by Jeff Gates
reviewed on PC
You don’t know shooters until you have played ArmA II. ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead is the standalone expansion (meaning you don’t need ArmA II to play Operation Arrowhead) to the super-realistic military simulation FPS on the PC, ArmA II. A few years after the conflict in Cheramus a new war rages in the Green Sea region. The battle gains momentum and coalition forces led by the US Army are sent to Takistan to quickly restore peace and prevent further civilian casualties.
You will think you enlisted
The real heart of ArmA II is in the gameplay. This game is astoundingly unforgiving but in the right hands, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience when it all comes together. Any situation where enemies are shooting at you can (and often will!) result in instant death by being shot in the face from 300 meters by an enemy you didn’t see. If you are like many hardcore simulation gamers, however, this is a welcome change from the run and gun mechanics of many modern ‘realistic’ FPS combat games.
ArmA II brings this intensity to a new level. You will very quickly develop a paranoid habit of diving behind a solid object any time you even think you might have heard the dull thud of a bullet hitting the ground near you. If you don’t you will get shot very quickly. The same game mechanics apply to your enemies, however, as you can easily sneak into an excellent position behind cover and get the drop on them. It has never been so satisfying to rain lead death onto your enemy, landing carefully aimed bullets into a roving patrol, or blowing the treads off an unsuspecting tank with a well placed rocket from 200 meters away. The average distance for a running firefight in ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead is somewhere between 100 and 300 meters.
Most games don’t have this kind of enormous game area to play in. You will notice this the first time you are granted the privilege of flying one of the game’s aircraft. After the somewhat difficult task of learning the simulation-quality flying controls, you will realize just how massive an area you have been given to play in. Successfully strafing a tank with rockets from your attack helicopter at a low altitude and living through the experience long enough to gloat about it is quite probably one of the most adrenaline-packed moments in any type of flight simulator I can think of.
In ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead it may also be one of the more difficult moments to achieve. It is not easy flying a helicopter, and ArmA II doesn’t hold your hand through the experience. The combat jets are even more challenging, but the rewards of dropping a huge missile directly into the target being painted by a teammates laser target designator and narrowly evading the anti-aircraft fire arcing across the horizon is going to be forever etched into my mind as a true moment of gaming glory. As well, the importance of getting a decent flight yoke and taking the time to set it up properly cannot be emphasized enough, if you are serious about playing in cooperative online battles.
Can your PC handle this?
The graphics are on par with what was experienced in ArmA II. They will challenge your video card unless it is on the higher end of the performance spectrum. Not necessarily from the advanced graphics effects, but from the sheer size and scope of the game world. It is not unusual to be able to see more than one village or town from a single vantage point on top of a hill, including tanks, aircraft, infantry, and many other actively moving objects. Graphics can be scaled drastically either higher or lower than default, in order to tune the game’s performance for low end systems or for advanced gaming PCs.
In some cases, such as the grass and trees, the game shows a distinct lack of beautiful detail, but that lack is made up for in the details present in all of the military units which the player will be much more focused on. The day/night cycle is represented in an almost realistic time frame, the stars in the sky are fully realized and can even be used to navigate, if desired.
Massive game, fantastic online co-op.
Weak sound and bad physics.