Review by RKurtzDmitriyev
The three-page overview includes custom buttons. (I didn't even know that you could do that!) The three pages summarize the mission, recount the storyline of Sui's series, and give the author's contact information. It's pretty cool. My only gripe is that there are three custom buttons and the rightmost one takes you to the last page, rather than scrolls to the next page as one would expect. Click the central button to view the middle page.
The intro sets a convincing stage for the mission without dragging on for too long. Scattered Soviet AT teams repel a US tank assault near Dourdan. Over at Malden's airstrip, the player's character, a new platoon sergeant, is introduced with witty dialogue and is briefed on a new mission. The platoon is headed to the front to clear out the anti-tank threat!
Sui's master scripting skills go to work here with expertly-done soldier animations, particle effects, slow motion, a scripted battle, and a map-animation briefing.
In the intro we also first encounter this mission's voice acting. Though the obviously non-American accents coming from the mouths of several American characters can seem corny, the acting is very talented by OFP standards. It greatly enhances the realism and atmosphere throughout this mission. The voice files have been lip-synced and excellent radio distortion added where appropriate.
Thanks to the intro's map-animation, the player already knows the general outline of the mission plan before he sees the briefing booklet. The booklet is written in a fairly realistic style, with an order of battle, detailed notes from your commanding officer, reports on known enemy forces, and a weather report. Pictures and custom buttons are included.
All of this information was organized and concise enough that I didn't feel overwhelmed by details, as often happens with this sort of briefing. The author has not forgotten to include the traditional OFP interactive objectives, so impatient players can simply skip to these to see a summary of the mission.
The gear selection was very well thought out, offering the player some flexibility in the squad's armaments without breaking the mission or ruining its realistic theme. No G36s, HKs, or M21 sniper rifles for you, sorry, but you do get a fair number of grenade launchers and two LAW barrels.
The main attraction of this mission is platoon operations: four squads moving and working together as a unit. This contrasts with the chaotic independent squad operations of most OFP missions.
The mission's first few minutes familiarize the player with working in a platoon. A yellow particle effect will tell you where to move to keep your squad in formation with the others, and there are map markers showing the position of all squads. Thus, there is never any doubt about where you are or where you're supposed to go. This may displease the hardcore OFP veterans among us who consider it more manly to navigate by compass and map features, but in this case I feel the departure from realism is warranted. In real life, after all, an assistant squad leader could help you navigate and remember where everyone is.
Dynamic radio chatter makes this platoon system compelling. Friendly squads report contacts and casualties through the side channel (with voices). If a sniper is spotted, someone yells "SNIPER!" Once reported, the positions of enemies are automatically revealed to friendly AIs. The detailed orders you receive at times from your lieutenant are, of course, pre-scripted, but there is randomness in which of several plans he will choose.
If your poor lieutenant dies at any point during the mission, you will have to assume platoon command. A new option on your action menu will bring up a dialog box that allows you to change the platoon formation, request situation reports, and give detailed orders to each squad or the platoon as a whole. Squads now chatter when you give them orders or they complete them. The command interface is about as intuitive as it could possibly be. Descriptions of the advantages of various formations are even shown.
I have one complaint about the command interface: there seems to be no way to give more than one order at once, and there's a time delay before you can call up the dialog again. In the case of move orders, the delay is about 10 seconds! This delay irritates me a lot, because precious time is wasted, and I can't figure out why it's necessary. Fortunately, if you need the whole platoon to open fire at once (for example), you can do that easily with a single order.
The platoon simulation and command interface would make for a decent and original mission, but this mission further distinguishes itself with its semi-linear form. Many random events can alter the course of the mission. I won't spoil them for you, but let's just say that this mission has not played out the same way twice for me. Many enemies have also been randomized. Fortunately, all possible paths seem to have been thoroughly tested and de-bugged, ensuring an enjoyable experience regardless of what path the mission takes.
Thus, replayability is high. All the alternate paths still converge toward the same final objective, but the player will be tragically mistaken if he assumes that he knows what's coming from his first playthrough. Each playthrough is likely to last anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.
Thanks to some fairly highly-skilled enemy AIs, as well as the thick fog, some fierce firefights and nerve-wracking crawl-and-shoot sessions await the player. Enemies often seem to be just barely out of sight as shooting erupts. If you do happen to get shot, a custom death cinematic awaits you. Follow the lieutenant's orders, and the other squads will absorb a good share of the bullets rather than your own, or yourself. Or, if your platoon leader dies...well, you'll just have to figure something out, won't you?
The one time I was forced to assume command fairly early in the mission, the platoon survived...with about 5 men left. Multiple endings are available depending on how intact your platoon is by the end of the mission. I haven't been able to reach the "happiest" ending.
Besides that delay in the command interface, I can think of only one flaw worth mentioning: music plays during several battles that the player must participate in. I hate this. We've all heard those Seventh tracks before. Though they're tolerable for cutscenes, when they're played during a firefight, as you're trying to concentrate, it's downright annoying. Apparently not everyone hates this use of music during the battle, but I do.
There is an Outro-Win. This worthy finale to the mission shows camera sweeps of recently-captured Arudy as credits roll. Then comes one of the best cinematic firefights I've seen, complete with camera shaking due to explosions. The same scripting expertise that went into the intro is evident here. I'd like to play this outro as a mission.
The outro suggests that Sui planned for the series to continue, but, unfortunately, that must have been at least 5 years ago and I don't believe Sui is working on more installments.
This mission is a great piece of work, and proves that no addons are necessary for an original and enjoyable mission. The entire package from intro to outro shows thorough mastery of the OFP scripting language and a great reservoir of creativity. If you like operations larger than a squad, this is definitely the mission for you. If not, you may wish at least to give it a try, for some classic, unpredictable OFP infantry carnage awaits.