Right away, you will notice that your character’s movement is a lot more practical, fitting of the genre. It takes time to drop down into the prone position, as well as to rise back up to stand. All throughout, your view wobbles and you see your free hand go down to brace yourself. Head-bobbing is even more severe when running or crawling – those of you who are susceptible to motion sickness should beware. If you’re moving along steeper mountainsides, you’ll walk more slowly and find yourself unable to sprint.
Continuing in the vein of realism, the weapon ballistics are impressive, with guns modeled directly after their real-world counterparts. Weapon animations were apparently mo-capped with the help of real soldiers, or at least people who know what they’re doing. The coolest of which is seen when loading an anti-tank weapon, when it is placed on the ground instead of being held up with one hand. There is plenty of weapon variety for both factions, while further diversity is achieved via add-ons like thermal imaging scopes, IR laser sights, and grenade launchers. Also, you are often able to call in fire support such as mortar or artillery barrages and air strikes.
Missions range from assault/capture to sabotage, to prisoner rescue. Basically, you’re always personally saving the day. Most games are like this, but it shouldn’t be that way if the aim is realistic modern warfare. Time limits or casualty requirements are used to rush you toward completing tasks, which makes sense in terms of realism, but seriously hinders the fun. It might as well be a linear shooter like Call of Duty if you don’t have the luxury of exploring and finding new and interesting ways of beating missions.
Player skill tends to overcome the absence of strategy in this game. You can pretty much ignore the tactical part and play Rambo, so long as you’re good at gauging range for bullet-drop and can pop off headshots quickly. Regardless of the extensive amount of weaponry available to you, you will never use your knife or pistol, and will rarely use anything that doesn’t have a scope on it. Grenades and mines are hardly ever useful, and smoke is completely unnecessary since the enemy has a hard time hitting you from 100 meters, let alone from far enough away to warrant such cover.
Difficulty levels don’t affect gameplay directly, only how much information you are given on the HUD. Lower difficulties have map markers and periodical saves, as well as squad members respawning or just healing at checkpoints. Hardcore is a must for realism buffs, requiring you to listen for announcements of enemy locations, examine teammates’ bodies for signs of injury, and keep count of ammunition supplies in your head. No matter the difficulty, it’s always possible to be dropped by a single hit, though it’s not too common. Wounds to various body parts will impair vision, gun control, or running ability, and can cause you to bleed out if they aren’t treated quickly enough.
AI doesn’t change with difficulty, either, and unfortunately is pretty shallow more often than not. They occasionally flank you, but then they’ll ignore you or fail to hit you in an open field at close-medium range. The first enemy I ever encountered stopped firing after I killed his friend, so I approached to find him kneeling and not responding to me 10 feet in front of him. He was saying something in Chinese, so I thought perhaps he had surrendered, but then my teammate shot him. He just as easily could have shot me, and several times I have not been so lucky.
The AI will open fire with you unmoving and directly in front, their penchant for friendly fire seemingly knows no bounds. Nor do they seem to care for their own lives, judging by the fact that they never use cover unless you explicitly tell them to. This puts you at quite a disadvantage, since enemies have no trouble diving behind sandbags, barricades, or even tree trunks.
Your AI squad mates are expendable, and there is no consequence for treating them as such. Babysitting them just gets you in trouble, and you’re the one that actually needs to survive, so screw them. Besides, you almost never need their help in defeating the opposition; in fact, they usually just get in the way. This is particularly true if you’re like me and never bother to micro-manage them. I only ever tell them to follow me or heal each other, or sometimes have them stay put or hold their fire.