previews\ Jun 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Arma II Operation Arrowhead preview


Chances are you’ve never heard of Bohemia Interactive’s Arma franchise, and it’s your loss. The franchise has always been about expansive FPS combat, set in ultra-realistic modern settings with gigantic environments. The focus on realism makes the game a lot more “hardcore” than the Call of Duty/Battlefield games that it shares the genre with, which might account for why it hasn’t achieved the same levels of success. Arma II: Operation Arrowhead doesn’t aim to fix what isn’t broken, instead focusing on refining what fans of the franchise have always loved, and making the subtle refinements and improvements that they would hope for.

For the uninitiated, Arma II: Operation Arrowhead keeps with the series’ legacy of realism. Bullets will travel realistically, experiencing bullet drop over greater distances, as well as muzzle velocities, making shots less powerful the farther they travel. Additionally, the environments and combat unfold in a gigantic scale, with expansive terrains to traverse in order to get to where the combat gets hot. Combat seldom has the up close and personal flair exemplified in games like CoD and Battlefield, and often takes place from a pretty far distance and requires you to pick off your enemies from several hundred feet away, so learning the intricacies of the game’s long-range weaponry is essential.

Operation Arrowhead changes the scenery from the original Arma II, moving the action to a fictional western-Asia nation called Takistan. The environment is quite different from its predecessor, sharing more in common with places like modern-day Afghanistan than it does the greener climates of Eastern Europe, offering up three huge areas, ranging from large-scale desert areas to cityscapes. Additionally, the single-player campaign is pretty removed from Arma II, opting to put you in the shoes of several US Army servicemen instead of a single character. The roles you take on are pretty diverse, such as putting you in the infantry at times, and even having you piloting a tank.

Aside from the expansion’s meaty campaign (which won’t be quite as long as the original Arma II’s but pretty long nonetheless), there are ample ways to keep you playing. The game boasts some solid multiplayer elements letting you get into firefights with up to 50 different players on the map, as well as a robust map editor, which allows putting all manner of custom weapons and environmental effects in your sprawling homemade maps.

Graphically, Operation Arrowhead has gotten a boost from the original game as well. While it lacks the overall panache of its genre counterparts, there are still some great effects, like motion blur and destructible buildings adding to the realism. The character models are also greatly improved.

Operation Arrowhead is a standalone expansion, meaning that it does not require the original Arma II to play. The game’s larger focus on realism makes it more of a hardcore affair like other games in the franchise, but one that shooter fans looking for a challenge might want to check out. Look for it to launch at the end of the month.

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