We don't yet have a firm US release date for this realistic war game, but we're hoping for one. Think of your shooter wishlist. The silly one, full of half-conceived ideas and impossible demands, such as ‘total realism’, ‘completely non-linear’, ‘entire campaign playable in co-op’, ‘hundreds of players’, and ‘country-sized free-roaming maps’. It’s the one that reads like a child’s Christmas list: you want an elephant made of gold, and an aeroplane that can swim and produce candy-floss. There’s a good reason developers don’t make games like this: because it’s not possible.
Realism’s a nice idea, but you can’t make a game out of it – in a real war, you can be killed by a stray round from three miles away. The most non-linear games are really just cleverly linear: GTA is a fixed sequence of missions, and it only lets you do them out of order when there are no interesting consequences to doing so. And co-op isn’t something you can just throw in like a pinch of salt: AI, scripting, level design, even the story has to be built around it from the word go. We’re all guilty of wishing for these things aloud without really thinking them through, but a bunch of military geeks in the Czech Republic heard us. And someone forgot to tell them it couldn’t be done.
They’d already proved they could do it - to an extent - with their first soldier-sim, Operation Flashpoint, to which Armed Assault is a devoutly faithful sequel in all but name. But the technology at the time wasn’t ready for one crucial aspect of combat simulation: range. Flashpoint had a visible range around three times larger than any other FPS, but it still wasn’t anything like as far as a soldier can see on a typical field of battle.
So, six years later, and with the enormous brawn of the average gamer’s PC finally up to the task, Bohemia are perfectly poised to take their hardcore combat sim another notch closer to reality without bringing your PC to its knees. And they have, except for the ‘notch’ and ‘without bringing your PC to its knees’ parts. They’ve more than tripled the already huge visible range from Flashpoint to a staggering 10km, and even the quad-core rig we have in the office struggles with that. It can be turned down for smoother performance, of course, but it’s not until you see vistas on this scale that you realise how far from reality other games still are. This scale is what gives it a strikingly un-game-like quality. It makes Battlefield look like Turok.