Operation Flashpoint Gold Edition
"War is not nice." -Barbara Bush, as quoted in Operation Flashpoint Gold Edition
The era when renegade Soviet leadership might attempt to seize control of territories through military action seems both near and distant. Just yesterday the USSR was an "evil empire" and yet the shift to fighting terrorism makes the cold war days seem almost nostalgic. Despite one's historical orientation, Operation Flashpoint Gold Edition allows players to engage in plenty of military style action from a variety of perspectives. The game is pleasantly difficult to categorize into a genre. It most resembles a shooter yet elements like plot, squad command, and vehicle control take it well beyond the scope of the usual run-and-frag shooter.
What extra nuggets does the Gold version have? It comes with the original Operation Flashpoint game with all upgrades. There are several new vehicles, weapons, and missions. The Blackhawk helicopter, M1 Abrams tank, and SCUD launcher'yes, you can fire it'are included. More important is the additional Red Hammer campaign wherein the player fights the Cold War Crisis as Dmitri Lukin, a former Spetsnaz soldier. The new campaign contains 20 new missions.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
As with the original Operation Flashpoint, gameplay is most certainly the strongest feature. I can't get over the depth of freedom and choices available on the battlefield. Walk around and pick up weapons, jump in vehicles, command troops, etc. There is much to do and all in the perspective of choice: first or third person. Imagine jumping in an aircraft and dropping ordinance on your enemies, getting hit, then parachuting to the ground where you find an RPG with which you pulverize a tank. I sometimes felt guilty scavenging the battlefield for the biggest baddest weapon or vehicle while other squad mates were hunkering down on the front lines. Of course, the vehicles and aircraft did not carry the detail and punch of those seen in standard simulations like M1 Tank Platoon II or Falcon 4.0. Many of the weapons lacked ferocity when compared to other shooters. Because of this, the game could at times seem a bit juvenile.
A game of this depth wouldn't work without easy-to-use controls and interface. I found the controls and key mapping somewhat different than the Quake engine based games I'm used to playing. It took a little while, but I eventually established a comfort with movement, actions, ordering troops and targeting. Generally, I was pleased with the ability to control the myriad of characters and vehicles. Certain tasks, though, like climbing up or down a ladder could be as challenging as facing an enemy foot soldier. My minor complaints are the sticky mouse syndrome and no single strafe key to bind for both left and right movement.
I'm a stickler for sharp game graphics. The greatest graphical strength was the game's ability to render vast amounts of playable terrain. I never felt trapped like I do in virtually every shooter. Still, the visuals were slightly below what I had hoped. Some of the environments looked a dull gray color that made it hard to see enemies at times. The sunny beach environments looked the best of them all. I found the player models lacking in detail. Perhaps a few more polys would have helped. Occasionally, walls and objects began shaking when I got too close. The cut scenes seemed about average.
Unlike the typical shooter, the radio chatter in this game communicates valuable battlefield information to players. During firefights, a constant flow of information is fed over the radio. Squad leaders identify targets and squad members confirm kills. If a squad leader strays to far from his squad, soldiers radio, "Where are you?" When inside a tank, the crew voices can be heard as they load ammo and fire. Aside from the awareness of battlefield events gleaned from the radio chatter, the actual audio quality itself is a different story. I like my weapon sounds straight up, no ice. Hearing a powerful and deadly weapon like the M-16 emit a cap gun-like sound should bring tears to the eyes of anyone who has heard the crack of a real weapon. Other effects like squad voices could have sounded fuller, although the unique feature of changing the pitch of the squad leader helped.
One of the reasons given for the US Marine Corp's decision to use a modified version of Operation Flashpoint to train American troops was the in-depth level editor, which allows users great freedom in creating combat missions that can be played from many different perspectives. The mission editor is among the most user-friendly of any I've ever used.
Operation Flashpoint Gold Edition comes with the Operation Flashpoint Prima Strategy Guide "to give you all the training you need to ensure your missions are a success." The strategy guide is 64 pages in length and appears to be professionally produced. I don't have a lot to say about the guide except that it is a methodical mission by mission walk through to aid the enthusiastic or stuck.
Operation Flashpoint Gold Edition would not qualify as one of my most favorite games yet it's difficult to criticize a game that I can't stop playing. I found the game more interesting than the average shooter. While there are things that shooters do better in the area of sound, graphics and close quarters combat, it's hard to beat the exciting gameplay and sheer number of choices available. Very few gamers will play through this game in a few days and sell it on Ebay. As with the original Operation Flashpoint, the Gold Edition makes for some challenging fun that will endure over time. Overall, I found no striking feature differences in the original and the Gold Edition. It's essentially more of the same type of gameplay as the original game. And that's "nice."