Reviewed by Chris 'Ando' Anderson
There hadn't been any new releases for a while (none I would consider spending my hard earned money on anyway) so I’ve decided to review a game that I found in a bin; the Steam bargain bin to be exact. I bought ARMA II and its expansion pack for $20 when it was on sale for no other reason than it was $20. This was a decision I would soon come to regret.
ARMA II starts off just like any other military first person shooter by putting you through boot camp. At first it seems like a pretty regular training mission; you learn how to walk, jump and which end of the gun makes things die. At this point, most shooters would say ‘Good enough!’ and throw you into the middle of a war. ARMA II is not one of these games. No, ARMA II wants you to be prepared for every possible situation. So you still have to learn to drive, perform combat surgery, fly a helicopter, fly a jet, command your troops, read a map, read a compass and maintain supply lines.
Even the guy I'm playing as looks bored.
Of course, you do have the option to skip all of these training missions and just jump straight into the action. You could do that, but the control system is so complicated that you will struggle to get past the first mission. Just to give you an idea about how ridiculously in depth this game is here’s a handy guide to controls and tactics titled ‘The Basic Rifleman’. For those of you too lazy to or sane to count, that “basic” guide contains 19,670 words. Basic! You may scoff at the contents, thinking you will be able to make-do with the skills you picking up “pwning n00bs” in Call of Duty, but you will need to know almost everything on that page to get past the third mission.
Speaking of Call of Duty, I remember being disappointed following the release of Modern Warfare 2. I would complain to anyone who would listen that this game was so unrealistic it became impossible to take seriously. Shooting baddies while on the back of a speeding snow-mobile? Absurd! Ridiculous! In my self-righteous anger I forgot that these sequences were also fun. And at the end of the day that’s what a game’s quality comes down to; if it isn’t fun, why bother playing at all?
I guess that’s the main point of difference between ARMA II and games like Call of Duty. At no point during my time with ARMA II did I find myself having fun, or even anything that came close. I mentioned this on an ARMA forum and was promptly shouted down by its fans. Along with the less flattering comments made (which, ironically, I would have expected from a 12 year old Call of Duty player) some fans actually made some rational arguments. They told me it was fun for different reasons. Sick of the screaming 12 year olds that inhabit every Call of Duty server, these gamers looked for another war game to play. Unable to find one they settled on ARMA II; which is really more of a simulator than a game.
So apparently it's a different kind of fun. Not the fun of fast-paced, visceral combat. Not the fun of feeling like part of a bigger battle. No, this is the fun of micromanaging dozens of troops. The excitement of making sure they’re properly supplied and the intensity of looking at a map. You know what? I’ll take the screaming 12 year olds any day.
On second thoughts...