Review by dreampage

"Fails as a videogame. Shines as a military simulator."

Good things come to those who wait. What a cliche to start a review with! But if there's one game that fits this cliche it's Operation Flashpoint: Elite, the Xbox exclusive version of the best-selling PC shooter. The Xbox version was announced in 2002 and since the original (Cold War Crisis) proved to be a huge success, console gamers waited in anticipation. However, the game got released only recently due to some problems with publishers and development. What we got now is an extremely polished, yet at the same time extremely outdated game, which can only be loved or hated.

GAMEPLAY: 9/10

Operation Flashpoint: Elite is a military simulator. There's no other way to define it. Anything that can happen in a real military conflict can happen in this game, yet you can't expect anything unrealistic from it. There's no running 'n gunning here - well, you can run, but the next thing will be death instead of gunning. This is a strict simulator, hard, unforgiving. It puts you in a story that takes place in 1985 in the Cold War (hence the original title). There are another full single-player campaign, however, Resistance, which originally was an expansion for the PC. So what we've got is insane amount of single-player content: two full campaigns, instant action missions and single missions, too. The single-player portion of the game will last about 50-60 hours according to the developers. That's what I call content!

There is also a full mission editor in which players can create, customize and share any kind of missions and play them offline or on Xbox Live. Here come the multiplayer portion, because Elite has it, too. You can play System Link or Xbox Live, and there are many missions and other, more common game modes like Deathmatch and the like. Since the game takes place in enormous environments (four, 100 square kilometer maps to be exact), the more players the better. Oh, and there are bots, too, which can fill up the empty slots in multiplayer matches.

So as far as content goes Operation Flashpoint: Elite is without opponent. But how does it handle? Well, hard, to be honest. The game is not unfair, but the enemy A.I. is brutal on every difficulty level and the various controls can be quite hard to get used to. Even on foot the game handles suspiciously (turning horizontally is too quick on the default setting), and there are dozens of different vehicles, from civilian to military, from helicopters to planes, cars and tanks, for you to control. Every part of the game is realistic, make no mistake - but this level of realism makes the whole experience awkward, and in the first few hours you'll be busy trying to find out what to do instead of where the enemy is.

One thing, however, makes you forget the difficulty: the immersion. You start a mission and you're not playing anymore. You are simply teleported to the virtual battlefield, you feel the virtual air and feel the pain when get shot. The atmosphere of the game is unparallelled as far as military games go. The environments are varied and believable, and there are many little details that make them even more real. Just a few things: insects, real-time clocktowers, dynamic weather and day-time cycle, real star constellations, tidal waves, etc. These are little touches that can't be found in any other game. Subtle touches but you know they're there and this makes the whole experience better.

The missions are usual military affairs: attack, defend, escort, etc. It's the execution that's different. It's much slower, much harder and much more tactical than other shooters. In fact, it's sometimes just too hard and frustrating. Not because it's badly made - but because real war must be just like this: frustrating.

GRAPHICS: 5 / 10

This game is ugly. Plain and simple. The only thing to appreciate in the graphics is that the maps are huge and it makes logical that the look of the game is worse than usual. There are still many details, though. Bees flying over your head, birds flying in the air. Character models are decent, but their animation is horrible. Texturing is another thing that got sacrificed because of the huge scale of the battlefields. The whole feeling of the graphics is that everything wants to fall apart in the next moment. This is because the unusual movement of the main character, the blurry textures and the huge amount of jaggies due to some ugly aliasing. Technically, this outdated look is understandable. But if you look at it as an Xbox game, it's not.

SOUND: 4 / 10

It's hard to imagine that something is even worse than the graphics in this game, but there's one thing: sound. It's really not that the quality of the effects are bad, because everything from weapons to vehicles sound authentic. It's just it's a totally underwhelming experience. There's even a weapon that only makes a clicking sound when shot - I honestly had to check if I really shot a bullet or not, because there was no indication of it whatsoever. The voice acting is quite bad, too, especially the radio chatter during action, because it's so random that makes you think if some badly programmed robots are talking to each other. Again, realism killed the videogame qualities. If you look at it from a military perspective, the sound is quite good. But this should be a game after all, and from this point of view it just sucks.

The music is atmospheric, but here comes another problem: the volume levels cannot be adjusted properly. Seriously. The main reason for this is that the volume in the menus greatly differs from the volume during gameplay. The music is either laughably loud or totally muted, no matter how much you tinker with the sliders. And there's not much music in there anyway.

LONGEVITY: 9 / 10

50 hours of single-player, countless more in various multiplayer modes, custom missions. I think this three phrases tell everything. If someone managed to love this game, he'll never get bored of it. Elite has enough possibilities for a lifetime, that's for sure. It's challenging, tactical and so real, and this translates extremely well into online matches, too. I'm sure the online community will be a fair and hardcore community that can really play and respect this software.

OVERALL: 7 / 10

I like Operation Flashpoint: Elite and I greatly respect the work that Bohemia Interactive has done with the game. Yet I can't escape from the "mixed bag" feeling. On one side, it's the most realistic war game ever. Long-lasting, realistic playing, challenging and fair. On the other side, however, I am a gamer who likes to play games, and we have to admit that Flashpoint fails as a game. Because, what makes a great game? The combination of gameplay, atmosphere and audiovisuals. This software doesn't have this combination. It's not fun. Why? Because real war isn't fun either. It's hard for the same reason. It's ugly, and the sound is bad, too. Only hardcore enthusiasts will love Operation Flashpoint: Elite, but to the game's credit, they will love it to death.

The only thing remaining is to choose: do you want a great game or a full-on military simulator? Depending on your choice I advise you buy this immediately or avoid it like hell.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/05


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