Reviewed: July 20, 2010
Released: June 29, 2010
Once again I return to the realm of PC gaming to cover one of my favorite genres of all time, the first-person shooter. This time my playing skills were put to the test with my review copy of ArmA II: Combined Operations. The initial title released around this time last year and was hailed by some as the most realistic FPS on the face of the planet. Now I get my chance to see if that statement holds true with the complete package. ArmA II: Combined Operations contain both the original ArmA II release as well as the newly released ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead stand-alone expansion.|
ArmA II and its expansion, Operation Arrowhead are set three years apart from each other story wise and catalogs the efforts of two different bases of operation. In the main section you play as the elite five man Force Reconnaissance Team ďRazorĒ of the 27th Marine Expeditionary Unit of the USMC. You are sent to the fictional post-Soviet Republic of Chernarus, which on the brink of a civil war after the previous year elections in Harvest Red.
In Operation Arrowhead you jump forward and take control of various outfits within the US Army. The flashpoint this time takes American soldiers into the fictional Takistan (based loosely on Afghanistan) where they must quickly restore the peace and end civilian bloodshed. This expansion also includes a branching storyline as well as multiple endings based upon your choices.
First off I will say that ArmA II: Combined Operations is not for those that enjoy Call of Duty or any FPS along those action-oriented lines. ArmA is a simulator in the truest sense of the word. The overall game experience changes on the fly based upon your actions. The whole thing is unscripted as far as the story is concerned, so it takes a good deal of thought on how to proceed through the games.
From a technical design standpoint ArmA II is unlike anything that Iíve seen. The level of complexity with the interface and command menus is, to say the least, daunting. I never had the opportunity to play the first ArmA so this title came as a bit of shock, although a welcome one. It took me a little bit to figure out the general flow of things, but I will admit that even after a pretty successful run I was still a novice.
When it comes to first person shooters I am usually all for using the keyboard and mouse setup. Every FPS that Iíve ever played so far has gone that route, until this one. ArmA II features a third person view which I spent a good deal of time in due to the enemies uncanny ability to take me down no sooner than my team manages to warn me about them. The enemies in this title are never just standing around unless theyíre on to you. They realistically patrol the areas that you come across them in.
I even broke out my 360 controller to play this one which helps considerably during the various vehicle missions across the expansive terrain. Iíd like to think that Iím pretty good with a keyboard and mouse but I found maneuvering an attack chopper with dual analog sticks so much easier in the long run. The controller adapts well, but the keyboard is still needed at times.
Players will explore 225 square kilometers of richly detailed environments over land, sea and air in one of the most detailed worlds that I have ever seen. Even from the air the draw distance is amazing and the level of detail looks great on a 1080 display. But the level design graphics are only the half of it. The authentically recreated weaponry, vehicles, and gear are all well designed and detailed. Graphically I was impressed with all the little details like light refraction off classic scopes. I was also really impressed with night vision mode, which came off looking very real. The only thing that I found odd was that when lying prone the grass sort of just folded out of the way so you could see where you were going. I will say that it does take a rather beast of a machine to experience ArmA at its optimal settings.
ArmA II: Combined Operations features music that gets you in the mood from the very start. Once you start playing the actual story the music takes a backseat to the com chatter. Most of the chatter made no sense at all until I looked at the map. Most of the time though they just shout out positions of enemy forces or tell you to get back in formation. The voice acting isnít bad and there are occasional movie references and friendly jokes here and there.
The real spotlight in the sound department are the sound effects. The rustle of your playerís gear as he sprints across an open field sounds really good as does hitting the dirt after youíve just been fired upon. The weapons fire is also quite good and no two weapons sound alike. I also found the sound of the vehicles to be amazingly authentic.
The ArmA II: Combined Operations release offers the players plenty of authentic military action. The included original title as well as its expansion is easily one of the most involved experiences Iíve ever had. Besides the single player campaign players can jump into 50+ online multiplayer battles for up to 18 players. For those not interested in the multiplayer matches you can still engage in battle scenarios, visit the armory, and play with over 300 different weapons, vehicles and units.
The cover of the manual states that ArmA II: Combined Operations is the ultimate military simulator. From my time with this game Iíd say that that statement is pretty accurate. The whole experience was carefully designed to give us civvies a detailed look at the everyday life and job of a US soldier. If youíve played its predecessor or are looking for the ultimate challenge in warfare look no further than ArmA II: Combined Operations for PC. You will not be disappointed.