If playing Operation Flashpoint: Elite for the Xbox feels like a time warp, that's because it really is like hopping into the way-back machine and setting it for four years ago. And four years in terms of first-person shooters is an eternity. While the game helped pioneer vehicle-based first-person shooters as we know them today, Operation Flashpoint: Elite is almost a straight port of the original 2001 PC game, complete with a now-ugly graphics engine and sound effects that are completely primitive by today's standards. The game simply hasn't held up over time.
Do not adjust your television...the game really looks like this.
Operation Flashpoint: Elite ships with two different campaigns--the one included in the original game, Cold War Crisis, and also a later expansion pack, called Resistance. This is a ton of content that includes dozens of missions that put you in the role of an American soldier fighting against Russian invaders on a fictional archipelago. The game is set during the later era of the Cold War, so you'll employ weapons and vehicles contemporary to that period of time, including M16 and AK-74 rifles, Mi-24 Hind and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, and Abrams and T-80 tanks, among others. As you can imagine from that partial list of vehicles and weapons, the fight happens on land and in the air, and some missions even have you at the coast fighting with boats, so a complete wargaming experience is ready to be had. Perhaps more impressive, at least at the time the game was originally released, are the massive maps stretching out over several square kilometers. These landscapes include rolling hills, open plains, and thick forests to maneuver your troops in and around. An intricate network of roads also crisscrosses the island landscapes. The missions are pretty varied, ranging from search-and-destroy missions on convoys to guard duty at a base or simple patrol missions. Other missions have you dressed as a civilian as you try to sneak around Russian-held territory. In many ways, Operation Flashpoint was Battlefield before there was Battlefield, with its focus on contemporary combat with drivable vehicles like tanks and attack helicopters.
It all sounds really fun and impressive on paper, and at the time, it was. The problem is that today, the game looks and sounds so primitive that it negatively affects the gameplay experience. Textures used for landscapes and buildings are very rough. Soldiers animate stiffly, whether running or walking. Foliage in the forests looks woefully repetitive and similar, as though the level designer copied and pasted the same tree and bush hundreds of times to create the forest. Many buildings in towns can't be entered or explored either. Perhaps the biggest problem with the graphics is that the draw distances are very short. Combat in the game happens at extreme distances, requiring you to shoot at tiny antlike silhouettes in the distance. Since you can't see anything more than about 100 or 150 meters away, this detracts from the wide-open feel of the battlefield. It's also very easy to accidentally shoot at your own allies since you can't tell at a glance who's who.
The sound effects in the game also leave a lot to be desired. Gun effects are absolutely terrible--they're so limp and low-fidelity that they sound like gunfire from an '80s-era arcade game. Tank cannons and machine guns mounted on vehicles don't carry a lot of oomph either. The included cutscenes in the campaign have plenty of voice acting, but it's so wooden and poorly done as to be laughable. The voice actor who plays the drill sergeant at the start of the game, for example, tries painfully hard to sound like a gruff American but falls out of accent so many times that it's obvious he's a European trying to sound like an American. Worst of all is the voice used in-game. Your squad will constantly report on their position and the position of spotted enemies, which is nice, but the sound mixing is so terrible at matching tone of voice and intonation that everyone sounds like a Speak & Spell.