Oct 29, 2007
YouTube has already shown us that four people in a Halo level is enough to craft a sitcom. So why can’t developers tell a decent war story in a wargame?
Royal Flush, one of two single-player campaigns included in this first expansion for Armed Assault, opens with one of the most painful exercises in Cutscene Theatre ever committed to disc. The horrifying creepiness of immobile models spouting misogynistic HUR HUR GUNS dialogue, like Barbie for NRA members, is all the more bemusing for being so unnecessary. As a straightforward upgrade to Armed Assault, which itself didn’t wander far from the original Operation Flashpoint, this is about hugely realistic squad combat: crawling through undergrowth trying not to get your head blown off.
The misguided storytelling could spring from the fact there’s not a lot else in this expansion; you get the two single-player campaigns, a couple of new multiplayer maps and a new multiplayer feature enabling you to buy guns. All worthy additions, but they don’t make dramatic changes to the standard ArmA experience.
Not that that’s altogether a bad thing. It’s still the source of some of the most glorious achievements you can have on PC. Online co-op remains one of the best multiplayer game experiences, and even single-handedly picking off an enemy squad before messily hijacking a vehicle and escaping the reinforcements is unbelievably satisfying.
Alas, the dozen tries it takes before you can pull this off are less so. With only a single, writeable save point between you and a vast map populated with murderously intelligent and well-armed foes, it’s a game you spend a lot of time repeating. AI remains hugely inconsistent: your troops charge gaily into open clearings like labradors into a minefield, while onlooking attackers tend to run around in circles for a bit before making a start on slaughtering them.
Familiar stuff, but there’s one big change: this includes the 1.08 patch, around 800Mb of fixes for a laundry list of game-breaking ArmA bugs. The crashes and glitches that soured our fun with the original are now distant memories, and you can focus on a long, tense battle with AI rather than your PC’s device drivers.
Not a great reason to buy an expansion, however, and Bohemia get that weird breed of post-modern corporate kudos for not evilly forcing you to: the patch is freely downloadable. So you’re back on those two campaigns and two new maps, then, which is just about enough to justify you’ve completed the original.
Take Queen’s Gambit as a harbinger that the original is now worth playing. If and when you’ve exhausted that, then this is waiting for you.