ArmA: Armed Assault Hands-On

The maker of Operation Flashpoint is back with another ultrarealistic military sim. We suit up and enter the battlefield to bring you a full hands-on preview.

When it was released back in 2001, Operation Flashpoint gained legendary status among tactical shooter fans. It was immersive, difficult, and unflinchingly realistic, and it became a critical and commercial hit as a result. While a console edition was inevitable, the Xbox conversion went on to take up years of Bohemia's time, and it was released to a mostly muted response from the public. However, with six years now having passed since the release of the original Operation Flashpoint, Bohemia is ready to move on with a true successor to its breakthrough debut.

Tanks, planes, and helicopters are among the 30 vehicles you can use in ArmA: Armed Assault.

ArmA: Armed Assault retains the core elements of Operation Flashpoint while giving the graphics, vehicles, and weapons a much-needed upgrade. As a result, OF fans should experience a certain amount of familiarity when they encounter ArmA for the first time. Fortunately, Bohemia has also taken advantage of the considerable advancements in technology that have occurred since 2001, improving the graphics, increasing the size of the gameworld, and offering more freedom to the player to explore. This means that the number of weapons and vehicles has been upped to more than 30 each (some of which are exclusive to the UK release), along with brand-new multiplayer modes and support for the vast modding community with the inclusion of a built-in mission editor.

Those unfamiliar with Bohemia's past work may be daunted by just how difficult ArmA is--it's like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter but with the realism level cranked up to maximum. If you're unlucky enough to take a hit in the leg, you'll have to crawl on your belly to find a medic. If you're hit anywhere in the torso or head with even a single bullet, it's game over. You're also forced to stop moving when reloading, and unless you're in a prone position, your firing accuracy will be greatly reduced. Every concession that's made in modern shooters has been scrapped in ArmA, but those who commit themselves entirely could find a rewarding experience waiting for them.

Like Operation Flashpoint, ArmA: Armed Assault takes place in a fictitious location--this time it's the tropical island of Sahrani. The island is split into northern and southern states. The northern democratic republic is the larger of the two, while the smaller southern island is governed by a monarchy. Unfortunately, there's trouble in paradise when the North suddenly decides to invade the South, and as a US soldier training troops during the takeover, you're unwittingly caught up in the conflict. While your character finds it a slight inconvenience, seeing as though he's at the end of his tour of duty, it does mean that you get to lead your men into battle and repel the invaders, using equipment such as helicopters and tanks.

While all this sounds like standard fare, Bohemia has made the rather mature choice of highlighting the contrast between the horror of war itself and the sanitised way it is portrayed by the media. News reports link missions together and present you with a one-sided story as the invasion takes place, but if you fully explore the gameworld, you may notice some differences between the actual and reported events. For example, the South makes claims about massacres that don't actually take place and feeds the media information to try and win international support. The free-roaming nature of the game also means you can decide which shoot-outs to get involved with, presenting you with a moral dilemma--do you save civilians at the possible expense of fellow soldiers? It's possible to skip entire side missions if you prefer, although completing them will often make accomplishing the main objectives easier overall.

ArmA offers a great variety of vehicles, ranging from planes and helicopters to cars and tanks to even boats. Aircraft carriers are one of the few vessels to be left off the list, but Bohemia claims that this would have been too difficult to implement in the game. Instead, we'll have to make do with new civilian vehicles such as cars and bikes, most of which are left deserted on the battlefield for you to take advantage of. While aerial vehicles adhere to the same level of realism as the rest of the game, they're actually quite easy to control using the keyboard and mouse, and here Bohemia admits to making some concessions for its fan base.

Just like Operation Flashpoint, ArmA emphasises realism.

While protecting yourself on the battlefield is crucial, you'll also have to keep a keen eye on the rest of your squad. Luckily, training missions help you become accustomed to ordering your men around and using the weapons in the game. The standard army assault course is used to teach you how to move your soldier around, while the F keys are used to issue orders to your men. Just like in Operation Flashpoint, you're fed information by your units in a slightly stilted vocal manner, but it's coherent enough to provide information on enemy locations, current targets, and any injuries sustained.

ArmA features 400 square kilometres of terrain and an ambitious open-ended nature, so it will depend on you how long you take to complete the game and how many times you want to go back and do it again. Bohemia has a fairly open approach to letting the player mess around, with many levels open from the beginning for people who just want to jump straight in and pilot a helicopter, for example. The developer estimates that an average gamer will clock in at around the 20-hour mark for the campaign. However, that doesn't take into account the skirmish missions, mission-editor features, and multiplayer modes--the latter of which could take up a large portion of a shooter fan's time.

If ArmA's single-player mode seems open-ended, then the multiplayer mode is even more so, offering up the entire island for players to use as their playground. Of course, using the entire map could mean that games go on for days at a time, but Bohemia hasn't restricted the hardcore fans who will inevitably want to experiment. Perhaps most ambitiously, there's no limit on the maximum number of people that can get involved in a game, with Bohemia leaving it to the host of each game to adapt matches to individual circumstances. While this could lead to over-ambitious 100-plus-player games hosted by people on superfast broadband connections, the community should hopefully find its own equilibrium for map size and player limits. The only downside is that the multiplayer component wasn't playable in our preview build.

