ArmA II: Army of the Czech Republic Review
ArmA II: Army of the Czech Republic Box Art
System: PC
Dev: Bohemia Interactive
Pub: Bohemia Interactive
Release: September 12, 2012
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Blood, Strong Language, Violence
All About Tactics
by Robert VerBruggen

The ArmA series has been in the news a lot lately. There's DayZ, an ArmA II mod that turns the game into a zombie apocalypse. There's lots of hype about the forthcoming ArmA III, too. And then there's the arrest of two ArmA developers on espionage charges in Greece, a situation that has led some to speculate that they photographed top-secret military equipment for use in their next game. (The developers say it's just a misunderstanding, but the idea of Austin Powers: Secret Game Developer cracks me up.)

Flying in under the radar is ArmA II: Army of the Czech Republic, a new expansion pack. (The Operation Arrowhead expansion is required to play.) It's basically ArmA in all its glory. Fans will love it to death, but the rest of us will be left scratching our heads about what the heck the big deal is. After all, five minutes with this game will give you a laundry list of things you want to see fixed in ArmA III.

ArmA II: Army of the Czech Republic Screenshot

To be fair, ArmA isn't supposed to play like Call of Duty. Instead, the game drops you onto a huge, open map, puts some men under your command, supplies you with some interesting vehicles, and then leaves you alone to accomplish your directives. You need to give careful directions to your soldiers, from their formation to their directions for engagement. When a soldier dies, he's gone. And when you die, it's game over.

And some of the other problems here can be attributed to the fact that Bohemia Interactive is a small developer with a limited budget. The ArmA games are notorious for their bugs, and the graphics here are nothing special (though you can cure the horrific pop-in by changing the default settings). In fact, part of the fun of ArmA is that you can create your own missions and mods without the developers trying to shut you down.

But that's not the full extent of the problem—in fact, it often seems like the developers went out of their way to make the game cumbersome. For example, you'd think your medic, being a medic and all, would try to heal wounded soldiers during lapses in combat. You might at least hope for some kind of prompt. Nope. You have to scroll through some confusing menus and specifically instruct him to do his job. You also can't just push a single button and have your whole team hop in a vehicle; you need to get in yourself and separately order the rest of your team to follow. Then you have to make sure they all get in, because sometimes they don't.

ArmA II: Army of the Czech Republic Screenshot

Even the basic combat controls are needlessly frustrating. Whereas every other shooter on the planet manages to make do with a single button that handles crouching, going prone, and getting up again, ArmA uses three buttons, one for each task. Zooming in on a target is for some reason mapped to a different button than raising your scope, the default button doesn't work well, and finding a convenient place on your keyboard to put the scope is a chore. And when you get shot at, you'd better be able to tell from the audio where the bullets are coming from, because there's no on-screen indicator to make up for the sound effects' imprecision. As often as not, either your squad will kill an enemy, or the enemy will pick off a member of your squad before you even figure out where the gunfire is coming from.

ArmA II: Army of the Czech Republic Screenshot

Is this "realistic?" Not really, considering that autosaves are frequent and manual saves are unlimited (and considering that a real medic would think to ask, "Hey, want me to do something about that bullet wound?"). It's just that instead of regenerating your health when you take damage, you have to go through the tedium of being patched up, and you have to re-load your game more often.

But enough grouching. Hopefully all that will be better in ArmA III. What does Army of the Czech Republic offer that's new?

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