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Armed Assault: Queen's Gambit

War pawn.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

A few years ago I came this close to joining the army. I'd passed the medical and the psychometric test and was minutes away from signing on the dotted line when the subject of uniforms came up. I happened to mention that the Mk6 helmet really didn't suit me and that I was planning to wear a camo-pattern Trilby, or one of those Prussian jobs with the spike on top, instead. When the aghast sergeant pointed out that bespoke millinery was strictly forbidden I realised I'd picked the wrong career.

If only I'd known then that there were routes into soldiering that didn't involve hat compromises. This slim but sound official add-on for the PC's most persuasive/punishing battlefield sim is all about mercenaries - warriors that wear whatever they god-damn please. The half-dozen dogs of war hired by Isabella, Queen of Sahrani, to help purge her recently reunified land of insurgents, look like a gang of bikers, carnies, or TV archaeologists.

Shallow graves

Larson has a great sense of humour. Call him Willie Nelson and he shoots you in the groin.

Sadly, cowboy hats, bandanas, tattoos, and helmet graffiti is about as deep as the characterisation gets. Leaden cut-scene dialogue keeps what little plot there is stumbling along, but gives you no reason to care about your comrades. Aboard the chopper en-route to the island, the air is full of cliché-clogged chat about 'hot chicks', beer and beaches. On cue the inevitable quiet, thoughtful bloke, looks down at the pretty countryside and mumbles something about finding a nice local girl and settling down. The pillock obviously has no idea how brutal ArmA can be, and doesn't realise that control of NPC squad members is in the hands of the AI for the first couple of outings. By the start of mission three you're quite likely to find yourself fighting alongside generic renta-grunts, the original mercs having perished during previous scraps. Beyond the customary "Three is down!", "Four is down!" etc. these deaths pass without any comment. So much for camaraderie and the emotional toll of war.

With a decent script, some quality voice talent, and some consequences to comrade casualties, the seven episode 'Royal Flush' campaign could have been quite memorable. The missions themselves are skilfully wrought - generally more plausible, atmospheric and satisfying than equivalents in the original game. Scenarios that stand out include one where you and your team defend a hilltop TV station (one of various new structures on the updated Sahrani map) from waves of hostiles and another where you use a Hilux technical (also new) to bushwhack an enemy convoy. Weaving helo flying or tank driving into the storyline would have been tricky, so criticizing their absence isn't really fair.

Snipers are very devout people. You often find them in minarets and church towers.

The closest thing to innovation in the campaign is the friendly neighbourhood arms dealer. Between missions, players fancying a spot of retail therapy can drive out into the woods (usually dodging patrols on the way) and rendezvous with a man with a van full of cut-price guns of ammo. Squandering another golden opportunity to add flavour, this snakeskin-suited salesman is a fellow of few words, doesn't stock tempting curios like WW2 kit, crossbows, and mortars, and doesn't have a brother who could get hold of a fully MOTed Centurion tank at short notice. Poor show.

Lightning victory

Even with regular shopping trips ArmA veterans will chew through RF in a couple of longish evenings. Perhaps conscious of this, BI have thrown in a brief but intense three-episode mini campaign by way of a digestif. Rahmadi Conflict follows NightWolf, a US special forces squad, as they soften defences on a small SLA-held island, then endeavour to capture an elusive enemy general. A spot of sneaking around in the dark placing satchel charges under tanks leads on to some lively daytime skirmishes around a beachhead, and some nervewracking FIBUA action in a wind-buffeted coastal town. With its minaret and water tower, and dozens of accessible roofs, Porto would be a tricky place to secure even if the streets weren't crawling with panicky locals and armed secret policemen pretending to be panicky locals. Great mission and a great new venue for short MP missions.

Tractor rampage!

A DC3 aircraft and a civilian Humvee (neither of which are utilised in the campaigns) round off a package that delivers fewer new toys and fresh experiences than many ArmA mods. Frankly, I've derived as much pleasure from free projects like G.L.O.R.I.A. the OTK missions, and GDCE (a dynamic campaign generator) as I've got from QG. £15 isn't a king's ransom, but it would buy half a khaki Bowler or a third of a kevlar Fedora down Camden Market. Worth bearing in mind.

5 / 10

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