Ads are gone. We're using Patreon to raise funds so we can grow. Please pledge support today!
Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All
Arma II: Combined Operations (PC) artwork

Arma II: Combined Operations (PC) review


"When taken together, the campaign and single-player scenario missions offer a lot of variety. At their best, they show Bohemia Interactive's flair for the dramatic. During a commando raid to rescue hostages held in a factory, you come down a hill overlooking a local village. Friendly forces are launching an assault on the village, which ends up sending a swarm of enemy troops in your direction. What could have been a simple shootout is situated in a larger context. You get front row seats, as it were. Bohemia manages this like no one else."



First things first, let's get this out of the way. ArmA II is a unique multiplayer experience, a sometimes rough-hewn but admirable bit of technology, and a fantastic platform for player-made scenarios and mods. No matter how much Bohemia Interactive fumbles everything else, they deserve credit for a game that stands so far apart from other shooters.

Everything I just wrote also goes for Operation Arrowhead, one of those strange midpoints between an add-on and a sequel for ArmA II. This "stand-alone expansion pack" doesn't require anything else, so you can grab it even if you don't know ArmA from an America's Army. It's a generous enough package. New players will get about a dozen single-player missions, the scenario editor, and a vibrant multiplayer community. The manual is pretty good about breaking it down for first-timers, and the boot camp tutorials pick up the slack for people too impatient to actually read the manual. If you're already an ArmA II fan, you get a dramatically different location, some new hardware, and a couple of improvements that you'll sorely miss if you ever have occasion to boot up the core game.

But what you also get with Operation Arrowhead are the same mistakes Bohemia Interactive has been making all along. Namely, horrible single-player scripting, inexcusable AI glitches, and an engine that will kick your PC in the groin without even looking as fantastic as it should. This is what Bohemia has been giving us for ten years, all the way back to the original Operation Flashpoint. Same song, yet another verse.

The best part of Operation Arrowhead is the new setting. For the most part, Czech developer Bohemia Interactive has set their games in their own backyard, meticulously modeling generic Eastern European countryside and villages. No longer. Welcome to Afghanistan. It's not technically called that, presumably to avoid offending anyone before Electronic Arts blazes that particular trail with the next Medal of Honor. But this fictional Central Asian country will look familiar to anyone who's seen recent war footage. The new territory includes small mountains, desert scrub, and Pashtun-esque villages, along with a city map built around a mosque. There's even a token hearts-and-minds system in the campaign. If you talk to neutral villagers using the new "Greet" command in a handful of scripted locations, then local militia won't attack you later on.

The single-player campaign that plays out on these maps is considerably scaled down from the ambitious and horribly broken single-player campaign in ArmA II. Because it's not so ambitious, it's also not so broken. It's still broken, hobbled by brittle scripting, the usual AI shenanigans, and poorly explained goals. Good luck figuring out that you command an unmanned aerial vehicle by standing behind an armored personnel character and scrolling through your command menu. I just saved you an hour of fumbling around.

When taken together, the campaign and single-player scenario missions offer a lot of variety. At their best, they show Bohemia Interactive's flair for the dramatic. During a commando raid to rescue hostages held in a factory, you come down a hill overlooking a local village. Friendly forces are launching an assault on the village, which ends up sending a swarm of enemy troops in your direction. What could have been a simple shootout is situated in a larger context. You get front row seats, as it were. Bohemia manages this like no one else.

But then there are missions that completely fall apart and squander whatever goodwill Bohemia has earned by showing you cool battles in the distance. For instance, you might be excited to get to play a vehicle-based mission in which your tank leads three Bradley IFVs on a road trip with a few unexpected twists. Excellent. Until you realize that you've done the objectives out of order because it didn't occur to the mission designers that you might drive over a mountain instead of around it. And what really kills this mission, and a later mission based on commanding a Stryker that escorts your Humvee, is the vehicle AI. This is just a subset of the overall problems with the erratic AI, but it's at its worst when it gets behind the wheel. Commanding vehicles is a significant part of Operation Arrowhead and it's utterly utterly broken beyond belief. Leading vehicles into battle is like herding cats. Fifteen-ton cats with a poor turning radius. Who don't do what you command them to do. While dudes with rocket launchers are shooting at them.

One of the cool new bits in Operation Arrowhead is making vehicles more viable for human players. This is still an infantry-based game that hasn't figured out how to elegantly fold tanks, helicopters, and jets into the gameplay. But it's getting closer. When you're in a vehicle, a new overhead "radar" display helps with situational awareness. A damage gauge proves that you can actually break parts of vehicles instead of just flipping some bit than distinguishes between a vehicle and a burning hulk. A lot of the single-player scenarios insist on showing off the vehicle stuff. It's certainly a thrill to pilot a helicopter through the hills of not-Afghanistan, and it's just enough to make flight simmers pine for the days of high-end flight sims. As for the game's fixed wing aircraft, the less said the better.

More than games like Crysis or STALKER, this is a great way to flex your hardware. And by "flex", I mean "beat down mercilessly". It's too bad that there's really no way to get this graphics engine to run smoothly without turning off important eye candy like anti-aliasing or the post-processing effects that give the world its real-world look. This is particularly a problem when you're around structures. The city map is nearly unplayable without being dialed down to where it looks like some sort of Elder Scrolls game from the 90s. Bohemia Interactive continues to make engines that make great screenshots without giving a damn about frame rates.

The mission editor is as muscular as ever, which means Operation Arrowhead is already a great buy if you don't mind hunting down player-made missions and mods (you can jump into the editor yourself for randomly generated SecOps missions, but these are still a big fat mess). It's a shame that Bohemia has split the multiplayer community into separate ArmA II and Operation Arrowhead groups, but there's no shortage of populated servers using the expansion. If you're a fan of multiplayer co-op, you'll find plenty of servers running an excellent mod called Domination, in which human players fight dynamic AI forces for control of towns. There's nothing else quite like this.

In fact, this is pretty much ArmA II and Operation Arrowhead in a nutshell. Bohemia Interactive comes up with a solid basis for a game, which they then release in half-assed shape, at which point fans of the game take up the slack and put the finishing touches on it. One of these days, I hope that Bohemia Interactive will actually create the polished final game that you're presumably paying them for.

Rating: 6/10

tomchick's avatar
Freelance review by Tom Chick (July 26, 2010)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by Tom Chick
Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360) artwork
Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360)

In Call of Duty: Black Ops, you play an Australian actor named Sam Worthington doing a bad American accent while the serial killer from Saw forces him to yell stuff about the exposition, with occasional breaks to play through overloud overscripted overblown shooting galleries in which you get captured no fewer t...
Dead Space 2 (Xbox 360) artwork
Dead Space 2 (Xbox 360)

Storytelling aside (those are two words that this narrative-heavy game can't afford), Dead Space 2 is a serviceable two-trick pony. The main trick is the contrived dismemberment mode. Headshots are so passe. So the Dead Space approach is to encourage severing crab-like limbs, conveniently extended as if t...
Assassin's Creed: Revelations (Xbox 360) artwork
Assassin's Creed: Revelations (Xbox 360)

Combat is still solid when it's one guy fighting a handful of enemies polite enough to hang back and wait their turns. But when Ubisoft tries larger encounters, which they do frequently in Revelations, Assassin's Creed combat looks suspiciously like Dynasty Warriors. That's not something to aspir...

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Arma II: Combined Operations review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Info | Help | Privacy Policy | Contact | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Arma II: Combined Operations is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Arma II: Combined Operations, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors.