Arma: Armed Assault
Those Pesky Pinkos are at it once more. Having sent the Ruskies packing after they'd carpet-bombed a set of fictional islands with communist manifestos in Operation Flashpoint, the boys of the US forces are once again called upon to hold back the red tide in Armed Assault, a squad-based shooter which is already appearing so realistic, it'll have you picking shrapnel out of your backside.
Once again, the action takes place on a collection of neutral islands threatened by a communist invader. Stationed there to help train the locals, you're suddenly thrown into an unexpected conflict as enemy forces invade. "To begin with you'll just have a few soldiers and tanks, but as you move through the game you'll get reinforcements," explains Jiri Rydl, from the game's publisher Idea Games, acting as mouthpiece for Bohemia Interactive. "Early missions will be very defensive. After this, you'll move north in an attempt to push the enemy army back."
Although the similarities to Operation Flashpoint are striking, Armed Assault is looking like it could be an even more epic and realistic experience than its illustrious predecessor.
For starters, each island will be considerably larger than before and will teem with forests, mountains, fields and hills, each replete with its very own tactical advantages. "You can either walk through a forest and use it as cover or bulldoze through it in a tank," explains Rydl, as he leads a squad of troops through densely packed trees and shrubs.
As he and his men stalk through the foliage, the dynamic weather engine kicks in. The sunlight wanes and flecks of rain begin snaking through the forest canopy. "If you play for hours, it'll even get dark," he beams. But while the effects themselves are a welcome addition, it's hard to ignore the fact that the game's engine is starting to show its age, despite a myriad of updates. With visuals taking a back seat, Bohemia Interactive's primary motivation appears to lie utter realism and epic scope - and they seem to be succeeding on both fronts.
The game's arsenal of vehicles is staggering, with land, air and sea all admirably represented. "You can drive any vehicles, including civilian ones, says Rydl. "You can also pilot and drive Hummers, armoured vehicles, tanks, boats, jet fighters and choppers. You can even drive enemy vehicles if you can capture them."
Bohemia are also keen to ensure the single-player campaign is as dynamic as the in-mission gameplay. By dividing the campaign into key and side missions, you'll lie able to play an integral role in shaping the direction of the war.
"There'll be around 20 missions, about 12 of which will be key missions. Then there'll be smaller, optional ones," explains Rydl. "These will be ten to 30-minute levels that could involve destroying a convoy of enemy tanks. If you succeed in these side missions, it'll help you in the main story-driven missions."
With countless Al tweaks being added daily to ensure that your troops respond both quickly and intelligently to your orders (issued via a menu system akin to Operation Flashpoint's), Armed Assault's single-player campaign is looking like one uber-realistic hombre.
All For One
But wait, there's more, because Bohemia isn't shirking its multiplayer responsibilities either, with co-op and massive multiplayer battles set to further bolster the game's already gargantuan scale. "There's no real limit for how many people can take part in multiplayer games, boasts Rydl. "It all depends on the server. You can have 80 players and if one person drops out, their place is instantly taken by a computer-controlled player."
Throw in a Capture The Island mode -where all of an island's cities must be captured and held for a team to win, a task that could literally take days - and you're left with one package that could be more mouthwatering than reconstituted food rations after a hard day's yomp.
I won't lie to you: Armed Assault won't blow you away in the graphics department, but when it comes to realism and freeform gameplay, it could just blast you out of your seat if it delivers on its potential. And when you've got a commie commander in your sights as a column of enemy tanks advances towards your position, that's all that's really going to matter.
Download Arma: Armed Assault
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Building On Flashpoint:
Spanel: "Many things in Flashpoint were limited by the hardware. We've made big changes in the density of the environments in Armed Assault - it's bigger, sure, but it's also far more packed. In Flashpoint, the areas were kind of empty, so you'd find there wasn't enough cover, plus there were tactics you couldn't fully utilise. So that's one part of the improvements - and of course, the visual quality is better. But there's other areas, which at the time of Flashpoint we didn't know about, or didn't have time to include. Notable are the improvements in the simulation of ballistics, so now bullets can get deflected, and if you hide behind a wooden fence, it's not really proper cover because the bullets will go through. All this isn't obvious on first play, but it's an example of us trying to make a deeper and deeper simulation."
