(I call this "Ode to OFP". With thanks to David Haesler, whose introduction below I swiped off of the OFP newsgroup).
OFP, simply put, is a simulation of war combat (as it was in 1985) played in realtime in a "real-world" environment and viewed from the firstperson perspective and is the finest game I have every played, period. The computer age has finally arrived!
OFP is one of those game experiences which pulls you in completely and demands your complete attention for months. It really should not be a game which falls into the "love it or loathe it category". This type of description can be applied to games like Black and White for example (a so called, revolutionary game) which kept me busy for about, ooh let me see, about 3 hours at which point I saw through the graphical trickery to see it for the pile of tedious old crap it is). If you need to be impressed by graphics and perhaps need to impress with graphics, then OFP is not the game for you. Do not buy this game if you don't like the idea of fighting, you don't like war films and you find anything more realistic than monkey Island too much to deal with. Everyone else should experience this game. The game play is stunning and it draws you in for many reasons. The difficulty is to know how to describe the experience of playing OFP. Its so damn satisfying that it becomes hard to describe. I liken the atmosphere when in the midst of a game battle is similar to that experienced when watching the battle scenes in a good recent war film like Saving Private Ryan or even more so, The Thin Red Line (e.g., where they are trying to take the hill...)
I think this is why most reviewers will describe a typical mission to try and evoke the true nature of the game. The experience is excellent and absorbing, exhilarating and exciting. I will try and describe the game as a whole and then describe a typical mission.
The game package offers three main aspects:
1. A war conflict scenario with a rogue Russian general causing trouble on 4 imaginary (?) islands. The crisis unfolds on the four islands and this affords an enormous playing environment of around 100 sq. km. This forms the core of the game.
You might be involved in head on infantry assaults, air combat mission (helicopter and plane), tank, jeep boat or truck driving. You may be the commander or the commanded, and your mission may involve attacking, depending, rescuing, fleeing, keeping watch or planting bombs.
In any of the missions you are entirely free to do what you want, but need to respect your superiors' orders.
2. A set of stand alone missions which allow you a quick blast and for you to hone skills. You can also download and play missions from dedicated sites which have been created by players of the game.
3. A mission editor/creator which offers a fully comprehensive and relatively intuitive way of making your own scenarios and missions with your imagination being your only constraint.
A typical mission may start off with you being briefed in real time by your CO who then tells you to board a jeep and takes you to a certain point in order to meet with the rest of the squad. The mission is to try and retake a local village with other units. Whilst you are driving he continues talking and you are able to look round 360 degrees to take in the speeding scenery flying by. You are amazed at the realistic rolling countryside and your sense of realistic speed. Anyhow back to the mission. You meet up with your comrades in arms and then board a truck together to take you to the start point of the mission. The way in which continuity is preserved with no cut scenes or changes of camera angles is very impressive. You really do get a feeling of being in a virtual world when playing the game. Your truck trundles off the road bumping up and down as it travels. Your fellow mates try and lighten the atmosphere with a bit of banter but the tension is rising. You get out of the truck with your fellow soldiers, your CO barks orders to move to a position undisclosed (i.e., just follow the groups, stay in formation). You can hear a light breeze and the tweeting of a bird nearby breaks through the calm.
Together you run through a thicket of bushes down the side of a valley and up again the other side. Then you go over the top of a hill and see your destination ahead about half a mile away. There is a flurry of activity, in the distance you can make out tank movement and the flash of the firing of weapon. A second or two later you hear the report of gunfire. Your group continues on towards the fighting. The CO tells you to move towards the trees for cover. Suddenly you become aware that gunfire is being directed towards your squad. The team hits the deck. You follow suit and make a desperate crawl for some bushes nearby. Your CO gives the command to engage. The group continues forward towards the village, now only about 350m away. The machine gunner gets up sprints forward firing a volley of shots. He is cut down by enemy fire and your CO screams ' Oh no damn! 3 is down'.
You see some trees to the left and decide to make a dash for them. You figure that you can approach the village from the relative safety of the trees. And also the height of the wood should give an added advantage. You get up and bullets whine past you. Sprinting hard, your breath is harsh and the trees approach agonizingly slowly. All the time you can hear shooting from the rear and right. Your CO yells over the radio 'oh no 4 is down' quickly followed by 'damn 6 is down'. Your squad is in big trouble and you haven't helped one bit yet!
Finally you get to the trees. Suddenly you are aware that you being shot at from ahead! You hit the deck and return fire. Two enemy soldiers are darting between the trees and disappear. You know they are there and continued radio messages inform you that your squad is rapidly being depleted about 300m to your right in the village. You crawl forward just out of the bushes you are in and see one of the enemy in front of you crawling between two bushes about 60m ahead. You line up your aim and go for a headshot. Yes! The soldier goes down. You have little time to revel in your victory. Your gunshot has given away your position and the other soldier is now firing at you! You sprint/crawl out of the bushes and towards another clump a few meters to your left. A bullet whizzes past. Damn that was too close! And you don't know where the shooting is coming from. You decide to get up and risk a sprint for better cover. Bad decision, a bullet rips into you as you rise from your prone position and you see red. You fall to the floor, you can do nothing, you are dead.
