ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead • Page 2

Takistandalone.

For every new wheeled or winged toy in Arrowhead there's at least one small-arm. The M110, mentioned earlier, is sure to find favour amongst the ghillie suit set (as will the new sight adjustment ability). Not only does this long-distance liquidator let you see warm prey in the dark but it's semi-automatic and virtually kick-less, meaning you can take down multiple targets very swiftly.

More common and practical for everyday soldiering, the US Army's new modular assault rifle, the FN SCAR, is modelled in at least a dozen different configurations. Scanning Arrowhead's 100-slot gun rack for other incomers, the M32 grenade launcher, Uzi, METIS AT-13 (a modern Russian portable anti-tank system) and the Sa Vz.58 (a Czech AK-47 clone) all jump out.

It looks like Bohemia's tailors and milliners have been almost busy as their weaponers. Playing as OPFOR in the Armoury mode, I've gone into battle wearing an amazing range of pakol hats, turbans and salwar kameezes. Whatever the outcome of the campaign, the Mujahideen-style Takistani irregulars have the fashion war sewn up.

Takistan itself is similarly splendid. The biggest of the three maps representing the concocted Central Asian country, is 170 square kilometres of narrow cultivated valleys and rugged brown peaks. Vistas are frequently stunning. The roads that link the scattered villages, winding as they often do through deep passes, might have been made for ambushes. One well-positioned man with a MANPAD should be able to play havoc with a convoy or air bridge.

3
Is it too late to switch to a Delta Force vs. Blackwater-gone-rogue campaign premise?

The second map has at its centre a sprawling town. Zargabad has to be Bohemia's best urban environment yet. Plausibly sited between two rivers, it's a mass of unplanned housing, shops and market squares. Arriving from the west aboard a helo, you fly in across an airfield littered with rusting war relics. The forlorn tank hulks and burnt-out fuselages testify to Takistan's turbulent past far more eloquently than any cut-scene. Rising from the heart of the city like a giant robin's egg is the dome of an elaborately-tiled mosque that just gets prettier the closer you get to it.

Put your helo down in any dusty street or yard, jump out, and you find yourself surrounded by threatening/inviting doors and windows. Unlike other ArmA metropoli such as Paraiso and Chernagorsk, Zargabad is full of explorable interiors. Shops littered with sacks and boxes, homes lavishly cushioned and carpeted... for the first time in the series history, Bohemia has managed to create something that feels more like a real town rather than a training area mock-up.

In the unlikely event skirmishing in the streets of the regional capital ever loses its appeal, hatching your own urban battlefield with the help of the editor and the third map (a desert venue empty apart from an oil pumping station) is ridiculously easy. Placing one of the new town-generation modules anywhere on a map spawns a random settlement of around fifty structures. Disconnected from road networks these instant burghs have a surreal ghost town air about them, but they're perfect for a quick spot of FIBUA action.

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Killing 10 insurgents in under 60 seconds unlocks Ross Kemp. [I doubt this. - Ed]

It will be interesting to see how AI forces cope with random streets riddled with useable apertures, ladders and stairs. My cursory experiments suggest they'll do just fine. Frame-rates in urban spaces certainly seem to have benefited from the touted LOD optimisations.

Sadly, there's no evidence of other rumoured enhancements like flashlights on weapons, improved damage models and passenger fire from vehicles. If the Czechs have backburnered such advances so as to put more effort into quality control, then I for one won't mind. Arrowhead's environments and materiel are looking fantastic, but if Bohemia intends to ship another mil-sim with a faulty campaign, they can expect a very hot LZ.

ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead is due out on 29th June worldwide.

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Tim Stone

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