Kurzawa: "There were a lot of changes that were implemented in Armed Assault that we were limited with in Flashpoint. For example, the multiple turrets are completely new, and we worked hard as modders to get anything working with that. There's a lot of stuff that went into Armed Assault that the regular players might not see, but if you're a modder, you'll notice that it's a lot easier. They've got much more power to create content and generate whatever they want to. There are still limitations, but far less than before."
Spanel: "We released the game before Christmas in eastern and central Europe. The reason for this was simple: we ended up on our own with regards to everything. We're not a big company and we had to release in order to get some income, it's as simple as that. There are sometimes not many choices you can make, it's either 'do something or do nothing'. We're completely independent developers and we didn't find a way to agree with any big publishers. A year ago, nobody believed in the game at all."
Spanel: "To some extent, we have some experience of the military, but we're games developers primarily. Some of us did national service, but we're programmers, engineers and games developers. We've had feedback in recent years from many ex-military personnel and current military concerning the VBS1 training programmes (the 'professional' version of Flashpoint, used by the military). We always try to have such people as external advisors - for instance, some former marines do a lot of the testing, and these people help to make the game as realistic as possible combat-wise."
Spanel: "We're working on new stuff for Armed Assault right now, new patches and updates to handle all the problems we've had reported from our users, and working towards the release of the game in North America. Unfortunately in PC gaming, the platform is very complex - both from our end and the hardware end, with drivers and operating systems. Take Vista - we're getting reports from users who're experiencing troubles with it that we didn't have a chance to support in the development process. Sometimes, we need to rely on graphics card manufacturers too. because the issues aren't always something we can solve. For example, with ATI cards, it works fine on v6.7 of their drivers, but later on, there's a bug in the drivers, and unfortunately that gets used in Armed Assault. So we're fixing things, and working with our partners to fix things too. It's getting better every day though, which is the good news."
There Goes Mod:
Spanel: "We've tried to make Armed Assault into a platform, so many things that were hard-coded in Flashpoint, we've made fully configurable, including the AI. It's really a platform for years to come, and not only in military training - we're hoping the gamers will come out with some really nice modifications, and already we're beginning to see some good stuff coming out It's too early to be talking about full modifications, but there are some re-textured units that look w very nice, some of the strong Flashpoint mod groups are working on new content, but it's going to take some time. If you check some of the sites like armedassaultinfo, there's a lot of stuff going on there."
Spanel: "The best moments for me are when we play in a co-op team of four or six, playing against the AI. Probably the best feeling is when you're outnumbered by enemies and you're feeling completely hopeless, and then you get help from a friend you weren't expecting." Kurzawa: "One of the memorable moments for me was lying in the grass, sniping, and a butterfly flew into the view of my scope. And I thought, "You stupid butterfly, what are you doing there?" and then I thought "Hey, wait, there's a butterfly!" No other game has butterflies in front of the scope. It's really satisfying that we got so many little details into there."
Coming From The Community:
Kurzawa: "I came to Bohemia from my work with mods. I was basically doing what I do now, concept writing and just getting stuff to work. For example, I did all the configs and scripting for a Comanche, and we really tried to push the limits. We have several former modders here, so I can say it happens quite often. Especially with the artists, for example - they know the programs we use to get stuff done. At the time of writing the mods, about one in ten were people who had prior experience of making stuff in Flashpoint. Because I'm formerly from the community, I understand their requests. However, because I'm working professionally on it now, I can also see that what the community imagines is really easy to do often isn't. So I'm in a position where I can say, T know what you mean, but we can't change it'. Of course, saying that, we try to implement as much of what the community wants as possible.''
Spanel: "We're working on the US release now, and there's a QA procedure that we hope will be beneficial. Because the scope of the game is so massive, you give the game to one QA and get all that fixed, then you give it to another QA, and he'll come up with another list of things. It's so complex that anyone can find anything, and it's a never-ending process, with such an open-minded game with so many ways to go through it. We're also trying to improve the game, so with the latest patch we've changed how the 3D iron sights works, which is quite major. We basically listen to the feedback from the forums and the users, so we've reduced the fogging to make the community happy."