Review: ArmA: Armed Assault

Do you like wargames? If you're nodding your head, ArmA might be the game for you...

Okay. Hands up who played Operation: Flashpoint. Three of you? Is that all?

For those of you who weren’t those three people, Flashpoint was, in some minds, the war game to end all wargames. An FPS where you played a soldier, not a super soldier. Bullets hurt, your enemy was cunning and accurate. You needed to use tactics, terrain and vehicles to their full extent just to stay alive long enough to take one shot.

Now, after after letting the O:FP community stew in its collective juices for seven years, comes ArmA:Armed Assault, The ‘spiritual succesor’ to Flashpoint. Taking a dated, but incredibly detailed and optimistic game and making it all spick, span and DX9 compliant.

So what we have is a vast (the game world covers more than 400 sqare kilometers, all of which is available to the player), varied, detailed, challenging, squad-based first-person shooter that will make all of your Apocalypse Now-themed fantasies come to life…

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Well, almost. Firstly, ArmA is pretty. Very pretty. The (fictional) Pacific island of Sahrani is a sight to behold. The single-player campaign will see you storming cities on foot, holding beacheads, attacking convoys in an Apache Gunship, sabotaging enemy supplies in the dead of night and a wealth of other experiences, all guaranteed to leave you with a grin the size of Bedfordshire.

ArmA is also very hard to get to grips with. It requires a play style completely different to what the average gamer is accustomed to. This is not a criticism, but it must be mentioned. Go running in to enemy positions like some foliage-decked nutcase and you’ll be churned into mincemeat again and again and again. Play strategically, take your time and command your squad effectively and you’ll be standing victorious on a field of glory in no time.

All this sound a bit too good to be true?

Sorry, but it is. ArmA, while optimistic, deep and challenging, has the most insane AI I have ever witnessed. You will be leading your squad over a field, only for your your team-mates to decide that a circling seagull presents a sizeable threat and proceed to hit the dirt… then refuse to get up under any circumstances, leaving you no choice but to storm that enemy city on your own.

You will be transported to mission locations by AI drivers…who will suddenly decide that the woods to the left look very inviting, hurling your APC into a nearby tree and promptly get stuck. Leaving you the choice of reloading the game or walking the 20km to your objective.

Couple this psychotic AI behaviour with plethora of game bugs and you can sometimes have a very frustrating experience. Readers should note however, that the most recent patch has fixed most, but not all of these issues. Bugs and AI glitches still annoy, but nowhere near the mind-baffling madness of the initial release copy.

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Worth mentioning is the in-game mission editor. Using this tool, users are free to create any number of missions, both for solo play and for multiplayer. It is the inclusion of this feature and the sheer amount of possibilities it offers for the casual gamer that elevates ArmA from being just an enjoyable distraction, to a damn great game. I’ve lost track of the number of hours I’ve spent populating the game world with civilians and soldiers, just to fly around in a helicopter, raining death upon all i survey. Couple this power with the variety of vehicles, weapons and general mods available on the internet and you have almost unlimited possibilities for fun.

To finish off, ArmA is a great, albeit flawed game. With the bugs and glitches being gradually ironed out by the keen development staff, as well as the growing (and already huge) modding community, ArmA is definitely a game you should consider picking up.