Version tested: PC
Speech given by Tim Stone to army of potential Operation Arrowhead buyers, on 30th June 2010 (with apologies to Tim Collins and the Royal Irish Regiment):
We go to Takistan to liberate, not to conquer. We will not fly flags in their country, but we may fly Apaches, Black Hawks, Chinooks, Little Birds and A-10s. We may also drive M1A2 tanks, Bradleys, Strykers, Humvees, and the odd tractor and Lada. This is an ArmA II expansion pack after all.
The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. Saddam-substitute Colonel Aziz and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done. Seizing the oilfields of peace-loving Karzhegistan is a heinous act and an unlawful one. It's also rather unoriginal, but that's neither here nor there.
Respect the civilians of Takistan. You will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright/prone bunch of NPCs. Do them no harm and complete their optional side missions, and they will fight at your side. Respect too the fabric of this parched yet beautiful land. Tread lightly through its poppy fields, vault gently over its tumbled walls and abandoned washing machines, and - I beseech you - don't mortar seven shades of goat dung out of its lovely ancient mosques.
There are some who are happy at this moment who will not be happy shortly. Those who expected improvements in areas like AI, framerates, and armour modelling, will taste sorrow. There are also people among us who will not see the end of this campaign, short as it is. To those individuals I would say, "Be aware you can fail mission five and still progress," and, "The notebook containing the bomb code is in the obvious place."
It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other FPS games. I can assure you they live with the mark of COD upon them. Expect the highest standards from your comrades - especially if you know the ins and outs of ArmA II's ungainly yet powerful command interface. Do not expect sparkling dialogue, faultless driving, or rapid first aid.
If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in death. Do not dance like a pillock over their corpses, or drive repeatedly over their heads in the hope of squashing them like over-ripe water melons. Do not steal the hats of the fallen, no matter how rugged and S.A.S. those hats will make you look.
If you harm the regiment by posting idiotic messages in the comments section that follows, know it is your reputation that will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest, for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither ourselves nor Eurogamer.
Our business now is North. Goodbye gentlemen, and good luck.
"Will you be taking questions?"
I wasn't intending to, no. I was just going to stride out of the tent, and leave my well-chosen words hanging in the air. But now you've totally ruined that, so go ahead.
"What exactly can we expect from the Arrowhead campaign?"
Six helpings of solid ArmA II action. You are part of Task Force Knight, a US-dominated coalition force sent to fictional Takistan to remove Colonel Aziz and his evil war-mongering regime. In the guise of four utterly forgettable characters you'll undertake special forces missions, fly helo gunships, command tanks, rescue hostages, and do a host of other soldierly stuff. As you'd expect from the series, the battlefields are usually vast, the realism level high, and the tactical options abundant.
"Only six missions?"
Yes, we deserved more, but bear in mind there are also seven single scenarios and the ever-wonderful editor to toy with. Though those single missions tend to be on the brief side (few take longer than 10 minutes to complete) they do a decent job of showcasing some of the new vehicles and equipment.
In Death From Above, for example, you can preserve your Apache by using an unmanned Little Bird (ULB) chopper to spot and lase targets. Nailing the enemy general in One Shot, One Kill involves use of new FLIR-equipped sniper rifle with sight zeroing capability, and Laser Show illustrates just how atmospheric night missions can be when the sky is starry and every friendly has a PEQ laser pointer lashed to his gun barrel.
"Is any of this new equipment truly indispensable?"
Débutante aircraft like the Chinook, and AFVs like the Bradleys and Strykers, all fulfil familiar roles, and thus don't add a lot to your tactical toolbox. ULBs with their powerful cameras and simplified remote controls do offer a genuinely new attack option, albeit a rather cold, clinical one.
