“Press the what now? Oh too late, I already died.”
I really, really wanted to like this game. Even now, I still really, really want to like this game. But right now, ARMA 2 has got me pulling my hair out in frustration. It’s not the jarring and irritating audio of your squad mates during the game or the shoddy cut scene timings which make you wonder just how much the company responsible for the localisation got paid (peanuts, I suspect, as the work is on a par with the old chestnut about 1000 monkeys banging on 1000 typewriters in the hopes of producing something). It’s not even that the subtitles and the audio don’t even pretend to acknowledge each other at times. It’s not an alien experience to find the words you’re reading ain’t what’s being said. No, it’s the clunky interface which really induces me to self-inflicted baldness. The interface is so blisteringly counter-intuitive that the game should carry a health warning for anybody not having the requisite number of appendages, i.e. at least another arm and with more than the usual number of digits on each hand. That and the fact that every engagement takes place over a distance that would cause the operator of a guided missile to shrug, shake his (or her) head, close his (or her) eyes and flail at the release mechanism in a slightly comedic and worrying fashion.
Who would have thought crawling, crouching, standing, walking, running and evasive manoeuvring would be so difficult?
Now, I know Bohemia Interactive is a small operation. For that reason alone, I applaud the sheer scope of ARMA 2. This is what the big developers should be aiming for. How many games allow you to order two squad mates to hop on dirt bikes and move out, allowing you to shadow them from a helicopter in order to provide 30mm cover from above? Not many. In fact, only Battlefield 2 allows you this kind of scope. The important distinction here is that Battlefield 2 is geared towards the uber-skills of the persistent online player and teamwork, which don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Plus, if you haven’t been playing BF2 since launch way back in 2005, you’re going to be hopelessly outmatched. ARMA 2 allows you to hop into a truly singular single player experience. True, it is geared towards a simulation and yes, you are going to get burned if you’re not careful. My first experience of running gleefully into a field and crouching behind a tree got me hopelessly shot. However, the interface is terrible. Which is a shame, as it really upset game play for me. Not only do you have to remember which number corresponds to which action you wish performed by your team mates, you have to juggle with an absolute plethora of key commands. I mean, who would have thought crawling, crouching, standing, walking, running and evasive manoeuvring would be so difficult? All this begs the question of why the developers thought it would be a real blast to bind all these actions to the same key. Yes, before you say it, that is hyperbole, I already know. But a more intelligent context sensitive menu could have worked absolute wonders here. I mean, say you’re in an APC, and you want to dismount in a hurry? That’s a middle mouse click, scroll down, click and voila! You’re already dead. Previous games have managed to provide a useful interface without resorting to a Battlecruiser 3000 feel, so I feel let down by ARMA 2’s very shoddy interface.
The next thing on my hit list is the extreme range in which a fire fight takes place. More often than not, your team mates will engage the enemy before you’re even located the threat they’re banging on about. All of which takes me to the last gripe I have about this game. The voice-overs used by your squad to pinpoint enemy locations and activities sound like they’re straight out of a synthesiser. It’s a jumble of mixed-up sound bites that are mashed together and sound terrible. Hopefully some community mods will fix this, but I find it astonishing that the publishers felt that the standard of work on the audio was anywhere near good enough.
But that’s enough bashing. The graphics are solid and the draw distance is refreshing. It’s a true breath of fresh air to find a game that is not constrained to a small linear play area. ARMA 2 gives you a mind blowing amount of space to play in. Hats off to Bohemia Interactive for undertaking such an endeavour, I say. After all, the open world environment and the interactions available with NPC’s is extremely gratifying. Want to take on an additional mission? No bother, just tell your commander so. Felt like you’ve done enough? No bother, just tell your commander to put it where the monkey puts his nuts. Peanuts, that is.
So to conclude, I admire this game. I really do. I really want to like it but the biggest thing standing in my way is the interface and a small host of niggling issues. Despite this, I still think that the developers deserve a huge round of applause. If you have the patience to learn all the commands, go ahead. I’m sure it will be a rewarding experience, especially online. Me though? I’m going back to Call of Duty 4.