ArmA: Armed Assault PC DVD-ROM
Published by 505 Games
Developed by Bohemia Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Given the amount of FPS games there are on the market, it's rather surprising that so few are anywhere near to being realistic. Even games such as the Rainbow Six series are far from being realistic. Perhaps the one FPS game that really stands out as being as life like as possible is Operation Flashpoint. The game basically allowed you to step into the shoes of a soldier and experience just how difficult the role is. Those who were expecting a run and gun experience were sorely disappointed with the difficulty and the effort required succeeding with the game; those who were looking for realism however were impressed by what Operation Flashpoint had to offer. ArmA: Armed Assault is the latest game by Bohemia Interactive, creators of Operation Flashpoint, and once again the emphasis is very much on providing a realistic experience.
ArmA: Armed Assault offers a single-player campaign, eleven missions (of which five are initially unlocked) as well as a collection of tutorial missions, an editor for you to create your own missions and multiplayer action (with the potential to have 100+ players in a battle). The game is set on the fictional Atlantic island of Sahrani. To be exact it's set in South Sahrani. You're part of a small US Army contingent that's been sent to South Sahrani (that happens to be rich in natural resources) in order to help train the southerner's troops as the threat of an attack by their northern neighbours, the Democratic Republic of Sahrani, looms. Their northern rivals view this training as a threat and as the US troops begin to leave South Sahrani they prepare to attack their unsuspecting enemy.
Whilst the island of Sahrani is fictional, a lot of the game is grounded in reality. There are masses of real life weapons and vehicles that you can use in the game. The expansive environments you'll find yourself in are pretty much what you would expect in the real world. Most significant of all though is that the difficulty is realistic and ArmA is definitely more of a soldier simulation than a game. One well placed shot can kill you and there's often a fine line between success and failure. You'll have to work with your fellow soldiers if you are to succeed and any thoughts of going solo and trying to pretend it's a run and gun shooter ought to be forgotten as it will lead to failure after miserable failure. What I like about ArmA is that it never feels like a linear experience. There's always multiple ways of going about a mission and this not only serves to give you the impression of being a more realistic experience (as it's not so tightly scripted as a lot of FPS games are) but also gives the game a high replay value.
If there's one thing you're going to need to succeed at ArmA: Armed Assault, it's steely determination. The missions here are hard, very hard. It makes the Call of Duty games seem like a walk in the park. It's possible to do all the right things, progress through to almost the end of the mission only to be hit by a bullet fired by an unseen enemy, be killed and subsequently fail the mission. Yes, at times it's a real test of patience but it's all the more rewarding when you do manage to complete a mission. At times ArmA can seem a little too punishing particularly as the AI seems able to hit you with pinpoint accuracy when it shouldn't even be able to see you. Hopefully these kinds of incidents will be toned down a little in future updates for the game. Once you get into the mindset of behaving like a soldier and not a superhero, you'll appreciate ArmA for what it is, a very good soldier simulator.
As much as I was impressed with Operation Flashpoint I can remember being disappointed by how poorly it performed on my PC at the time of its release. My PC exceeded the recommended specifications and yet it still ran like a dog with three legs (with blisters on two out of the three paws). To make matters worse it wasn't the greatest looking game at the time. Why am I mentioning all of this? Well history has repeated itself and we have exactly the same scenario with ArmA. Graphically the game looks quite good. It's far from being state of the art but with the graphical details turned up it certainly looks respectable. Performance with the details even set at medium settings however is woeful. The PC I reviewed the game on just exceeded the recommended specifications but at times I experienced a slideshow with single digit frame rates (at only moderate graphical settings) that almost made the game unbearable. In essence you're going to need a stellar PC if you intend to run the game with acceptable frame rates without having to drastically reduce the graphical settings.
All you would be soldiers out there will be pleased to learn that ArmA is subtitled. Finding the option to enable the subtitles can be a little tricky however as it's not in the most obvious of places. There are subtitle options for the main dialogue and radio chatter and these options can be found in the difficulty options. The subtitles for the cutscenes, tutorials and main dialogue are simply displayed in white text. There are no character portraits or names placed alongside the text and it can be problematic knowing who is saying what. Radio chatter is shown in coloured text, shown on a darkened background, and the name of the person speaking is displayed in front of the text. Some of the non-essential speech in the game isn't subtitled and there are no captions in the game. Mission briefings are shown in text so you'll be aware of what you have to do. On the whole the game is a little problematic and can prove a little testing for deaf gamers despite the inclusion of subtitles.
ArmA: Armed Assault is definitely going to appeal to fans of Operation Flashpoint as well as anyone who's looking for realism over a run and gun experience. Be warned though the game is one heck of a demanding beast and you're really going to need a fantastic PC to run the game in all of its glory with acceptable frame rates. The release version is also a little buggy and only time will tell if the inevitable updates will fix the various issues the release version has. Putting these two issues aside for a moment it's fair to say that the game has potential, particularly online. The single-player campaign isn't the most engaging we've ever played and if anything doesn't live up to what we experienced in Operation Flashpoint. Still I daresay most will simply use the campaign as a way of brushing up their skills for the online actions. On the whole then, ArmA has potential and is certainly a good game but only time will tell if the various updates the game is going to have will make it into a great experience.
Like Operation Flashpoint, ArmA: Armed Assault is a quality soldier simulator, albeit with a few rough edges, that very much puts the emphasis on realism rather than accessibility. As long as you're prepared to put the effort in and aren't expecting another army game where you're controlling what amounts to a superhuman character, you'll thoroughly enjoy what ArmA: Armed Assault has to offer.