copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Arma II

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Impact: What were we talking about again?


Arma 2 is either hated or loved or, ironically, both. Arma's community is a bit like the battered wife who won't leave. Her husband might make her his boxing bag every now and then but she just loves him too much to walk away. For many players this has to do with the fact that Arma 2 and its predecessors are one of their kind. The fans of this particular genre - modern military simulation - do not have anywhere else to turn. With the new installment the players get much of what they received already in Armed Assault, the last game of the series, but also plenty of fresh and interesting features - enough to conclude that Arma I was just a rushed Alfa version of Arma II.

Arma II (a.k.a. Armed Assault 2) is a fairly complex tactical shooter with elements of strategy game and even roleplay and it is the second spiritual successor to the well known Operation Flashpoint (OFP). It is also a light version of the military simulator VBS2 used as a training tool by the military. The latter fact alone tells you much about what to expect from this game.

The setting for the game is a conflict in a civil war torn fictional state of Chernarus, with elements characteristic of the recent conflicts in the Balkans and Georgia where the fire of ethnic fighting is made worse by superpowers interfering in the internal politics of the country. The main campaign sets you in the shoes of Cooper, a US Marine recon team leader. Cooper and four teammates are put at the tip of the UN-sanctioned invasion of Chernarus. Fighting alongside allied forces you will use your team and eventually many other units to accomplish various missions, from intelligence gathering to full fledged warfare.

And "warfare" is the key word with Arma 2. The new installment has introduced new gameplay and so-called modules - components of the game's in-built editor which help in the gameplay creation. The warfare gametype, its module and its supporting modules are used extensively in several of the game's long missions. The object of this gameplay is to capture towns and villages from the enemy by capturing each settlement's main military outpost. This continues either until all towns are under control or until the enemy's main base is destroyed. At your own base you can replenish your losses by buying new units and weapons. At some point you will also be able to assume command of more than just your own squad and explore your potential as a commander. This can be done both using the map from afar and on the field close to the action. Commanding functionality is somewhat limited and trust has to be put into the AI squad leaders.

The AI is one of the game's contradictive elements. On the one hand, moving with a unit feels very realistic as the AI will zig zag to avoid enemy fire, change their speed and stance and communicate with one another. On the other hand, a lot of it seems to be just for show as it is possible to pick off the enemy AI quite easily even while they are maintaining their cool maneuver technique. On the one hand, the AI can use many weapons, can navigate the roads and jets can wreak havoc on the ground. On the other hand, those same helicopters and airplanes keep crashing into the hills for no particular reason. To some degree the AI behavior can be tweaked, and considering that the AI has to behave dynamically in such open terrain, it compares as infinitely better than the AI of some other non-linear games such as the Battlefield series.

The warfare game type itself, for all its ingenuity, has also receives its share of critique. For example, the AI units spawn from the main base and from the enemy outposts. This results in enemies appearing out of thin air when you are trying to capture an enemy position. Warfare has other downsides such as interference of the flow of the single-player campaign, multi-player issues and the mechanic of a main base, which when destroyed, ends the warfare mission abruptly and unreasonably.

Another two modules, not used in the main campaign and somewhat separated from the warfare gameplay are Secops and Ambient Combat. Essentially a random mission generator, Secops module will cause the HQ to provide you with optional side missions. There is enough variety in missions to keep things interesting, and with some extra editing new missions can be added to the pool. Ambient Combat is exactly what the name suggests, and with adjustable settings, it will basically put the war around you as you are trying to complete whatever mission you are on.

Although the modules add refreshment to the gameplay, what OFP and Armed Assault have always truly been about is custom content and the editor. Almost from day one add-ons pop up on fan websites like coming off a conveyor belt with a rate of several mods every week. Using a combination of the editor and user created content you can simulate almost anything. Arma can be a WWII simulator or a Japanese anime transformer game or a 007-like stealth game. There is a major catch - the game's editor is easy to use to create simple missions, but to truly push it to its potential requires a huge amount of time and research invested to learn the illusive SQL-like custom coding language used in all Arma related games. Some have known it since forever but new players who have to learn it from scratch might be given a hard time by the condescending veterans when coming forward with questions. But this is what truly sets apart an Arma player from any other player – patience and the ability to take joy from the meticulous journey to the reward.

That being said, many players will proabably give up on editing, as it really sucks a lot of time out of you and many players would rather spend their time having something else sucked out of them instead.

The combination of different types of modules and add-ons can deliver some exhilarating gameplay and will kill hours of your time without you noticing. Depending on your playing style and interests, the game can take anywhere between 10 hours and infinity. There is the main campaign, single missions, a quick missions creator, the mission editor and multiplayer. It is not surprising then that the public is still actively playing Operation Flashpoint – a game released in 2001. This same success formula is what lies at the heart of what makes Arma 2 worth buying.

However, prepare to devote yourself to this game. Even if you are not planning to use the editor there is a high learning curve ahead. Almost all if not all of the keys on the keyboard have been mapped for use and many more combinations of keys have also been reserved. As a result you will be several hands short of timely reacting to the challenges placed in front of you. Before venturing on-line, many players out there would suggest that you spend at least a day in single player. if you don't, these players will find out where you live and will strangle you with their bare hands for annoying them so much.