In terms of utility, it's the thermal imaging systems that probably have the biggest impact; after all, it's hard to hide from a warrior who can see every heat source at a glance, be it a warm wheel hub, a sweat-beaded brow, or an insomniac chicken. FLIR sights will even function in the sweltering heat of a Takistan noon or when blocked by smoke clouds. Realistic? Apparently so. The only flaws I've spotted are minor ones. The modelling doesn't appear to simulate corpse cooling, weapon heating, or extend to some units from the original ArmA II.
Another small but significant addition to the quartermaster's store is the backpack. As in essential ArmA II mod, ACE2, it's now possible to enlarge your inventory with a capacious bergen, and strip down heavy weapons into their component parts. Chanced upon an enemy mortar pit or MG nest and want to take the armament with you as you advance? Disassemble it through the action menu, then assign the resulting backpacks (there's always two) to your men. It would have been great had the backpacks been part of an an improved fatigue system. Perhaps next time.
"Sir, is it true what they say about the Takistanis?"
If you're referring to the piece of scuttlebutt that claims they castrate prisoners using opium-addled mongooses, the answer is "no". If you're asking if they possess SCUD missiles and primitive nuclear weapon technology, the answer is "quite probably".
The Takistani regular is, in most respects, a bog-standard ArmA II foe. On foot he skirmishes skilfully, despite the fact he rarely uses building interiors or abandons untenable static weapons. His Russian-sourced tanks and aircraft are old but will make short work of your IFVs, given half a chance.
Two characteristics that may surprise you are his willingness to surrender, and his acute night-blindness. A Delta Force operative who has just returned from a nocturnal sabotage mission near Zargabad (Single Mission 4, Jackal) reported that he could crawl right up to the feet of enemy guards, and those guards would do no more than give him a long Paddington stare. If, however, he raised himself into a crouch, all hell broke loose.
"Sir, what's a 'Paddington stare'?"
Ask Captain Hibbert, our British liason officer.
"Sir, bearing in mind what Chernarus was like when we first landed, should I issue extra insect repellent to the men?"
There appear to be far fewer bugs this time. During the time I spent in-country I wasn't bitten once.
"Sir, earlier you described the premise of the campaign as 'rather unoriginal'. Would you to care to elaborate?"
I have two major beefs with Arrowhead. The first is the calibre of its storytelling. Give Bohemia Interactive a country to create or an assault rifle to replicate, and they'll do a splendid job. However, give them a tale to weave, and they're like newborn foals on an ice rink. There's nothing inherently wrong in drawing on recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan for a plot, but drawing on them so nakedly, and with so little flair or imagination, is inexcusable.
The paper-thin characters are half the problem. I think I could get a little more excited about the fun but familiar campaign outings if I was undertaking them in the guise of someone who didn't come out with phrases like "Taking heat from some pissed-off Takis? Just how I like it, Sir!" or, "You want us to stop a bomb raid with bare hands and Takistani scrap metal?" at regular intervals.
Bohemia, just for a change, how about giving us a character with a little flesh on his bones. Someone with doubts, fears, or worries at home. A soldier with a chip on his shoulder or a crazed or incompetent CO could have been fascinating. A really brave developer would have given us a protagonist with a slight case of PTSD or made him the conflicted child of Takistani immigrants to the US. Far too often, the Czechs' interest in realism seem to stops at the armoury door.
"And your second beef?"
Feeble framerates. Takistan's towns and villages are liberally sprinkled with hollow buildings. While these interiors ensure great FIBUA action, they can seriously degrade performance, especially when accompanied with large numbers of units. Is it the additional polygons or the extra path-finding and line-of-sight-checking load? I'm not sure. Can the situation be improved?
I sincerely hope so, otherwise a lot of Arrowhead users are going to be forced to fight their way through the beautiful streets of Zargabad with minimal texture, detail, and view distance settings.
"Sir, shouldn't we be... um... invading Takistan?"
Good point, soldier. Time is marching on. LET 'S GO KICK SOME TAKISTA.. er. Let's go lift the tyrant's yoke from the tired shoulders of the good people of Takistan.
7 / 10