|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bohemia Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Meridian 4||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 29, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
There are few names in the realistic war simulation genre, but Bohemia Interactives ArmA series is a big player. With the developers release of ArmA 2 came a whole host of criticism and praise, most of which revolved around the games large number of technical issues and dedication to realism. ArmA 2: Operation Arrowhead is a standalone expansion pack that provides a new single-player campaign, a new setting, and promised performance tweaks.
Operation Arrowhead takes place three years after the original game, sending players to the fictional Green Sea region, to a place called Takistan. Of course, as with the previous game, there isnt much of a story to be found in Operation Arrowhead aside from the basic, military scenario. As a member of the US Army, you are being deployed to a hostile region to protect civilians and restore peace. Unfortunately, this has always been one of the areas in which the series has been found lacking. There is an obvious move away from the personal and heroic storytelling found in other FPS games, which succeeds in making you feel like a small part of a larger effort. Whether this feeling resonates with gamers depends on their own preferences.
Veterans of ArmA 2 will feel at home with Operation Arrowhead almost instantly. The menus, controls, and in-game user interfaces remain relatively unchanged. Of course, this is both a good and bad thing. Its good because there is very little to relearn for fans, but its bad because many of these systems lack polish and are still buggy. For example, while the controls can be modified to meet your own style, doing so is as unintuitive as it gets. Players must first click on the action, click an edit key, then click again to reassign a key, delete the old key binding, and then save it.
Of course, once the controls are mapped, players are faced with another challenge: remembering them all. To say there are a lot of specific controls would be an understatement. For example, Operation Arrowhead features separate keys for standing, crouching, and going prone, but you cant simply press them again to undo the action. Ultimately, this results in an overly-complicated system that is further convoluted by in the addition of vehicle and command menu controls. It would have been great to see some fine tuning here.
Despite the complexity and detailed way you can control your characters movements, the results arent quite so smooth. Movements seem jerky and are difficult to get accustomed to. Navigating stairwells and moving through doorways can be irritating, especially when enemies are lying at the top or just inside.
Visually, Operation Arrowhead looks about the same as the original ArmA 2, boasting far-reaching and realistic environments. In some cases, unfortunately, this can make them feel barren and lifeless, but this is more of a missed opportunity than a flaw. There is a lack of color as well, with just about everything falling somewhere between brown and gray. Of course, Operation Arrowhead has the advantage of time, as the developers have spent a great deal of time trying to optimize the game to increase its performance on machines not boasting the latest in video processing technology. The results arent noticeable; however, as even with a powerful machine, it is difficult to achieve a playable framerate with quality settings set to anything above normal.
On top of the unnoticeable performance tweaks, Operation Arrowhead also suffers from a number of bugs that cause the game to crash. Out of the total playtime of around fifteen hours, I was pleased to note that the game only crashes about seven times, which is still an improvement from the original ArmA 2. At one point, I had a game crash issue that involved the titles tutorial dialogue. Oddly, the tutorial voice over stuttered, and it played during the loading screen, continued while I was trying to play through the single-player campaign, and even kept playing after the game had crashed and I was booted to my desktop.