Get together with friends and you could play this for years
Get together with friends and you could play this for years

Get together with friends and you could play this for years

If you’ve played previous BIS games then you’ll be immediately at home with ArmA II’s action, but if you’re new to this style game then you’ll probably feel a bit intimidated by how complex and unforgiving it can be. One minute you’re making decent progress through an occupied village; the next you’re on your belly screaming as the screen warps and distorts in pain. Thankfully your mates may be able to save you if your enemies fail to kill you outright with an attack, and you’ll certainly find yourself returning the favour – dragging your buddies into cover so that you can administer some life-saving first aid. Even on the easiest setting, you may be surprised by the speed with which things can fall apart, although the game helpfully gives you the option of highlighting allied and enemy troops – a useful setting, since you’ll rarely have time to spot your enemy if you come under unexpected fire. On the flip-side, you can also turn off almost all the guides and help systems in the game, making for a truly hardcore experience.

After you’ve progressed a few missions into the game, things start to open up. It’s at this point that the game gets really interesting, since you’re essentially given free reign to do what you want. As a general rule, the game tends to give you a very broad goal or set of objectives before abandoning you to your own devices. This freedom is quite breath-taking when it first arises, but it’s also rather scary. One early mission, for example, tasks you with finding a pair of communist warlords who’ve gone on the run. You’re given a few places to start looking, but in a nutshell they could be anywhere on the map – all 225 square clicks of it. You can call in a helicopter to ferry you around the map, and you can commandeer pretty much any vehicle you find, but it’s a bit of a head-spinner all the same – particularly as the game is fairly reticent about giving you concrete pointers. If you interrogate the locals you might get a decent tip-off, but there’s no definitive answer as to where your target might be. It’s the antithesis of a linear experience like CoD 4, and as a result you’ll need a hell of a lot of patience and dedication to beat the level.

Things get even more complicated later on, and before long you’ll find yourself roaming the map with a list of 10 objectives to meet as you see fit. Later still you’ll find yourself dealing with RTS-style elements, commissioning new units and building an entire base from scratch. It’s a wet dream for armchair generals, especially when you factor in how amazing all the vehicles and the landscape looks. Unfortunately, however, all this complexity comes at a price: the last ArmA was widely criticized for the number of bugs it contained, and while this sequel isn’t as bad it still has quite a few problems. The game’s initial release in Germany (via publisher Morphicon) was met with a raft of complaints from users, ranging from complete crashes to mission triggers that failed to, well, trigger. This 505 release seems far more stable, but I still suffered a few bugs – particularly when one of my guys got injured and someone else had to take command. At one point Cooper was left bleeding and screaming in a jeep; no-one would come to help him, and I was somehow unable to switch to O‘Hara (my medic) to do the healing myself.

Normally these issues wouldn’t be too bad, but unfortunately BIS has elected to give the player only as single save slot. While this undoubtedly creates a certain degree of tension, since in-mission choices have a greater degree of consequence, it also means that a bad bug could screw an entire level, forcing you to restart from scratch and losing several hours work. My other main complaint concerns the behaviour of AI controlled characters. While your team-mates and adversaries are amazingly competent when moving about on foot – flanking, taking cover and generally looking after their digital selves – they tend to be less effective in vehicles. I found my personal chopper-chauffeur to be a particularly bad offender in this regard. Sometimes he’d “pick me up” by hovering some 20 feet above my head, forcing me to run away to another spot before re-requesting the lift. At other times he’d insist on landing on the roofs of houses, forcing my squad to break their legs as they disembarked. On one occasion, I foolishly saved the game moments before he was due to land – only to find that he insisted on lowering the ‘copter onto a lethal set of power lines. If we hadn’t all died in the crash, I’d have killed the bugger myself.

For what it's worth, Red Harvest boasts a fairly decent plot that approaches war in an intelligent manner while still finding room for plenty of explosive hijinx. The game certainly doesn’t shirk away from the darkness or moral ambiguity of armed conflict, and while the plot branches in a few key areas there isn’t really a good or bad path to take – you make your decisions based on your instincts, and then later on you deal with the consequences. The subtitled Russian dialogue is an excellent touch but the English voice acting is somewhat patchy, and this along with the rather wooden “acting” of the human characters unfortunately detracts from the impact of certain scenes. Elsewhere the game serves up a decent array of thumping rock tunes and sombre orchestral pieces that nicely complement the mood of the game, while the sound effects for weapons and vehicles are largely very impressive. You can actually hear when someone’s taking potshots at you, and trust me when I say that it’s damned scary.

This is about as authentic as you'll want

This is about as authentic as you'll want

Make no mistake, ArmA II is most certainly a hardcore title. Aside from the technical issues I’ve mentioned, its biggest problem is simply its own nature: it’s massively in-depth, and that will always be off-putting to some people. Could BIS have made it more accessible? Perhaps, but at the same time I’d much rather have an ambitious game like this, even with its obvious flaws, than a simpler experience that dumbs down to its audience. Later this year we’ll be inspecting Codemasters’ own Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, and while I have little doubt that it will be a more user-friendly product, I highly doubt that it’ll offer the same degree of heart-stopping scale. This is the kind of experience that makes PC gamers proud of their machines, and I simply don’t think it could work on another platform – although obviously I’d love someone to prove me wrong.

