Arma II: First Impressions

By Jim Rossignol on June 18th, 2009 at 2:38 pm.


I’m going to be taking a fairly serious amount of time to do a review of this, but I wanted to lob some preliminary impressions up here in the meantime. Blimey, BIS really have got that warzone feel nailed down. This is one of the most atmospheric games I’ve ever played, despite exhibiting a veritable alphabet of atmosphere-breaking elements. The most obvious of these being UNKNOWN. MAN. FAR.

Arma II is ludicrously ambitious. It wants to encompass modern warfare in a single game, and not in a Call Of Duty cinema-splurge way, but in a crawling-around-forests in the middle of the night to win the war way. Fortunately it doesn’t get over-excited at the start, and gives you fairly digestible infantry exercises to go through. Your early missions are about small engagements and covert ops, in which you must learn to operate with your team. One aspect of this is the enemy spotting, delivered in a manner similar to how actual military types bark out their commands and observations. It’s a little unnerving. ENEMY! MAN!

Once I become a more proficient Arma II player I am certain my ability to spot the distant wiggling pixels of my enemies will improve dramatically. For now, however, I’m somewhat put off by the automatic enemy-spotting systems, which cause not only my AI team-chums, but even my own character to yell, in separate-word enunciation, exactly what he’s seen. There’s a man ahead, my character has seen it, I’ve dived to the ground: and I still have not see the problematic man with my own, real eyes. Chances are he’ll kill me without me seeing him too, but at least I know he’s there.

Of course this kind of scaffolding is essential to staying alive. Arma II puts you and your special ops team into a ludicrously enormous warzone, and it’s filled with unhappy chappies AK’s, and worse. Staying alive requires you to pay attention, because battles don’t tend to play out the same way twice. It should go without saying that this isn’t like other FPS games, and as I hit the first urban centre with my team and watched a tank get to work on enemy armour ahead of me, that was made very clear indeed.

Yes, there are serious concessions to realism, precision and accuracy, but there are also more than enough videogame supports to keep this comfortable within the realm of simulatory entertainment. So far, at least, I’m enjoying myself. Partly this is down to BIS’s warzone being so astonishingly rich and believable. The environments are brilliantly rendered, and the open mess of the world rivals that of the real. Not only that, but the various open world events you’ll encounter, from planes screaming overhead to full-blown tank battles taking place across huge valleys, endow it with a kind super-versimilitude that no other game can rightly lay claim to. I almost want to recommend Arma II purely on the basis of you have to see this, just you that you know what games are capable of.

There are rough edges poking through the achievements – an American soldier suddenly speaking to you in what is clearly the voice of a Czech videogames developer, for example – and early frustrations, such as docile AI and my team getting themselves killed, thus ending the mission. But I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface: hours into the main campaign, I know that I’ve sampled little more than a teaser of what lies ahead, whether that be ludicrous bugs, or a multilayered, multiplayer open-world campaign with strategic RTS elements and a comprehensive mission editor.

I love BIS for even attempting to make this, even though it means I need a bigger PC. Tune in for a more comprehensive analysis next week, hopefully followed by co-op campaign conversations.

, .

169 Comments »

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  1. Theory says:

    UNKNOWN. MAN. NEAR.

    OFFERING. CANDY.

  2. Fat says:

    Got my email saying my copy will be here tomorrow, can’t wait.

    And yeah the radio chatter is a bit daft at times, but it does it’s job… doesn’t break the immersion for me. I think seeing people get out of a vehicle without opening a door bothers me more.

  3. Dave says:

    Zomg! I am so gay for this game. I’m a tad worried about the old sys req’s. Whenever I see, hear or think about it i get the fear (in a good way) that a game hasnt given me since FC’ing my first fleet in Eve. For the most part i’ll simply be burning about in various helicopters raining rocket death on all and sundry in whatever mode lets me do that with supreme satisfaction…

  4. Deadjim says:

    Can’t wait for this to drop through my letter box, by the looks of it though my PC may stuggle :(
    Any buggs poking through at all in this early stage? Heard some complaints about the German version.

  5. Ian says:

    It’s probably as well my PC likely won’t run this, because I’m sure I would first buy it, then be broken by it’s harshness, and then be taunted into increasingly traumatic returns to the game by everybody telling me how splendid it is.

