So, what, with the WoW boycott and all, I've got some spare time these days during the chunk of my calendar for gaming. A friend of mine who I used to play Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory with mentioned that he was getting into Arma 2.
The basic concept is that it's another Battlefield style game, where you get to play anything you want (infantry, drive tanks, fly choppers, fly jets) except it's supposed to be more like a simulation than a game and offers you quite a bit of freedom in what you can do in the game. Modding has been made super easy and even though the game was released in late June, there's already a plethora of mods out for it.
The other big selling point is that it's one of the few games out there that supports the TrackIR head tracking system, which allows you to move your head in real life to look around in the game. Providing that turning your head while keeping your eyes locked on a point straight in front of you feels natural to you.
I decided to snag the demo off Steam (I swear, Valve should be paying me for how often I mention Steam in a positive light here) and install went fairly smooth. After spending about an hour putzing around with the game, I'm going to have to pass on it.
My big problem with it is that there are controls for everything. There's a button to go prone. A button to stand up. A button to kneel down. A button to zoom your camera in at some point, a button raise the weapon so you can stare down the site, another button to lower the weapon, a button to use the scope, and another button to switch to binoculars. I gave up on the game during the first aid training where you are instructed to go grab a wounded soldier and drag him 25m back to the instructor, but just hitting the button to interact with the soldier isn't enough, and you are prevented from moving until you discover which button must be pressed to hoist your buddy up on your shoulder and take him where he needs to go.
That might not be so bad, except for the fact that every single control option for all the different play modes are listed on a single screen. You have to wade through control options for FPS/infantry movement, driving vehicles, flying aircraft, multiplayer team communications, and managing your AI squad in single player. "Daunting" doesn't even begin to describe it.
The graphics aren't really anything special, but these days everyone's first task with a new game is to turn down the level of detail so they can squeeze out as much performance as possible so that's not really an issue. The "radio" alerts from your squad mates are also stitched together from various samples, which makes the incoming messages from your buddies sound like when you call one of those automated time/weather phone numbers... again, not a deal breaker, but it is a tad annoying.
Actually shooting the weapons is pretty good, though. They have bullet fall-off, so you get a kind of America's Army feel to firing the guns. Unlike AA, you're allowed to carry a Quake-sized armament (pistol, M-16, and rocket launcher... woohoo). If you're one of the folks who wants "realism" in their games, then this is definitely worth giving a look.
Overall, I'd say I might stick with the game if it wasn't for the UI. I'm tired of having to memorize arcane combo sequences to pull off the simplest of actions. ET (and ETpro) did a pretty good job of streamlining different activities into as few controls as possible in order to make it so players spent more time worrying about shoot'n'scoot rather than engaging of weeks of training just to have the muscle memory to avoid whipping out a pair of pliers and waving them menacingly at the bad guys.
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