Earlier this month, I decided to get Arma 2 (official site), which is a tactical first person shooter produced by Czech game maker Bohemia Interactive. Originally, BI wrote Operation Flashpoint (which in turn was published by CodeMasters), but both companies have gone their own ways: CodeMasters is currently developing the ‘original’ successor to FlashPoint: if you’d say that Arma 2 is the true successor to the whole FlashPoint line, you wouldn’t be off the mark (see Wikipedia).
Anyway: if you played and finished Ghost Recon (PC) (earlier), you’ll probably like Arma 2. If you’ve played Arma 1 and Operation Flashpoint, you’ll find that Arma 2 has graphically and geographically improved (more land to uncover, I think around 200 square kms) but that most of the commands have stayed the same. This time the game puts us in combat in a fictional land called Chernarusk where (in single player mode), you fight for the US against either one or more of the 6 available factions.
Let me take a step back for a second: there’s one single player campaign (Blood Harvest) and (despite what reviews claim) most of it is scripted. Certain reviews also laud the option to ‘walk around’ freely in Chernarusk and while this is possible, at the end it still feels heavily scripted particularly knowing that the campaign is only 12 missions long. It’s particularly this single player campaign I’m mixed about: it is buggy for sure and I feel that the AI is too unbalanced, that is, for some reason when it finds you, you’re dead. I’ve only been playing Arma in ‘Regular’ mode, but I feel that the AI is hurting the game.
However, the game shines in multi-player mode: literally each vehicle and aircraft is available to drive or fly around. You can even parachute in if you feel so inclined. Complex orders in the single player game suddenly make sense in this mode too: there’s a whole range of commands you can issue to and/or receive from your fellow players. Additionally, the moment you’re on the battle field it’s all about battle tactics with the number one rule: if you can’t flank the enemy, you’re stuck in a rut with bullets flying around you.
I don’t think there’s a need to elaborate too much on Arma 2 today, though: graphically there’s nothing to complain about. On my system (a 2.0 P7350, 4 gigs of RAM, 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT) the game runs fairly smooth (in 1280 x 800 no less). You probably don’t want to run it on anything lower than that. There’s also nothing wrong with the multi-player part of the game: however, some elements of the single player portion are absolutely buggy. Sure you can make your own missions in the built-in mission editor, but if the AI is buggy the fun will be gone fairly quickly. However, I must admit that ‘The Armory’ (a subsection of the game where you can try out vehicles and planes) can be fun, and is probably the first place to try/practice flight before you start doing this in the multiplayer world.
So, cautiously, if you like tactical fps games and prefer multi-player games you’re fairly good with Arma 2. In other cases, you may want to wait for CodeMaster’s “Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising”, which seems to come with a totally open and unscripted single-player campaign.
See below for more in-game screenshots:
08/09/09: Patch 1.03 was released a couple of days ago with, reportedly, AI and performance fixes.