  6. Tim James says:

    Jim, isn’t it kind of interesting how the engine has a subdued gritty look similar to STALKER compared to the bright and shiny FPS games we’re used to? I bet that contributes to the atmosphere of both games.

  7. Gap Gen says:

    ROGER.
    WILL. PLAY. ARMA II. TONIGHT. 8 O’ CLOCK.

    ARMA II. WHERE ARE YOU?

    ARMA II. GO TO. POSTBOX. AT. 162 823.

    DAMN! COMPUTER. IS DOWN.

    INJURED.

  8. BigJonno says:

    This is definitely one of those games that I really want to play, just to experience it, but I don’t I’ll actually enjoy all that much.

  9. Gap Gen says:

    It’s worth adding that this is ludicrously more fun with real people over Teamspeak (it doesn’t work so well if you don’t have mics, as by the time you’ve typed “Shit! Guy over there!” he’s probably already killed half your team).

  10. jackflash says:

    Can’t wait for this one. For those worried about performance, there is loads of information on how to improve it by getting your hands dirty. For example, simply disabling bloom and motion blur is said to give a large FPS boost. Once the devs implement FSAA so you can get antialiasing without the full screen supersampling the game currently uses (a bit of a performance killer) I think performance won’t be too much of an issue for many. Also a lot of the complaints seem to be from people who insist on running it at 1680×1050 or 1920×1200. I mean, people – turn down the resolution a tad, right?

  11. Bhazor says:

    Damn it. With such high specs I can’t really justify spending money on it without knowing how and if it’ll run. Also damn Vista 64bit and my wonky sound card which makes even boxed system requirements the least of my performance problems.

    Any word on a demo or some sort of benchmark yet? Cant they release say a 4 square mile version with a couple of scripted missions and a third of the inventory? Given what I’ve heard of the mission maker the designers could churn out a dozen compelling missions in an afternoon.

  12. jonfitt says:

    Realy want, but I’m concerned about the system specs. Arma 1 had a demo, here’s hoping Arma 2 will.

  13. Wisq says:

    @Gap Gen: As a long time player familiar with the BIS radio system, I just wanted to say — thanks for that bit of hilarity. Made my day. :)

    Good to hear they’ve done a spot-on job this time. ArmA 1 was a bit of a disappointment for me, but part of that was that I arrived on the scene rather late, when servers were struggling to attract and retain a viable number of players, and only playing a handful of most-popular maps, rather than the diverse CTF and coop offerings from my OpFlash days.

  14. datter says:

    The specs aren’t that bad.

    Minimum System Requirements:
    * Windows XP / Vista
    * Dual-Core CPU
    * 512 MB Ram
    * Graphics card with 256 MB-VRam and Shader Model 3.0 support

    Recommended System Requirements
    * Windows XP / Vista
    * Quad-Core CPU
    * 1 GB Ram
    * Graphics card with 512 MB-VRam and Shader Model 3.0 support

  15. Mike Arthur says:

    I’m really excited about this. I really enjoyed Evolution multiplayer in Armed Assault and this looks like it’s taken a lot of lessons from that.

    @jackflash:
    Some of us have big LCDs where viewing stuff at non-native resolution is pretty nasty.

  16. Anon says:

    See: http://www.pcgameshardware.com/aid,685770/Armed-Assault-2-Graphics-card-benchmarks-and-visual-quality-compared/Practice/

    Video benchmarks which should give you an idea of how your card will perform.

  17. PsyW says:

    @Gap Gen: Damn, Computer is down! Injured! I lolled…

    My copy’s in the post. I spent a vast chunk of time modding and playing around with opflashpoint and playing (new-type) ArmA Capture the Island in co-op. I’m looking forward to it arriving, but I’m also looking forward to the mods and patches which are an integral part of the BIS experience.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    Jackflash – You talk about enabling Anti-aliasing and then complain when people want to run a game at their native resolution? The most important part of getting a game looking good, in my experience, is making sure it is running at the correct resolution for your screen, particular now that LCD displays are all but universally used. I would rather knock most of the options down to medium so that I could be running my standard res (1680X1050) then have to put up with the poor image quality you get from a lower res.

    I always find that AA is the last option for me to turn on.

