Few other squad-based shooters can match the sheer depth and complexity of Operation Flashpoint: Elite. Modelled closely on real combat, it spits in the face of the frenetic Hollywood bloodbath ethos adopted by so many of its counterparts, instead preferring to embrace the gritty realities of war.
It's the mid-1980s, and with the Cold War still freezing everyone's balls off, you and your Aicontrolled team-mates find yourselves battling the Rooskies after they unexpectedly invade a collection of Eastern European islands. After a brief and somewhat inadequate training section, you're shipped off to the front line, where the realism really kicks in. Each of Operation Flashpoint: Elite's gargantuan, freeform levels must be used strategically in order to gain an advantage over your foes, meaning that one minute you'll be cutting through forests to outflank the enemy, the next hiding behind trees and bushes to avoid detection, or ensconcing yourself in elevated positions as you prepare an ambush.
Operation Flashpoint: Elite is no slouch in the hardware department, either. There are scores of realistically modelled weapons for you to blow the enemy away with (you can even pick up and use the enemy's hardware) and mastering how to shoot accurately will take time and practice, especially gunning down far-off enemies.
This is a tactical, visceral, real-world simulation of warfare, where fatigue, terrain and tactics can make the difference between killing and being killed, where battles range from daring raids to brutal skirmishes involving armoured divisions and attack choppers. The game's freeform missions (set routes are provided for each waypoint should you prefer) demand thought and precision, with each objective approachable from any angle, proving that in war, planning and strategy are every bit as important as an accurate shot.
Sadly though, Operation Flashpoint is far from perfect. Sound is grossly underused, while your team-mates are so proficient (especially on lower difficulty settings) that you often feel as though they wouldn't miss you if you skipped off and took a nap beneath a nearby tree. Then there are the cut-scenes, which feel more like a cheap afterthought than the tension-building cinematic moments they should have been.
Despite these faults, Operation Flashpoint: Elite is still one of the most engrossing, realistic and downright challenging squad-based shooters on the Xbox, and if you've ever wanted to know what real war is like - but don't fancy running the risk of having your intestines shot out - it's by far your best, and safest, bet.
A realistic, gritty and hugely tactical recreation of war that lacks the graphical polish it deserves.