I can’t say for sure how much Operation Flashpoint influenced the First Person Shooter genre, when it was released back in 2001. Not too much, I’m inclined to say. Unlike Half-Life and Quake (games that clearly revolutionized the genre), OFP didn’t have a following of clones, nor a popular multiplayer. What it did manage to achieve though was the creation of a loyal and active community. Also, the technology behind the game was adopted by the armed forces of a few countries in order to create a combat simulator for new recruits. That is because OFP is thought by many to be one of the most realistic shooters ever created, if not even THE most realistic. The truth is that since OFP I haven’t had the chance to play a FPS that could relate to it, in this aspect. The game’s atmosphere; that sense of pure fear that made me unable to move (in-game, of course), is something that I haven’t experienced anywhere else… well, maybe I will experience it in the case of a real war, but that’s a different story.
Considering all this, it is hard for me to imagine what the team at Bohemia Interactive was thinking when they released ArmA: Armed Assault. It’s worth mentioning right off the bat that at the time of this review the game has already reached v1.8, which makes it a bit more playable than it was in the beginning. When it was released, ArmA was, I believe, the most poorly optimized game that I’ve ever seen. It seemed more like a beta version than a full game: it had an enormous amount of bugs, some of which prevented you from finishing the game, the multiplayer was broken, and the performance hit was large even on the most powerful PCs. Of course, most of the problems are still not solved, but as I said, the game is at least playable. Still, regardless of the technical aspect or how much I may have enjoyed OFP, I have to admit, as unbiased as I can be, that ArmA is just a poorly made game. The single-player aspect is simply bad and the multiplayer, although it is the high-point of the title, still leaves much to be desired.
I’ll start with the game’s story, which is unfortunately almost nonexistent. The premise seems almost copied from OFP: you are an American soldier stuck on a fictional peaceful and remote island in the Atlantic, which is suddenly attacked by mysterious enemies, armed with soviet weapons. Though first outnumbered, the American forces manage to “bravely” retreat from the enemy, only to retake the initiative after receiving reinforcements, and drive them off the island, reestablishing peace and prosperity, under the careful protection of the American government. Hurray and God Bless America! And that’s it! We no longer have the engrossing conflict from OFP, nor those few characters that you could sympathize with, or even the atmospheric jokes between the soldiers. Throughout ArmA you get to play as many unknown American soldiers and in some missions, even if the main character dies, you will still have the opportunity to continue playing with one of the surviving members of the squad. Unfortunately that leaves you with absolutely no feeling of attachment to any of the characters.
The game’s plot evolves in the same artificial and monotonous way. It’s true that ArmA has a great number of varied missions, but the way they’re played out is absolutely boring. The story is advanced through a series of stages, which are made up of one primary mission, and two secondary ones that are not mandatory for finishing the game, but, apparently, will ease the completion of the primary missions. Between stages, the situation of the armed conflict is presented through some poorly made cutscenes, which are supposed to look like live news bulletins. And, yet again, that’s it! After a few stages into the game, I was really starting to loose interest in playing it. And the fact that the missions themselves are pretty boring didn’t help either.