    This looks like it could be interesting. My only hesitation is that I found Operation Flashpoint to be exceptionally boring. Fights always seemed to end without my involvement or the difficulty would be unbearably hard. Weirdly though, I might be more interested in the name only sequel to Op Flash. Looks much more polished then this, which will hopefully make it more accessible.

  19. jackflash says:

    The Arma 2 demo should be out within the next week, according to the devs.

  20. MadTinkerer says:

    “For now, however, I’m somewhat put off by the automatic enemy-spotting systems, which cause not only my AI team-chums, but even my own character to yell, in separate-word enunciation, exactly what he’s seen.”

    This could also be related to the actual vocabulary the AI understands and uses to think. If so, that’s actually pretty awesome.

  21. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Checking out Anon’s link not only makes baby phuzz cry (my 8800GT, even on a much better rig only gets 16-22fps), but it looks like nothing is capable of running the game at full whack.

    ArmA2 – The new Crysis!

  22. Joq says:

    Why the hell does the game have to be so desaturated? It could use some more colour.

  23. Joq says:

    Eh, sorry about double-posting, but the game could use some rivers, too.

  24. Freudian Trip says:

    My Quad Core 9800 GT should be able to handle this but I’ll wait for the demo anyway. Operation Flashpoint made me cry so I’ll see how I react to the gameplay.

    Any word on the maximum players on multiplayer?

  25. Dave says:

    im seeing different min and max specs, im hoping to run it on a 8800GTS with 2 gigs of cheap RAM…. so far im either incapable of running it or at the recommended limit.

  26. Mike_in_the_USA says:

    I’ve got an ASUS G50VT-X1 laptop with:

    Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8400 (2.26GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 3MB L2 cache)
    NVIDIA GeForce 9800GT with 512MB of GDDR3
    Vista Home Premium (64-bit) SP1
    4GB (4096MB) DDR2 Memory

    and it runs smooth as butter… you don’t need a QuadCore for this game….

  27. Optimaximal says:

    @Gap Gen

    (it doesn’t work so well if you don’t have mics, as by the time you’ve typed “Shit! Guy over there!” he’s probably already killed half your team).

    Surely you mean… SHIT! GUY. OVER. THERE.?

  28. unclelou says:

    “here’s a man ahead, my character has seen it, I’ve dived to the ground: and I still have not see the problematic man with my own, real eyes. Chances are he’ll kill me without me seeing him too, but at least I know he’s there”

    That’s the biggest problem for me right now. Maybe my eyes are getting worse, but I don’t think it was that bad in OFP and ArmA 1. Everybody, including my character, spots each other from ridiculous distances, in the woods, and whatnot – and I don’t see anything. I often just go prone and listen to the AI battling it out.

    The spotting distance might be realistic, it just doesn’t feel like that in the game – particularly as the image quality (as terrific as the game often looks) can be quite shonky. Going below 100% fillrate is suicide, but even at 100%, popups, lod switching, and jaggies make it nearly impossible to tell a man from a tree at 500 metres.

  29. shamanic miner says:

    Reminds of the bug in OFP, “OH NO! …….. FOUR IS DOWN” ad infinitum.

    All part of the charm.

  30. Wisq says:

    @unclelou: I know that going from a barely-supported Voodoo-something video card to a near-top-of-the-line GeForce card made a massive difference in my ability to spot enemies back in the OpFlash days. I wonder if it’s the same these days.

  31. l1ddl3monkey says:

    Hot dogs, ARMA Hot Dogs
    What kinds of kids eat ARMA Hot Dogs?
    Big kids, little kids, kids who climb on rocks
    fat kids, skinny kids, even kids with chicken pox
    love hot dogs, ARMA Dot Dogs
    The dogs kids love to bite!

  32. Lack_26 says:

    @JackFlash,

    1680×1050 since it’s my LCD’s standard resolution, anything else and it looks like someone vomited Vaseline over it.

  33. Serondal says:

    It would appear that the general reader base of RPS is rich.

    “LCD displays are all but universally used”

    I don’t KNOW anyone with an LCD computer monitor, I don’t have one. Don’t even have a dual core machine in fact. I dunno who has the money to spend upgrading their computer every couple of years. Obviously not me. To assume the specs aren’t that bad since you’ve got free money to waste on expensive hardware is false.