Ok you get the picture. The fantastic thing about this game is that if you replay this mission, you can approach it from a completely different angle. You could flank to the right of the village and join another allied unit to take the village from the right hand side and meet back with your group after picking off enemy soldiers from the rear. You could rob a dead LAW soldier's bazooka and go in search of enemy tanks which will be coming into the village. Or you could take the jeep right at the start and go off exploring the island forgetting the mission in hand, completely. Of course you'd risk a court martial, but that's your choice.
Another mission saw me trying to flee an island and following a series of waypoints with others with a combination of vehicle and pedestrian travel, we traveled on a road for about a mile then branched off, got out of a truck, met enemy resistance on foot, discovered our transport had been destroyed, then the rest of my team got killed so I had to use all my stealth capability to wind my way through thickets and woodland to the destination point which was about a mile away. I had to retry the mission several times to find the optimum and most trouble free route. This is obviously a luxury afforded to the real life military.
It's this open ended game play which makes the game so absorbing. This fact, coupled with the sheer realism of the environment and AI, provides the most satisfying gaming experience ever. I could harp on about AI details, sounds, graphics, fluidity of motion, etc., individually, but it is the way the factors all gel together holistically to provide the experience that is OFP.
Certain points do jump out at you, however, which really are worth mentioning:
The topography and geography of the islands affords the player strategy options hitherto undreamed of in a game of this type. With most other games there are few or no topographical features; we are usually faced with a flat as a pancake world. In OFP the geography and flow of hills, valley, trees, woods, etc, gives a very realistic and useful environ to play in. A mission may cover a number of kilometers of terrain and provide a fantastic impression of traveling and covering ground in realtime; always being aware of the urgency and danger surrounding you in hostile territory. The addition factor this imbues is to actually provide you, the player, with vivid memories of the mission after you have played it. I have never, ever had such memories with other games.
The topography also affords the player with tactical option of using hillocks and bosses as cover to snipe from. You can flee from enemies and over the brow of a hill, hit the deck, do a u-turn and then lie in wait for them. Brilliant.
I have usually shied away from the war game genre, on grounds of detachment and general boredom factors. This is completely different. This presents you with the stark choice; play badly and die; play well and you might just make it. And this makes for a series of very exciting challenges.
The game differs from traditional FPS games also in that you are killed with one or two shots. With most FPS games you can be charging at enemies whilst waggling a bowie knife and they will be blasting you with a rocket launcher and you will still be able to kill them. Also, you can dodge the projectiles with a lot of the other games, not so with OFP. More often than not you will be dead before you know where the bullets are coming from. This encourages you to react as if you were there.
The missions only allow one save per attempt. This means that you cannot kill/save/kill/save etc. The option of one save is just right to avoid frustration but maintain excitement.
This is truly marvelous and allows for you to develop as good missions as in the game campaign section itself! This is remarkable and I found myself dabbling with the editor more to begin with than actually playing the missions.
The mission editor starts with you choosing an island map (one of four). Three offer greenery and village locations and the fourth is a desert island.
You are then presented with a zoomable map view of your chosen island with everything shown, down to the last tree and hut. Onto this map you can place and edit individual men cars, tanks, other vehicles, buildings, barriers, objects etc. including boxes telephones. The NPCs can be east or west, civilian or resistance. The characters can be programmed to follow a myriad different paths and the combinations of options allow for really great things to be achieved. Sounds are also able to be programmed as well as all sorts of camera trick.
The beauty of the editor is that you can toy with different, simple, scenarios and build them up, tweaking as you go until you have a full blown battle going on. You can start out with you against a few squaddies, move them around, building up the logic with movements, waypoint, vehicles, and triggered events. From here you can add team-mates, more vehicles; tanks, helicopters, planes, trucks full of troops, these scenarios you can then play out at your leisure. It's like an extremely advanced version of war gaming with plastic soldiers.
The editor is also great because it does not take more than 30 seconds to create your first scenario, involving yourself against, say a squad of 8 enemy soldiers. There are a fantastic range of options and features with the editor which are not featured with the instructions of the game, and this is often cited as a criticism. I figure that if the developers were kind enough to throw in the editor as a bonus, why grumble? There's fantastic support online any how.
Downers on the game:
1 Slightly rough around the edges graphically. Some reviewers say its really bad, but it is marginal in my opinion.
2 A little buggy; those I've noticed include:
Phantom targets and waypoints.
Curious problems with continuing missions continuing or being bombed back to main menu, but I think this is more due to perhaps a poorly designed and misleading syntax on the menus Sometimes the radio comes through the speaker and some times it doesn't Very occasional bombing out to windows and more sinister still, complete reboot (including memory test !!??).
Having said this, it is on the whole, stable and can allow you tab to windows and return to the game and also supports multitasking well on my system.
3 Fairly awkward to use editor for anything other than very simple missions (lack of comprehensive manual probably does not help.
What I'd like to see added to the game:
Realistic explosions would be nice along with craters and, burning building, and vehicles
Better buildings with breakable doors
Animals (to kill?)
As you can see the downside of the game is negligible compared to what it offers.
Buy it now!