While ArmA has been available in certain European countries for a couple of months now, those that held off for the UK release are set to be rewarded with a more polished game that boasts more vehicles and weapons. While the game isn't exactly a graphical powerhouse, Bohemia has introduced more detail to background objects (although no news on Vista compatibility as of yet). It's clear in speaking to Bohemia that there's a small level of regret for releasing the game early in certain territories, and while a glitch let us roll helicopters upside down in our preview build, the UK release should be the definitive version when it lands on February 16. The North American publication rights, meanwhile, are still in negotiation.

Written By

Want the latest news about ArmA: Queen's Gambit?

ArmA: Queen's Gambit

ArmA: Queen's Gambit

Follow

Discussion

25 comments
pidow
pidow

I'll just wait and see......can not respond until I play it.

diamond18
diamond18

I went down to my local game store today to buy this game and they are sold out :( lol i phoned around and it seems there all sold out have to wait to next week to get this game cant wait lol i love the way u can Salute i changed the cotntrol setup so when i seen sumone on my team i wud walk up and salute and recive are give orders lol

Jerian
Jerian

Not getting shot means calling in lots of airstrikes...or belly crawling at .15 mph which takes a 20Hr campaign like 200+ Hrs LOL...I see more multiplayer than single player action going on for that reason

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

I'm sorry, but seems to me this is the same game, a bit bigger, with a massive graphic upgrade to please the media, but once again frustrate gamers who just say those immortal words 'will it run on myPC?'. The media will love it, and it'll be a sales flop. Therefore consider it a 'classic that those stupid gamers didn't have the sense to buy'. At least that'll be the media quotes in a year or two's time...!

Chi-You-Man
Chi-You-Man

Ugh, i wish i still had my old pc, it could have ran this with ease, the one i am on now can barely run HL2

Diresniper
Diresniper

I've played the full Czech release, patched it over to English and idk wtf ppl are talking about it doesn't lag up or demand my entire system to run, i can run it maxed and still run around fine. I still cant beat the damn convoy level, 1 satchel 1 car to block the road 2 rockets, and your m4-a1

Thewtfpwner
Thewtfpwner

The realism level seems like it will be really succesfull or a game-breaking mechanic.

itsallme
itsallme

When you judge a game like ArmA, you have to remember what your'e getting into. This game compared to others like battlefield series and other games of that nature is like trying to enlist in the army after playing laser tag. This is why for most people the pacing is too slow and the challenges too hard. "I.E. the 1 shot kill from an ak at 500 ft away that you never saw." So in this matter, this game is if you want a full on, close to realistic combat experience. Yes its a beast, yes it is hardcore, but you'll appreciate it after you succesfully lead a squad of men through a mission without casualties, or take down ___ # of baddies without getting shot.

zombie_hellspaw
zombie_hellspaw

This is going to destroy my life just like flashpoint did. I cant wait to get it and shift the BAS mods into it. Also just for the record, they call the north a "democratic republic" because North Korea calls its self a "democratic republic"

HellsKing
HellsKing

I second daveslayerv1's thoughts!

daveslayerv1
daveslayerv1

hmmm, this game was very dissapointing looked great... got exited at the movie... then got the demo....played it for a while... and god it made my p.c look like a 1980's machine.... games are getting stupidly high on resources.... and i had just over the recommeded spec's..... it was long & tedious.... i mean it don't take that long to start a car..... this game would have been prtty good if it hadn't been so darn farfetched.... well my verdict on this game is "good idea..... extremely bad result" and if you like this game maby you should try some of the battlefeild series an whole lot better..... and fun as well, and if you like tatical warfare go for tom clancy's g.r.a.w

alexbartle
alexbartle

If this is anything like flahpoint it should be amazing i cant w8 to get my hands on it, loved mission editor.

nirvanasource
nirvanasource

How dare you compare this to the console-fodder that is GRAW. Too bad this game runs like crap, even when the settings are cranked so low that it looks as bad as the 1st game.

muscrat_01
muscrat_01

Ah Arma RAWKS people!!!! I already have the German Version (ebay ;), and im sure as hell buying it when its out in Australia!!! A must have for tactical shooter fans!!!

JoeyPegasus
JoeyPegasus

I played the demo of it, and my pc couldn't handle it. Said, but it is almost the same as OFP, so i play OFP with FFUR 2007 TCM and that is still fun!

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

I only played the demo for Operation Flashpoint and, well... it seemed harder than I'm used too.

jhz
jhz

This is a surprise! I didnt even know this game existed! Operation flashpoint stole many of my nights, I could sit playing that game and making custom missions for hours. Operation Flashpoint is actually the main reason that I got into PC gaming! I am really looking forward to this game, I hope its not a let down.

_Colossus_
_Colossus_

"The northern democratic republic is the larger of the two, while the smaller southern island is governed by a monarchy." Slightly error there folks. The northen "democratic republic" is a communist state and the southern part is a democratic monarchy.

NuclearDruid
NuclearDruid

Pity I bought the german version already... I couldn't wait any longer!

grey79
grey79

I had some pretty damn good moments in OFP.

SCPsyWarrior
SCPsyWarrior

Op Flashpoint took up far too much of my time due to its incredible modding community. The integrated mission editor was a stroke of pure genius from BIS, and if they can pull that part off again then you can be sure ArmA will last for another six years with no problems. Anyone who wants to fill up some time between now and the release should check out the FDF Mod for Op Flashpoint over at http://koti.mbnet.fi/~fdfmod/ - one of the most polished full modifications for the original. -PsyW

Poshkidney
Poshkidney

yeah looks good and sounds good from all that stuff on top

Naruto
Naruto

I am really looking forward to this.

Aaron_130
Aaron_130

looks cool, Op Flashpoint was a great title.