ARMA 2 is designed to give the player the most realistic military experience that can be delivered through the means of a video game. For the crowd of people that normally define Call of Duty as realistic this may be a tough sell, but for people who really do long for the tension of battle where one stray shot can take someone permanently out of action there is very little substitution—and even less competition. That lack of a rival may be what drove this game more towards mediocrity than greatness.
For people that define the hardest setting on Modern Warfare as “realistic” ARMA will come as a shock. That isn’t to say that ARMA isn’t hard, because it is, as much as it seems to want the players to try and relearn everything that they know about FPS games. A commanding officer that will yell at the player if they fall out of formation and enemies that are hard to see because they aren’t running around areas like morons, and who also stick to cover, change the gameplay almost as much as one bullet almost always taking down every character in the game.
This all leads to very interesting moments in the game when everything lines up perfectly and the team of AI buddies feels like a real group of people who are expertly taking down enemy troops. The tension created from the fear that any one bullet could be the end of the awesome run adds to the tension, and can force entirely more careful choices than simply running in and gunning down everything that moves, it can also help to prolong the feeling of everything going according to plan as well.
Too bad that things almost never go according to play, or even work at all sometimes. The AI buddies that act as a group have a habit of getting stuck behind pretty much anything, leading to the feeling that they have lost interest in the entire war and just kind of wandered off to find something else to do. From time to time this can also cause other AI members to stick around where another one is stuck, seemingly to provide cover for their idiocy, thus having the commander bark orders to regroup.
At these moments the voice acting does not help lend to the belief that the AI companions are anything other than mentally challenged robots sent to anger their human masters. If one particular actor isn’t amazingly terrible the lines that they are given to deliver will be, or they will randomly spout some order that is assembled from random words done during (what seems like) a single take at a giant sheet of words giving them impression that they are simply machines from the early wave of invasion to kill mankind who’s voice simulator has suddenly broken. For some reason there is randomly blasting generic hard rock over all of this, at seemingly the most poorly chosen times and durations.
This could have all been excused if the game didn’t simply look bad. Twice during extended play sessions I found myself playing with the settings on my PC to see if there was something wrong with them. At one point I even started to wonder if I needed new glasses due to how bad everything looked. This led me to exit this game and boot up another just to verify the blurry mess was really this one game. A part of me wanted to believe that this was just an attempt to make things in the distance look fuzzy and slightly out of focus for added realism, a belief that was shattered when a sniper rifle had everything staying just as fuzzy regardless of distance.
The mission maps feel massive, and even give the impression that they do go on towards an out of focus mess forever. The MMO addict in me wants to go back and explore every inch of the levels looking for minor secrets, but the realist pretty much knows there probably isn’t any. Also I have managed to walk through enough walls and objects to start to fear falling through the earth itself if I stray too far from the desired course.
The people out there looking for a truly realistic military experience will probably ignore any words of warning when picking up the game, and with the almost total lack of competition it is hard to blame them. When ARMA works well it feels almost magical, but those moments seem to come too far apart to save it from its many, many downfalls. ARMA is the answer people have been calling for; too bad it is the only one.
Not As Good As: Joining the military for reals
Also Try: Operation Flash Point
Wait For It: World Peace
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