Maximum PC Staff Oct 25, 2009


At A Glance


Comprehensive realism; complex, open warplay; unique and intense co-op experience.


Schizophrenic allied and enemy AI; some unintuitive controls.

Pilot any plane, shoot any rifle, get blown up by real tanks

To the shooter enthusiast who laments auto-aim, refuses regenerating health, tires of over-protective cover systems, balks at recoilless rocket launchers, and rolls his eyes at infinite respawns, Arma 2 is a love letter perfumed in cordite.

You’re a member of Razor Team, a Marine squad deployed by the United States to assist the Chernorussian government against a well-armed insurgency. Your fire team hits the ground with weapons and equipment modeled after real-life counterparts, tackling objectives with patient tactics as the conflict evolves into a full civil war.

But narrative (even if it’s more of an asset to Arma 2 than its predecessor) isn’t the draw. For gamers who grew up with titles like Comanche, the original Rainbow Six games, and Operation Flashpoint (which was also created by developer Bohemia Interactive), Arma 2 is a platform of comprehensive war realism that appeases those who value complexity, don’t mind obscure keyboard shortcuts (hit Enter on your Num Pad to change between first/third person), appreciate accurate audio modeling (if a tank explodes a mile away, you’ll hear it five seconds after it actually blows up), and know that an M-16 can’t kill someone from three miles away (hello, Call of Duty).

Pull up! For newcomers to simulation games, piloting this UH-1Y and other aircraft takes practice.

The “ultimate military simulator” tagline isn’t far off, but it does come with some well-attached strings. Namely, buggy code that can’t always keep up with Arma 2’s ambitious attempt at realism. For every moment of accurate weapon physics and war atmosphere, there’s a corresponding miscue of brainless AI or broken mission scripting. You can fly teammates over a war zone in a C-130 transport plane to execute a tactical air drop, but sit puzzled when parachuting 10 feet from the ground lets you land unharmed.

Realistic ballistics modeling will have you compensating for bullet-drop and recoil during firefights—but if you’re shot, your AI teammates usually leave you writhing on the ground because they forget to heal you. Fighting against unscripted AI in an unrestricted, 225-square-kilometer slice of fictional Russia means you apply the tactics you want to, but strategy won’t count when an enemy rifleman ignores the bulky shrubs you’re lying prone in and snipes you from a half-mile away. Call out targets with a fully voiced (in Russian, no less) command system, but cringe when your war buddies shout like a Speak & Spell running on dying batteries.

Disciplined tactics and squad maneuvers are key to getting ahead in ARMA 2. Ramboing into a war zone won't get you very far.
Whether or not these incongruent bits of design break the game or just distract you from the fun at hand depends on your patience. And as most of them are AI-related, it’s fortunate that the prime moments still exist in co-op mode. Loading into aircraft with a few buddies, laser-marking an APC while a teammate drops a bomb toward the target, calling out military jargon over voice chat—Arma 2 thrives on these emergent war scenes; it’s at its best when your actions, and not the game itself, are scripting the battle.

That openness-of-experience extends to a deep mission editor that will delight modders. And graphically, Arma 2 has system-busting credibility. Explosions feel organic and the motion blur and first-person head-bob when you sprint is incredibly immersive, but for all but owners of the beefiest systems, the unscripted AI means the frame rate dips as more objects and action enter play.

If looking down the barrel of dozens of nuanced firearms, unpredictable warfare, and plugging in a flight stick float your gamer boat, Arma 2 is a refreshing shift from mainstream gun games that suits the PC’s complexity, even with a few bugs.

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