A beautiful tragedy. Worth playing for the multiplayer, but the campaign is an absolute disgrace.

User Rating: 4.5 | ArmA II PC
When I was in grade school, if I only turned in half my work then I only got half a grade. Whether or not I got every problem correct, there were no excuses for not completing the assignment. I keep thinking about this as I play Arma II. Bohemia International and 505 Games were tasked with providing us with a massive, engrossing, epic tactical combat simulator, and only half the work was turned in. This wouldn't have been so bad if I wasn't charged full price to figure this out.

It wasn't until patch 1.03, that's right, the THIRD patch, that I could even proceed halfway through the campaign. A bug preventing any of the AI men from moving at the start of one of the missions completely blocked any further progress, and from what I could tell from reading the forums, just about everyone that purchased the game experienced this. Besides fixing that with patch number three, Arma II is plagued with scripting bugs, mission path glitches, a superman AI that can see through solid objects, and a horrific save system that caused my campaign progress to be wiped twice. Add a countless amount of other issues in the game and I have come to the conclusion that there was no serious beta testing done for this game. Bravo to the QA department for duping everyone into paying $46 to do your testing for you. (I won't go into the absolute worst voice acting since someone told Kevin Costner he should go to Hollywood.)

So why am I still playing it? Multiplayer. It's been years since the real spirit of Ghost Recon left the PC (GR2 was console only, and GRAW just isn't the same thing) and Arma II revives that spirit to the fullest. One shot kills, enemies hiding in the shrubs, sniper rifles that are impacted by gravity and limited ammo supplies bring back that sense of "realism" so many of us demand over Halo, Team Fortress and other clones. In addition, elements abound that are all but unheard of in other games, such as picking up a foe's weapons and ammo to use, houses and buildings to hide in, realistic night vision, and a wide variety of vehicles and aircraft that can transport multiple players at once. The mission editor is entirely open to players and already small communities of scriptwriters are popping up. Teams have formed, servers are online, and Arma II has found a happy little online niche.

The playing fields are massive with thick forests hiding crumbling stone ruins and dark streams, livestock roam the countryside, and day/night cycles and weather all add to the "you are here" feel that can be manipulated to suit your multiplayer desires. There are details in the flora and fauna that aren't even seen in some "living world" RPG's such as buzzing bugs and grass that bends as you crawl across it. Indeed, I was trapped in a copse of trees with a friend at dusk as we both strained to see a patrol squad of enemies that were just a few meters from us. We could hear them moving about and we could see them marked on our map, but the long shadows and dark colors swallowed them against the gently swaying trees and it wasn't until they opened fire that we could pinpoint their location. Of course it was too late by then. The VOIP in the game has some issues but the streaming is smooth and lag is reasonable.

This game is almost a tragedy were it not for multiplayer to keep it alive. Still, there's no excuse for expounding on a game's single player campaign then not taking the time to make sure it works. Even the manual is screwed up, with typos and a "todo" marker left in the text. Shoddy quality severely mars what should be a work of art. I'd write more about what's good in this game but why bother? Arma II is only half a game, so I'm only giving it half a score.
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