ArmA 2 - Lumbering Sandbox
Arma 2 is a game that makes no apologies, even when it should. The game takes place in a massive world with virtually no borders where the player can use a variety of authentically modeled pieces of military hardware to accomplish any number of different objectives. Make no mistake, ArmA 2 is the Microsoft Flight Simulator of infantry combat, and comparing it to Call of Duty is like comparing Hearts of Iron to Risk. However, in its current state, it is hard to recommend to even the most hardened MilSim lovers.
ArmA 2 appeals to the kind of player who loves to plan and carefully execute real world military strategies in an intense and immersive sim environment. Expect to spend a lot of time crawling from place to place, spending 20 minutes getting into position for 30 seconds of fighting. There is never a perfect way to do anything, even the best laid plans can be reduced to shambles by a bullet fired from 300 yards away. If you are in to that sort of thing, the feeling of accomplishment after completing a mission is impossible to replicate in any heavily scripted "press A to Kill" game.
In this respect ArmA improves over its predecessors (ArmA I and Operation: Flashpoint) because it allows the player more freedom than ever to accomplish objectives. You are often given a task, some resources, and some general information to help you on your way. After that, all decisions (and consequences) are totally on the shoulder of the player. Hand holding is not a concept this game is familiar with. If you make mistakes, you will die; if you act intelligently, you will succeed. At least, that is the idea.
The problem with ArmA lies with the complexity that is required to be as true to life as the game tries to be. There are no corridors in this game, only miles upon miles of terrain waiting to be explored. One can imagine how easy it is to "break" a mission, even unintentionally. To execute such a grand vision requires relentless testing and a daunting amount of Q&A work, and judging by the result it seems Bohemia Interactive just did not have the time or resources to fully test the single player game before its release.
For example, you have been given the task of searching for an enemy commander, or destroying x number of insurgent camps. After two hours of carefully walking, flying, driving, and most of all shooting, you believe you have completed every task necessary to move on. Yet nothing happens. It turns out there is a bug that caused the mission-ending script not to run, or the trigger that spawns your target never activates. You wait and wait, until you experience the sinking realization that all the time you spent is for naught, and you must reload the mission from the beginning and hope it works this time around. This occurs far too often in the ArmA 2 campaign, and totally destroys the feeling of hard earned accomplishment that rewards patient players.
Scripting and campaign issues aside, parts of ArmA 2 are frankly anachronistic. The stilted, robot like voices of squadmates have not changed since the original Operation: Flashpoint. The scripted and plot related sequences are obviously voiced by amateurs and reveal the limited budget the developers had to work with. Controlling squadmates is counter-intuitive, although a quick command system is in place for basic tasks. Trying to issue complex commands during a firefight will more likely result in death than anything else.
With all of its issues, ArmA 2 aims so high and gets so close it would be cruel to hammer its developers too much for falling short of such a lofty goal. Fans of ArmA and the OpFlash games know that the single player campaign is only the beginning. For die-hard Bohemia Interactive (the makers of ArmA and Operation: Flashpoint) followers, the real meat is in the mission editor, add-ons, and multiplayer. To that I say this review is for ArmA 2 as it currently stands. I cannot speak as to what the community or future patches will do to improve this game.