  34. El_MUERkO says:

    I’ve got a bit of a beat, quad core, 8gigs of ram, two 4870s in crossfire, a 26″ monitor and decent eyesight and yet i still have trouble spotting people

    at 500/800 meters in rolling terain they may only be a couple of pixels high, throw in some wind blow trees and grass, some butterflies and a deer and i have real difficulty spotting people

    but my bigger concern is how the enemy react when you’re spotted, they lie down, rotate toward you and start to fire, within a couple of bursts you’re dead now if you try that you’re in two feet of grass and cant see shite

    or maybe you see them first, you kneel, go to iron sights and zoom them, control your fire and just miss, now they may choose to run for cover or they may respond with total calm and shot you in the head

    i don’t want to be a super soldier but i’m fairly convinced that it’s not a fair fight, i see a rich and detailed world with all it’s complexity, they see smooth shapes in two colour 1)the enemy 2)everything else

    PS: they also hear like fucking bats

  35. dsmart says:

    @ Lack_26

    LMAO!!! This is why I love this place so much. Where else would such sentiments be uttered by mere men? :D

  36. Joshua says:

    Once the devs implement FSAA so you can get antialiasing without the full screen supersampling the game currently uses (a bit of a performance killer)

    Whaaaa? This game has been released without FSAA? No doubt there will be some mongo 200+ meg patch on day one, too?

    Flashbacks to Empire: Total War here. And really virtually every big name PC game. The complete collapse of pre-release QA is a huge problem with PC exclusive gaming now, and us gamers have developed some sort of Stockholm Syndrome-esque affinity to it (“can’t wait for the patch”).

    don’t KNOW anyone with an LCD computer monitor, I don’t have one.

    How many people do you know? They are fairly common, very cheap, and provide tangible benefits (less eyestrain, etc.) over CRTs. We’re talking about less than $200 US for an “okay” one, not much to pay when you are talking about something you likely watch for at least a small amount of time every day.

  37. Tim James says:

    The FSAA thing is probably because of their renderer. I don’t think the original STALKER ever got it.

  38. Walsh says:

    Whaaaa? This game has been released without FSAA? No doubt there will be some mongo 200+ meg patch on day one, too?

    Most games that use that fancy bloomy crap will ignore your FSAA settings, this is one of them.

  39. Jim Rossignol says:

    I used a CRT until very recently. The “native” resolution aspect of LCD monitors still annoys me.

  40. Joshua says:

    The FSAA thing is probably because of their renderer. I don’t think the original STALKER ever got it.

    Sorry I didn’t clarify. From the person’s post it seemed as though they released this game without FSAA and said, “we’ll get to it later, in the meantime here’s this ass method that kills your frame rate.” That’s what I was referring to – the idea of patching it later and whatever. I don’t care if a game doesn’t have FSAA at launch, after all I primarily game on consoles. *rimshot*

  41. Howard says:

    LOL! That benchmark page is hysterical and has convinced me to cancel my order.
    Running at 1280×1024 on high detail I can expect a whopping 15 FPS! That’s just awesome. =)
    Yet again Behemia prove that they are utterly talentless at coding functional engines. Great stuff…

  42. Serondal says:

    @ El_MUERkO – If the enemy is so far away they’re just pixels to you, you probably shouldn’t shoot at them at all. Instead try to find a way to get closer to them and engage when you’re sure of a kill. I always have my gun set to single fire or 3 round burst and aim for their torso.

    Trees and grass ect is NOT cover it is concealment. You’re assuming they can see you but really they’re just shooting where you were. They can kind of guess that if you JUST went down into a bunch of grass you’re probably still there ;) You can do the same, just because you can’t see them directly doesn’t mean you can’t shoot at the tall grass where they should be.

    Cover – wall, building, the ground itself if you can get behind the crest of a hill or something. Laying down makes you a much smaller target but it also means if they DO hit you, they hit your head! My biggest suggeston is just wait until you’ve got a sure kil or get better at aiming which will take time :P

    Don’t assume the game is to hard, just keep at it and you’ll learn. It isn’t like most over FPS games out there but it is still a lot of fun.

