Reviewed: August 15, 2002
Released: July 12, 2002
With just a week before the one-year anniversary of the release of the original Operation: Flashpoint here I am reviewing the much anticipated mission pack. Fans of the original will be pleased to know that the designers didn’t ruin what was one of the best combat simulations of 2001. Sticking to the basics, they have kept the series true to its roots while adding a few subtle touches that improve the gameplay and updated the graphics to keep current with the latest video cards.
Operation Flashpoint: Resistance is an official expansion and requires that you already have original Operation: Flashpoint already installed. I’d like to take this moment to voice my extreme disapproval of the placement of the CD Key on the back page of the manual. Put it on the jewel case where it is accessible. Since almost a year had past I had long since uninstalled the original game. When trying to reinstall it I was prompted for the CD key, which was in the manual, which was in a box of manuals, which was buried under a stack of other boxes in my garage. It took me the better part of a day to locate the box – manual – code, which I have since written on the CD.
Resistance is neither a sequel nor a prequel to the original. The events that take place in the single player campaign take place several years before the Cold War Crisis depicted in the first. The story unfolds through some rather lengthy introductory movies that are partially interactive. When it’s all over you learn that you are Victor Troska, an ex-Special Forces soldier who has retired from the service and is trying to live the peaceful life on the island of Nogovo.
We ride along with Victor on a typical drive and bus ride to the office on what would otherwise be a routine day…until the Soviets invade. Fleeing his office and swiping a car, he races back to his home to ride out the “storm”, choosing not to get involved or cause any trouble. The Soviets begin a non-violent invasion with an overwhelming show of force. Tanks and soldiers stream into the towns and propaganda blares over the PA systems and radio stations.
The residents of Nogovo begin to fight back and form a resistance movement. These are regular citizens with no military training and only the family rifle or shotgun hanging over the mantel for weapons. If you have seen the movie, Red Dawn you have a good idea where this is going. A few of the rebels know about Victor’s past and try to enlist his aid. Trying to remain a pacifist he refuses to help them until events unfold that force him to take up arms and seek out the resistance camp hidden in the forest.
And there you have it. It’s actually a really good backdrop for a great series of missions that are presented from a unique perspective. Unlike the first game where you played a “grunt” fresh out of boot camp and had the help of a well-trained army, Resistance has you playing as the only trained soldier in a group of untrained freedom fighters. This leads to some very challenging gameplay elements and strategic considerations when planning and executing your missions.
As the only man with any military training you are naturally put in charge of this ragtag bunch of would-be commandos. Since you have no official support from the government – the president was executed in the initial attack – your resources are extremely limited, both men and weapons. Every man under your command is a valuable resource and not easily replaced, as are weapons and ammo. Everything carries over from mission to mission, so if you do poorly in the beginning it will only get tougher near the end.
One of the first missions after you have located the rebels and defended the base from a surprise attack is to ambush an enemy convoy and steal a pair of trucks. One of the new features in Resistance is the ability to drop weapons or stash them in trucks or equipment dumps. This allows you to collect weapons from dead soldiers and stockpile them back at your base.
My only complaint about this process is that Victor seems to be the only one capable of collecting weapons. A simple, “police the area for weapons and ammo” command would have been extremely helpful. Instead, you have a bunch of guys standing around while you strip bodies of weapons, run to the truck, empty your stash, and repeat. Since you can only carry a limited amount of inventory it could take several minutes to thoroughly police an area.
Not much has changed in the basic gameplay or controls. The game plays much like any other FPS title, but you do have the option to switch to an external camera if you enjoy watching the slick animations and seeing the actually weapons slung over your shoulder. The command interface is still a bit cryptic at first but you eventually can work with it well enough to effectively command your entire squad or individual soldiers.
The AI is an unfair blend of stupidity on your team and super Soviet soldiers on the other. The reaction time between the time you give an order and it is executed is painfully slow. I’m perched on a mountaintop viewing a pair of T72’s coming down the road. I tell my crew to take cover and they will scramble around for what seems like hours looking for the perfect hiding place. I normally have to override that order with an attack command before they ever get into a covert position. Once they attack they don’t seem to have any defensive motivation. My RPG guy will get off a single shot then sit there and get killed while reloading. Take cover you idiot!
In all fairness, he is probably getting killed by the same insanely accurate soldiers that I am. I can be hiding behind a tree growing out of a boulder on the top of a mountain and snipe a soldier or blow up a tank. If I do not move within 2-3 seconds after firing I am a dead man. The enemy has this uncanny ability to instantly locate even the most concealed sniper and waste him with just a few shots.
Missions range from short to medium in length. The longer ones have checkpoints that allow you to pick-up where you left off after dying, and you will be dying…a lot. In my experience, Resistance seems to be designed around the frustrating “try – die – try again” game model. Five guys in the trees all get shot? Try moving three up the mountain and pinning the enemy in a crossfire. Oops…all dead? Try rushing the tanks with satchel charges. Dead again? Screw it. Load your men in the truck, grab an RPG and blow up the enemy "commando" style. Despite my willingness to command, there are simply situations where it is easier to leave everyone behind and do it yourself.
