Operation Flashpoint is a long-standing favourite of mine. I still play the PC version regularly, along with several comrades in arms at work. The game is now five years old, and I’m still playing it. That’s one hell of a game.
I approached the Xbox version with some trepidation. Would it be impossible to play with a joypad? Would the conversion skimp somehow – not include everything the PC version did? How do you fit a PC game into 64MB of console memory?
The answer – that’s taken five years to form – is that you don’t compromise, and the console version becomes arguably the best version of Flashpoint available.
As a Flashpoint PC veteran, the first thing I noticed when I fired up a mission was that the world was suddenly not just a bunch of polygons any more. It was alive. I remember when Flashpoint was released on the PC and I was blown away by the scope and beauty of the graphics, but these days, the engine looks a bit threadbare, and static. “Functional” would be one way of putting it.
Not so on the Xbox: it’s verging on beautiful. There’s grass. Trees are animated rather than being static, and sway with the grass and the bushes in the breeze. Waves break against the shore, insects buzz through the wildlife. It made me stop and stare. Of course, this is Flashpoint so I got shot in the head shortly after stopping to look around, but that just made me happier! The engine has been retrofitted with new effects like depth of field and adjustable focus, so that the cinematics look more… cinematic. Honestly, the cinematics are poorly voice- and marionette-acted and won’t win any awards, but the whole thing is done in-engine, and is impressive just for that. The models look like they’ve been tweaked, with normal maps on glass surfaces, and a generally high level of detail (object detail is scaled relative to the frame rate and closeness, so at a distance, things do get a bit nondescript).
The sound has also been overhauled, but nothing really stands out (the tree felling noise is better than it was, as are the metallic clangs when you hit something in a tank – er, like drive into a building).
Everything from Flashpoint PC and Resistance is reported to be in the Xbox conversion, and while I haven’t yet unlocked Resistance, I’ve had no reason to doubt that. One of the hallmarks of the PC version was the flexibility and interactivity, and that’s all there. If you happen to catch a tank crew napping (and arrange for them not to wake up), you can take their tank. If you decide you don’t want to follow orders and have a much better strategy, you can do that. It’s totally open ended, and some of the finest moments in the game are when you do something you’re sure the map designer didn’t even consider.
So, graphics and sound are better, interactivity is the same, the content’s all there… what’s not as good?
The map’s a bit tricker to use than the PC version. The gamepad took some getting used to (I’m not usually a console gamer, but I’m playing through the single player campaign and nobody’s going to stop me)… I’ll tell you when I hit something bad.
I haven’t yet tried Xbox Live, but I’ll update when I have. I have high hopes.