writhing on the office floor in mock agony for visual reference.
After so many years in development hell, it's refreshing to see one of gaming's great enigmas finally come out of hiding. Due for release sometime in spring next year, Codemasters has decided that the time is now right to start taking the wraps off Operation Flashpoint 2 - arguably the most ambitious military shooter simulation to date.
If there's one game that needs a sequel, it's Operation Flashpoint.
Codemasters showed key titles for the year ahead at its Code07 event in Bedfordshire earlier this week, airing nine titles and making announcements for Operation Flashpoint 2, Rise of the Argonauts and Race Driver One.