Codemasters – Operation Flashpoint Gold Edition review

gritty, realistic army combat game with update pack
Photo of Codemasters – Operation Flashpoint Gold Edition
£34.99 (£9.99 for upgrade pack)

You may have seen the original Operation Flashpoint game reviewed elsewhere, but we’ve been waiting for the full pack to come out. And here it is. The updated version of the original game plus the ‘Red Hammer: The Soviet Campaign’ add-on, which together make this one of the best war combat games ever to grace the PC.

You have the choice of fighting on the US or the Russian side in separate campaigns, starting off either as a lowly private or as an ex-special forces soldier. Pick a stand-alone mission or a full campaign and off you go. You may start off on foot, but you can take advantage of any vehicles (jeeps, tanks, even aircraft) that have been left lying around. The basic M16/Kalashnikov and a selection of grenades will suffice for earlier missions, but later on you get anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry and you can swap your weapons for those of enemy victims, should you so choose.

Although this is a 3D action game, in that it’s 3D and there’s lots of action, it’s not like any of the usual Quake-esque titles, strewn with health packs, extra ammo, power-ups, invincibility potions and other such frippery. In Operation Flashpoint if you get shot once, you’re seriously wounded. Get shot again and you’re probably dead. Sometimes even a single round is all it takes, especially if you make the mistake of standing still in open spaces with clear sky behind you. Realism is the keyword.

This is, to put it mildly, bloody irritating. When you start the first mission – pretty simple; just wander into town and nick someone’s jeep – it can be a little tedious to find yourself shot within ten seconds of starting. You get to read plenty of famous war quotes this way, as they’re pasted over the top of your now-lifeless body, but after a dozen deaths in as many minutes you start to wonder about the point of it all.

Then, something clicks (slow, us?). If you were personally going into battle, rather than blazing in with the safe knowledge that it’s only a game, you’d be a damned sight more careful about avoiding injury. Having made this connection, the game becomes far more exciting. You take your time, use all available cover, keep your eyes open for enemy soldiers, crawl rather than walk and generally act as though your life depends on getting things right. Which, in a virtual sense, it does.

And that’s the real appeal of Operation Flashpoint. The graphics aren’t fantastic (though they’re not bad) and the plot lines aren’t brilliant either. But the realism is addictive and the freedom of movement is fantastic. Go where you like, shoot what you like, drive/fly what you like. You can disobey orders, even shoot your own men (we did it once accidentally; the feeling of guilt is surprisingly real). Soon you start to care about your character and your comrades; losing even one is annoying. Prepare to lose yourself in hours of very real ‘play’.

Company: Codemasters

Allegedly this game is now used as part of the basic training for some military cadets. We can see why. It has that certain 'Saving Private Ryan' feeling of unpleasant realism about it. You get shot, you're dead. Your colleagues get shot, they're dead. That's it. No fancy graphics or massively pretty explosions, just you and your men trying to do unto others before they do unto you.