Arma has always been a game far removed from the cinematic bravado of the big dogs of its genre, taking instead a more realistic approach to the theatre of war. With the release of Combined Operations, and the ever-growing fanbase of true zombie survival mod Day Z, it’s as good a time as ever to take another look at the alarmingly accurate Arma II.
Combined Operations gives you a lot of value for money. It includes the two core Arma II titles, both great single and multiplayer titles in their own right, and perhaps most interestingly, the cheapest way to get access to the mod everyone’s talking about, Day Z. But what does the game have to offer by itself?
For starters, a challenge. Rather than the trigger happy tactics a lot of run-and-gun modern shooters employ, most encounters in Arma II are fought huddled in cover with enemies on the very edge of sight, turning combat from a messy, ammo-emptying exercise in holding down the fire button into a tense ballistic puzzle where every shot counts on both sides. If you get shot in the head, you’re going to die straight away. If you get shot in a less vital area, you’d better hope a medic gets to you in time before you bleed out. It’s tough but fair and sets the game apart from a lot of hand-holding titles the genre has become known for.
This turns the online game into something much more tense and atmospheric. It’s violent and sudden, and with hundreds of weapons, never dull. And here’s what has lead into Day Z – easily the most talked about mod of recent days, it’s a simple premise. You spawn on a desolate coast, often alone, with barely any items or anything to defend yourself with. You have to find weapons, food, and water, and hide from hordes of wandering zombies that will tear you limb from limb. You have to take everything into careful consideration if you want to survive. Walk into a town and fire a gun, and zombies will flock towards you. Bandits will know where you are. And perhaps most terrifyingly, other players will know where you are.
Day Z is played in a huge, persistent open world – the same fictional region of Chernarus Arma II takes place in, obviously – and if you want to survive, you have to stay low and trust no-one. Other players are just as likely to shoot you in the head and take your precious salvage as they are to help you survive. It’s an all or nothing experience, and despite some of the glaring problems with the game (It is in alpha testing, after all) it’s a uniquely entrancing and genuinely scary experience. Despite the awkward zig-zag running of the zombie models and the somewhat stiff animation, it’s the closest to a genuine survival simulator you’ll ever play. Gone are the days of being magically healed when a medic deals with a bullet to the brain with some bandages and sellotape. If another survivor decides he needs your food more than your company, he’ll take it. A bullet to the head will kill you outright, but if you take another kind of injury you’ll shake until you can get hold of some painkillers. If you take a bullet to the leg you’ll have to crawl around until you can find some morphine to carry on.
At first glance this might seem frustrating, but it’s frustrating in a way that compels you to try again and again and again, to see if you can survive for just a few hours more in the vicious wasteland. The more time you spend in a world where pretty much everything is out to get you, the more you get to grips with surviving. Moving crouched makes it harder for humans to spot you, and harder for zombies to hear you. Guns should always be a last resort and if you want to sustain yourself in the world, the best approach is to organise excursions with real life friends – the kind that won’t stab you in the back the moment you look away to make sure there aren’t any facemunchers sprinting in your general direction.
A lot of Day Z’s flaws are echoed in the game it originates from. Bugs, some badly implemented ‘reality’ elements that break any sense of immersion, horribly sporadic glitches that can completely screw over a campaign level before it properly begins – almost every time I launched the tutorial map and waded through the shooting range, the game would order me to march over to a soldier pretending to be wounded and carry him to a medic. But whenever I picked the soldier up, my brick-faced military grunt got stage fright and wouldn’t move from the spot. The world carried on, the war was fought and won, world peace was achieved and then lost, aeons passed the world by and the human race faded into the annals of history, and my guy stood there rooted to the spot staring desperately at the ground with a corpse on his shoulder.
It’s not perfect, and it’s not for the trigger happy among you. The campaign in the core game is buggy beyond playability sometimes, and that’s not a good mix with the game’s punishing nature. The online play is a much more polished experience but that doesn’t justify the occasionally broken campaign. With Combined Operations you’re still getting a hell of a lot of game for your money. And if you want to see what the nightmarish world of Day Z is like for yourself, it’s essential.
More about the game
Built upon over 10 years’ experience, Arma 2 thrusts gamers into the heart of the most realistic military combat simulation ever developed, featuring cutting edge technology, vast, detailed environments and authentically modeled units, weapons and vehicles. Branching, player-driven campaigns offer both solo and cooperative gameplay, accompanied by a huge range of single and multiplayer modes.
The 27th MEU Marines deploys to Chernarus, country in the middle of civil war; an elite 5-man Force Reconnaissance Team, “Razor”, is among the first to fight. Caught between the might of the USMC offshore and the Russians anxiously watching from the north, the fate of Chernarus balances on a razor’s edge…
- Unrivalled realism: accurate ballistics; dynamic weather & environmental effects.
- 300+ weapons, models, air, land & sea vehicles!
- Unmatched Landscape: 225 km2 of detailed real-data environment
- Advanced AI: no scripts, no predefined pathways!
- Intuitive, powerful mission editor with a dedicated creative online community
Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead:
3 years after the conflict in Chernarus, a new flashpoint explodes in the Green Sea Region. Coalition forces led by the US Army are deployed to Takistan. Enlist into various roles within the US Army, from basic infantrymen, through special operatives, to pilots and tank crew!
- New SP and MP campaign & scenarios
- 3 new large scale maps of Central Asian setting.
- Dozens of new vehicles and weapons
- Thermal imaging and new weapons optics
- Controllable Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)
- Deployable backpacks for equipment
- Extensive multiplayer: join in the massive multiplayer battles with up to 50 players!
Day Z Mod
The Day Z Mod requires Arma II: Combined Operations which is made up of Arma II and Arma II: Operation Arrowhead
- OS: Windows XP or Windows Vista
- Processor: Dual Core CPU (Intel Pentium 4 3.0 GHz, Intel Core 2.0 GHz, AMD Athlon 3200+ or faster)
- Memory: 1 GB RAM
- Graphics: GPU (Nvidia Geforce 7800 / ATI Radeon 1800 or faster) with Shader Model 3 and 256 MB VRAM
- Hard Drive: 10 GB free HDD space
- OS: Windows XP or Windows Vista
- Processor: Quad Core CPU or fast Dual Core CPU (Intel Core 2.8 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ or faster)
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Fast GPU (Nvidia Geforce 8800GT or ATI Radeon 4850 or faster) with Shader Model 3 and 512 or more MB VRAM
- Hard Drive: 10 GB free HDD space
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.