Game Review - by James Allen
1985. I remember the year well. Wait a minute, I was six! Nevertheless, apparently the Soviet Union (Russia) was in a cold war (fighting on Antarctica) with the United States (the United States). What if communism hasn't been crushed under the heavy boot of capitalism and the Russians invaded a small group of islands in the middle of nowhere? If this query has been keeping you up at night, you're in luck, because Operation Flashpoint addresses this very subject. Operation Flashpoint has been heralded for its authenticity and accuracy: will 2001 be filled with 1985 warring goodness, or just bad music?
Your basket is filled to the brim with all the trimmings in Operation Flashpoint. Firstly, there is a compelling and (most importantly) fun campaign mode, where you assume the role of several soldiers (one at a time, however) battling the evil that is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. You'll get to do it all (more on that later), and the missions tie together very well, beyond the realm of just random single player missions thrown collectively summed. However, if you like those single player affairs with no story strings attached, there is a multitude (13) of instant action to satisfy your adult tastes (much like Arby's). Each of these incorporate some special type of action, such as tank and helicopter piloting, and special forces.
And let's not forget multiplayer. Enjoy all the gaming goodness of shooting your friends in a violent rampage of misplaced rage (or maybe it's just me). It may not have the persistant online world seen in World War II Online, but at least it works. All the favorites are here, albeit in a slightly skewed format: capture the flag, paintball, and deathmatch. Most of the games are team based, so it stresses the kind of teamwork found in Counter-Strike (well, some of the time). Extending the multiplayer realm (and single player as well) is the included mission editor. This is one of the easiest to use since Steel Beasts, and I picked it up in about half an hour, and I was able to whip up quick confrontations in a matter of minutes. There is a dichotomy here: it's effortless to use, but you can do very complicated missions as well. This makes the editor suitable for both the beginner and advanced user, which is something that's refreshing in a tactical shooter. The features of Operation Flashpoint definitely extend the shelf life.
The ambiance in the game is realistic for the most part, although the voice acting could be better. All of the vehicles are accompanied by realistic sounds, as if a tape recorder was implanted on the side. It's a tense feeling when you hear an enemy helicopter approaching and fly overhead (and the subsequent tank blowing up in front of you). A couple of instances, I have found myself looking to the side of the monitor glancing for that approaching truck.
Operation Flashpoint is one of the most complete tactical shooters of recent memory, and the gameplay reflects this. There are numerous types of control and roles to play in the game. First is the infantry man, crawling along the ground with the enemy in sight. Additionally, you can pilot any of the vehicles in the game. You can also choose your role in each craft, whether it be pilot, gunner, commander, or passenger. You can view the action from first person or third person mode. Additionally, your view can zoom on your gun sight if you choose. Piloting the various vehicles in the game is trouble-free, and the transition from one to the other is straightforward. It seems some of authenticity was cut from vehicle control, and we can be grateful for it. Both sides have genuine vehicles from the mid eighties: tanks, trucks, jeeps, armored personell carriers, helicopters, boats, planes, and mobile guns. It makes for an awesome experience, with the war going on all around you while you engage the enemy. Each different unit is equipped with appropriate weaponry: rifles, missile launchers, grenades, machine guns, and more. Everything in Operation Flashpoint is so thorough it's amazing, and this extends (most of the time) to the AI. The AI can be set from "target practice" to "retry the level" (not really, but you get the idea). The AI will, on occasion, pick you off with ease. And it's hard to get away from the crossfire, since the damage modeling is accurate in nature, meaning one or two shots and you are watching a death cut scene. It's a tense situation, as there are many ways of dying (including getting run over by a tank: don't ask). All told, Operation Flashpoint delivers the goods in the most realistic war action shooter present in our gaming realm in quite a while.
The graphics run the gamut from spectacular to mediocre, but that's only because of the limiting nature of processors and video cards on today's et. The individual personnel and vehicle models have very well done textures, and it looks like real pictures of said objects were taken and pasted on in the game. The environments are also darn realistic, with beautiful skies, clouds that move, and hazy horizons which beckon for a five minute sightseeing trip. But, when you get up close and personal, the foliage (which is thankfully abundant in places) becomes all too blocky. I'm sure this decision was made in the interest of frame rates, but they still could have bumped up the detail in close proximity. The bombed out houses look "interesting," to say the least: it is fun to walk up twisting stairs, but it's still funky looking. Altogether, though, the graphics look fairly good.
Operation Flashpoint obviously draws comparisons to World War II Online, and this is what happens when the tactical shooter goes right. Fervently realistic gameplay, adequate sound, mostly stellar graphics, and expandability galore. A compelling and engaging single player campaign seals the deal. Operation Flashpoint will certainly occupy enough time of your life, drawing you back with its wonders and lures.