The thing about Arma II is that, similar to Operation Flashpoint, this game is very very potent and really grows on you after a sexual pun intended. The community really sticks to the game and the endless patches and expansion packs keep making the game better and better. Additionally, the ever improving computers finally start to catch up with this game and therefore also make it playable in terms of system requirements.


At the heart of what makes Arma 2 not so worth buying is the overwhelming amount performance related issues that sometimes make the game downright unplayable. BI forums have overflown with troubleshooting posts and new players cannot beg for a new patch hard enough, and it is never clear whether the developers actually do something about these complaints because they do not often answer.

One area of problem is with the bugs. Especially close to the time of this game's release, there was a 50% chance that you would never get through the main campaign because it would unwind itself and collapse into a ditch. This may mean for every 10 hours of gameplay there will be 40 hours of picking pieces of keyboard out of your mouth after biting down on it in anger.

*It is at this point worth pointing out the connection between the amount of bugs depth of gameplay, but that is no excuse. The first patch came out only a few days after the initial release, and patches have been coming out ever since, but even after all these patches there are still many obvious bugs. It doesn't help that the bugs seem to be hardware sensitive resulting in many players having their own personalised bugs.

If bugs won't finish you off, the game requirements will. The official hardware requirements were and are a blatant lie. Some of the best computers out there will not be able to run the game on full graphics in some situations. The graphics engine feels unoptimized and it is instantly apparent that other games out there with superior graphics are able to run much smoother. Then again, most other games are as shallow as a rich 14 year old daddy's girl. Then again, gameplay depth is not an excuse. The tweaking of the game's video options will only take you so far, but with that said, if you do have a better than average machine and you set the graphics to medium, the game is acceptably playable.

The graphics though is only a part of the story. Any machine can get crippled depending on the situation on the playing field. The sheer amount of enemy AI can turn the game into a slide show on even the most powerful computer.

One thing certain, performance problems will test your patience more than the game's mission editor.

*It is worth noting at this point for all of you out there who do not wish to pay for this game that the protection system FADE is back with a vengeance and will turn your game into an unplayable mush. In that case, it's not the bugs you're noticing – it's the anti-pirating tool.


Yet again we hit an area of contradiction - a trend with Arma 2. It is hard to find another game that looks both so bad and so good, depending on what you are looking at. Strip away the blur and bloom effects and what you will see is an enormous resemblance to the good old OFP, with its low poly terrain and torn looking foliage. The visuals degrade considerably with distance and you are almost forced to turn on blur effects so that you are not disgusted every time you look in the distance. Moreover, the graphics are filled with bugs, just like the rest of the game, and your trip through Chernarus could be accompanied by flashing building textures, white pixels in trees and the trees themselves hanging elevated from the ground.

However, if you look at the detail and the design of things you will see the other side of the graphics. What becomes more and more apparent is the attention to details. If you were to decide to stand stil and free-look around, you might realize that the inside of the scope of the gun you're holding has actually been 3D modeled. Then you realize that it's the G36 rifle you're holding and that it has two scopes and that the one you are looking at you don't even use. Every bump of the ribbed texture of the silencer of the rifle of your team mate has a little shadow and a little shine. A for the environment, if you have ever walked in the country side of Central and Eastern Europe, you might get flashbacks by walking through Arma 2's unique landscape. Its dirt roads, rivers and pines, factories and houses, all reflect the reality of Eastern Europe.

In the long term, this attention to detail wins from the bad textures, because your eyes eventually get accustomed to the low quality of the forest that's a kilometer away but the detail of things that are close never stop surprising.


The default Arma sounds have long prompted the community to make replacement packs for them. Certain elements in particular, such as explosions can really irritate after a while. Overall however, care has been taken to supply each action with audio and that is quite an amount of sounds. As in any tactical shooter the use of music is minimum during the game itself and is mostly reserved in the menus, but still there is a definite quality improvement noticeable from the last game.


Online gameplay is centered largely around co-op and the warfare gameplay. It is a good idea to use AI as targets because the complex gameplay feels imbalanced when playing against other humans. The optional third person view alone can instantly add an (dis)advantage while the unstable performance means that some people are in a huge disadvantage, and a lot of servers, in fact, force low graphic settings on everyone in order to avoid that one player has a higher visibility than his enemy and to allow people with weaker machines to play. Not that it helps much against the bugs, as on-line missions are filled with them and a restart of the server is often needed. Even in co-op mode, many more experienced players get annoyed by the "noobs" who are unfamiliar with the game's very wide basics. These are the consequences of complex gameplay and many of us have had to deal them.

Multiplayer is where the lag and glitches really cause the most hatred for this game. Perhaps some day they will be fixed. Perhaps some day humans will tire of war and comparing each others' clothes.


In order to fully review Arma 2 you need to write a book as it is hard to describe everything this game has in a short review. If you liked the previous versions of the game, there is enough content to justify buying this one. If you are new, there is plenty to get hooked on. But let it be clear that Arma 2 is not for everyone. If you have the patience to enjoy the slow tactical pace and to swallow the endless issues then you have what it takes to join the ranks of Arma 2 martyrs, as long as you realize that buying a new rig will not guarantee this game to run smoothly. The patience is rewarded in Arma II and thanks to the support from both developers and the community, the game is constantly getting better, which is why this review needed a revision a year into playing the game.