In an age where most developers are reaching out to embrace casual gamers, ArmA II is something of a refreshing exception. It is unashamedly ambitious in its design and execution, embracing rich complexity at the expense of accessibility. It is a game that makes you work for your fun, and that asks you to overlook a good deal of awkwardness, as well as a fair few technical hiccups – though I am sure that these will be sorted with future patches. If, however, you have the perseverance to stick with the game through thick and thin, to learn its ropes and to immerse yourself in all it has to offer, then ArmA II will last you for years.

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Highest Rated Comment

snaileri's Avatar

snaileri

Current-gen game consoles can NEVER run games like this!
The landscape is so huge, the graphics are so crisp, the multiplayer needs dedicated servers which game consoles can't provide, let alone the max-player amount. And the mission editor sure would be pain in arse when trying to use it with a game pad.
Just throw your 360 into trash can and buy some real gaming platform!
Posted 10:16 on 20 June 2009

User Comments

DproL's Avatar

DproL

Be warned this game isn't really that enjoyable unless you manage to play it in a serious online community like Operation Reality (ORC) or something of similar caliber. Just my 2 cents :o
Posted 00:24 on 17 February 2010
jakeistheman's Avatar

jakeistheman

@thpcplayer I have played it extensively(As i said before my friend is a PC gamer and practically lives off the game)and its a good game but you even admit that it has tons of bugs, so why over praise it and act like a bunch of gitty school girls over the machine called a computer.I go back to the message of my 3rd post calm down and realize the game has flaws.
Posted 00:53 on 03 December 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar

thpcplayer@ jakeistheman

well jake, i see where you coming from but you must play this game and then u will know why it deserves all that praise. FOr me this is a near perfect game but due to loads of bugs it............................
Posted 11:20 on 02 December 2009
tokorev's Avatar

tokorev@ El-Dev

yes, or maybe, there is strong evidence that its coming for it. but bad news for some people, if it comes out, some people say its onley coming for ps3, good for me, but not you or others, and also, ign. gamestop. and playstation universe says its coming for ps3, and 360, some time this year soon, or next year, lets hope it does
Posted 01:37 on 13 November 2009
jakeistheman's Avatar

jakeistheman

well im calling them fanboys because there making it out as though this game is the second coming of god and that the PC is the greatest gaming invention of man kind.I have played the game(friend has a alienware PC) and its amazing but why go over boad.
Posted 22:14 on 01 November 2009
renegade's Avatar

renegade@ drummerx2001

MAG says hello
Posted 16:15 on 01 November 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar

thpcplayer@ jakeistheman

why you calling them fanboys??? hmmph!
Posted 15:44 on 01 November 2009
jakeistheman's Avatar

jakeistheman

i have never seen so many PC fanboys on this site hmmmm.
Posted 16:22 on 14 October 2009
jm1205's Avatar

jm1205

i want this game bad need to update my computer but ill have th money soon cant wait for this
Posted 02:27 on 14 October 2009
drummerx2001's Avatar

drummerx2001@ renegade

console servers can not handle this amount of multiplayer action. Not yet anyway. They dont have the processing power to deliver all the movements of 50+ players in one game. Maybe someday though.
Posted 01:25 on 01 September 2009
drummerx2001's Avatar

drummerx2001

Most people dont understand the massiveness of this game... Especially Console players. This game is huge, larger than huge. So many AI characters will be moving and responding to your actions during play, a console system would light on fire with trying to handle its processing needs. Operation Flashpoint was a Golden Classic, and gave way to this masterpiece. Not flashpoint on console, on PC. Just if you have a powerful enough PC for this, and love thinking, using strategy, instead of just run and gun... buy this game. You will love it for sure.
Posted 01:23 on 01 September 2009
Beowulf011's Avatar

Beowulf011

Without a doubt, ARMA II is the most accurate modern warfare game I have ever played. And the accuracy draws you in and makes you feel like the solider. You have real ballistics, the world is destroyable (you can run over trees in a tank, break fences with an APC, blow up buildings), you drag your wounded allies out of fire and then you can perform field medicine on them to get your guys back into the battle, you can hop over fences, dive into bushes, look around the battle with out changing where you aim and many other amazing thing I have always want to do in a game but I have never been given the option
Posted 16:26 on 28 July 2009
panty's Avatar

panty@ El-Dev

the 360 version was delayed because it did not pass microsofts quality control
Posted 13:06 on 23 July 2009
thpcplayer's Avatar

thpcplayer

this game is a killer absolutely in my mind one of the games of the yeaar. I couldn't get it on release as my com and laptop were *****ed up. @ above absolutely right. I hadn't played anything for a month(thx to studies ) and i couldn't even get time to visit this great site . I bought it yesterday. Undoutebly, best game for pc so far perhaps best game so far.(this year
Posted 13:45 on 26 June 2009
Mastorofpuppetz's Avatar

Mastorofpuppetz

Games like this are what seperates PC from console, PC can run anything, some games just won't run on console without being hugely scaled down and dumbed down, sorry, but thats a fact.
Posted 14:01 on 24 June 2009

Game Stats

System Requirements
ArmA II
8
Out of 10
ArmA II
  • The best war sim on the market, bar none
  • Stunningly realistic and epic in scale
  • Intimidating for newcomers
  • Still quite buggy, at present
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 19/06/2009
Platform: PC
Developer: Bohemia Interactive Studio
Publisher: 505 Games
Genre: Action
No. Players: 1 + Online
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 468 50
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