ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead review
The original ArmA II was a solid shooter, foregoing the constant stream of bullets and action in favor of a more realistic and accurate feel. The game wasn’t a smash hit and had some flaws, but did manage to secure a hardcore following of fans that appreciate what the series has accomplished. Now, Bohemia Interactive has released a standalone expansion to ArmA II, Operation Arrowhead. Operation Arrowhead doesn’t change the ArmA II formula or even build upon it very much, instead taking the series’ tried-and-true gameplay and applying it to a different setting with a whole new campaign. While this is what hardcore fans would hope for, if you’ve made up your mind on the franchise, Operation Arrowhead won’t do anything to change your opinion.
In terms of scope, Operation Arrowhead ranks highly when compared to the original ArmA II. The game has roughly three-quarters of the content as the original game, with a host of new missions and a brand new environment that is quite different from the one on tap for the original game. The new setting, a fictional country called Takistan, is a lot more arid than the mostly green and forested areas in the ArmA II campaign. This provides a nice change of pace, and helps add something new to the expansion.
As with the rest of the ArmA series, Operation Arrowhead is an extremely realistic affair. Those expecting Call of Duty-style shootouts with ridiculously high body counts and streams of bullets will be disappointed, as patience and perseverance are the name of the game here. Other shooters make their name on racking up destruction and leveling enemy buildings, whereas ArmA frowns on collateral damage and killing any enemies outside of those that you absolutely have to. This makes the game quite a departure from other war-based shooters, but ultimately one that can be extremely rewarding for purists.
The game’s realistic portrayal of war comes with a steep learning curve. Each weapon and vehicle in the game handles differently, especially in the case of the vehicles. Approaching a helicopter with the same zeal as a Humvee is an easy way to wreck it, so you have to know what you’re getting into with everything the game throws your way. Weapons and combat situations feel quite different from what most gamers have come to expect from war-based shooters, with the action unfolding in short bursts instead of never-ending firefights. You’ll do well to keep your distance from enemies, as you aren’t an invincible superhuman capable of getting hit with streams of bullets.
For all the realism that Operation Arrowhead brings to the fray, there are still some issues that rear their heads to take away from the experience. The game has some AI issues, with enemies and squadmates alike acting spotty and unrealistically at times. This is especially problematic when commanding your teammates around the map, as they’ll act buggy and get stuck in the environment at some moments or knock into each other. Your enemies will also act unrealistically, standing out of cover or simply freezing while you shoot them, lacking the tactical prowess that you’d hope for from a game this authentic.
Graphically, the game has some moments of true brilliance, but the technical issues that have mired the series for years now are still present. When you have the games settings maxed out on a high-end gaming rig, you can expect to see some fantastic visuals. However, even on capable systems, you’re going to run into some framerate issues as well. The game never seems to hit a solid clip even after substantial tweaking, and is disappointing considering that the developers have had time to tweak the engine.
The sound is pretty good, but there are also some issues here as well. The sound effects are solid and pop quite nicely, with gunfire in the distance. The voice work, however, could definitely use some work. The actors seem to struggle with the dialogue, and when the issued commands have a weird robotic quality to them that gets irritating before too long.
ArmA II Operation Arrowhead doesn’t fix what isn’t broken, but unfortunately doesn’t fix what is either. The expansion’s flaws are nothing new, as they are the same things that kept the original ArmA II from being a true classic. That said, Operation Arrowhead does a fine job of giving the hardcore fans of the series exactly what they want, no more and no less. You’ll get a lengthy new campaign, a brand new environment, and the same accurate and realistic combat that you’ve come to know and love.