    The last time I played Arm-A I jumped out of a helicopter, got shot by an enemy helicopter after I opened my shoot, landed in some guys back yard bleeding and dieing. While I was on the ground I saw 4 soliders looking for me but they couldn’t see me because I was behind a small wall. I layed there half awake until finally my guy regained the power to stand up. I shot three of him, got hit again and fell down. While he was coming up on my I got the power to shoot from the ground, shot his feet out from under him :P

    Finally I was able to stand and bandage myself a bit. I was still hurt and limping but I managed to go through the town street by street, killing 20 people by myself (the last 15 or so I had to use their guns on them because I ran out of ammo) finally I found the towns radio town and blew it up with 4 charges c4 AND when it exploded it took out an enemy transport helicopter that was near by.

    WHAT other game can you do this in?

    That doesn’t even mention the times I engaged T-72 from 4000 meters away with a Jav rocket launcher, that in and of itself is intense.

  43. Serondal says:

    Howard do you ever have anything good to say about anyone? I’ve never seen anyone spend so much time bashing developers who create fantastic games on a low budget just because you yourself can’t play the game O.o I’d like to see YOU do better with the same amount of money. For that matter I’d like to see you do ANYTHING close to what they’ve done with ANY amount of money .

  44. Howard says:

    @Serondal
    1. Uncalled for, unfounded flame bait: When did I swap to a different forum? You have no evidence of what you are saying.
    2. This prissy, self-righteous, fan-boy attitude of “you cannot criticise until you have done better” is just childish. I can’t make a car but I can criticise a badly made one so, yes, I bloody well CAN criticise bad/badly designed games.

  45. unclelou says:

    @unclelou: I know that going from a barely-supported Voodoo-something video card to a near-top-of-the-line GeForce card made a massive difference in my ability to spot enemies back in the OpFlash days. I wonder if it’s the same these days.

    Well, I’ve already got an overclocked 260 GTX I am not really planning to replace right now. ;-)

    f the enemy is so far away they’re just pixels to you, you probably shouldn’t shoot at them at all. Instead try to find a way to get closer to them and engage when you’re sure of a kill. I always have my gun set to single fire or 3 round burst and aim for their torso.

    That’s fair enough, except the enemy sees and shoots you with pin-point accuracy at that distance. To be on equal terms with them, you basically need a sniper rifle when they have assault rifles. Trying to get closer will get you killed.

    I’d like to stress that I am an OFP “veteran”, and played ArmA 1 quite a bit, and I don’t remember it being that extreme.

  46. Serondal says:

    @Howard I might call what you said above flame bait. Over the last several days or so I’ve seen nothing but you attacking and complain about various games.

    @2. I’m far from a fan boybut if you’re going to call someone talentless at something it would make sense if you yourself had some talent. How can you be a judge of something you so obviously do not have? What you’re doing is not criticising a badly designed game. You’re crying because you’re computer can’t run it. You never mentioned ANYTHING about the game, you just made a totally random attack at them for something that is obviously not true.

    If the engine is not function how did Jim play it at all? Where are all these in game videos coming from? The game and its engine run fine and your wild claims that BI are talentless are FAR more flaming than anything I’ve said

    I was simply wondering why you have such a bad attitude about everything. I’ve not read a comment from you in the last several days that was attacking something or someone.

  47. Serondal says:

    @Uncelou Sounds like they certainly need to tweak the AI a lot if that is the case ;) AI has always been one of their weaker points. I don’t know what is worse the AI being horrible and unable to kill you at all or being uber and killing you instantly. I can’t speak about what might be wrong with Arm-A 2 I was just trying to give him pointers to help him survive. But if the AI is spotting you from beyond your engagement range and killing you with pin-point shots to the head from that far away then something is obviously wrong ;) OR maybe you’re just fighting extremly well trained special forces lol.

  48. jackflash says:

    @ Vandelay :

    Good for you.

  49. Paul Moloney says:

    “I used a CRT until very recently. The “native” resolution aspect of LCD monitors still annoys me.”

    I still have a Hansol CRT, 8 years old and still working fine, but am toying on getting the Dell 2209 WA IPS panel that is being raved about, but the native resolution thing about LCDs would seem to be a deal-breaker for me… did anyone worry about this before they got an LCD, then realise they had nothing to worry about?

    P.

  50. Psychopomp says:

    @Datter

    I can say from personal experience, those specs are a load of shit.