The designers have taken this opportunity to enhance several aspects of the visual presentation of Resistance, so it shouldn't come as any surprise to see that the system requirements are nearly double those of the original game. What was surprising was that I have upgraded my system to a 1.4ghz with 512mb ram (nearly 3x the recommended system) since I played the original and I still experienced some notable performance issues. I was tweaking graphics options for the first three missions until I found a functional combination of quality and speed.
The soldiers have been greatly improved upon and look great in their camouflaged combat fatigues. They are modeled with more than enough polygons to animate them in realistic fashion. The soldiers walk, run, and do that cool combat crawl and it looks amazing. The vehicles and buildings also share the same level of detail and quality, and unlike the original, the terrain quality has been vastly improved upon. Objects that used to get all pixilated and look horrible up close have now been enhanced.
The levels in this game are huge and the view distance is equally as massive. The entire island measures no less than 100 square-km. You can tweak the draw distance in the settings, but you are almost always going to see some annoying pop-up. Even in the game-rendered cutscenes I would see trees and tent ropes “pop” into the scene as the camera moved around. Trees, grass, rocks, and structures look great from a distance and there is a little fogging on objects that are really far away.
The atmosphere is enhanced by a lot of peripheral wartime activities that are going on around you. In the very first mission after escaping a firing squad you hear a chopper fly overhead. What could be mistaken for ambience is actually a “timer” giving you just enough time to search some bodies and steal a truck before it comes back and kills you.
The weather and time of day are also beautifully rendered. Many of your missions take place at dusk or in the early dawn. The sun will cast realistic shadows based on the time of day. Special effects like explosions, fire, and smoke are all perfectly reproduced, but they are not overly exaggerated like you may have become accustomed to from watching countless war movies. Subtle details like tire tracks, dust clouds, shadows, and lens flares all combine to create an ultra-realistic feel to the game.
The colors are not overly bright and share an earthen color palette giving the game a dirty and dull look adding to the realism. The game still features that washed out look of the original that will tempt you to tweak your contrast settings. It grows on you after a few missions but it is still very different compared to just about every other outdoor combat game.
Resistance features character animation right on par with the original. Each member of your team looks unique and comes complete with their own speaking style and facial expressions. When creating your character you get to choose from a large selection of faces and other options. For every face you don’t choose, expect to see it somewhere in the game on another soldier.
The music takes a step down from the quality of the original. I would have been happy to simply hear the tunes from Cold War Crisis. Even so, the music isn’t horrible and only accompanies the cutscenes and in-game animations. When you are getting down and dirty in the trenches you will only hear the incessant chatter of your troops and the sounds of war.
The dialog is professionally delivered during the cutscenes giving each member of your team their own unique personality. The constant radio chatter during missions heightens the tension of an already tense situation and comes complete with static and garbled speech. Accents are either authentic or impersonated very well.
Sound effects appear to have been sampled from an actual military base. Jeeps, trucks, tanks, choppers, and all of the other vehicles all sound unique and realistic. Weapons fire is accurately reproduced and the explosions are massive. One of the more intense sounds is your character's breathing that quickens as he runs.
Resistance supports hardware acceleration and EAX at the cost of substantial CPU power. Prepare to take your resolution down a notch if you want to activate the 3D surround effects. Personally, I didn't find the 3D positional audio all that helpful and preferred playing at 1280x1024x32 instead.
The campaign mode features 20 exciting and very challenging missions that are part of an ongoing sequence of events. Everything you do in every mission carries over to the next. If a soldier dies he stays dead. If you don’t pick up every rifle and spare clip of ammo early on you may run out if firepower in the final missions. The campaign features a branching storyline offering even more replay, and you can expect 20-30 hours of intense combat before moving on to the other gameplay modes.
In addition to the campaign there are five standalone single player missions and nine multiplayer combat challenges. The online combat has also been totally re-engineered and optimized for greater functionality. A full-featured mission editor is also provided, so you can keep playing long after you have exhausted the built-in missions. There’s even some pretty good electronic documentation, although you will probably want to print it out if you plan on exercising your creative talents.
Operation Flashpoint: Resistance does exactly what an expansion pack should. It expands and improves upon the original without changing any of the core design elements that made it a success. The entire concept of guerrilla warfare is a fresh and relatively unexplored gaming concept that puts a great spin on this combat simulation. After playing countless military games where you have virtually unlimited resources and firepower, it was a real wake-up call to actually have to scrap and fight for every weapon, bullet, and grenade.
The buggy AI may cause concern for the military purist, but most AI issues can be worked around with a little practice or by simply taking a more "personal" approach to the mission at hand. The graphics have been improved but also require considerably more horsepower to keep them moving smoothly.
Priced at $29 – typical for an expansion pack - you will get more than your money’s worth with this game. Using your keen strategic planning skills and combat reflexes, join forces with Victor and prove that Resistance is not futile.