So here at last is the successor, at least in spirit, to Operation Flashpoint; a seminal game in the history of PC games - especially war sims and FPS’s. Alas, company politics and economic considerations have delayed production of a sequel for more than three long years. But at last this sorry situation has been resolved! Armed Assault has arrived on the scene.
Armed Assault has a simple plot: there is a large island named Sahrania that is governed by two nations. In the north is the democratic republic of Sahrania, which is made out to have communist-like ideals. In the south is the Kingdom of Sahrania, a nation friendly to the US. The US has decided to become supporters of the monarchy, quite surprising for our democracy defending, oil companyextending friends; and as such has sent a force of US troops there to train the monarchy’s men in US tactics. This of course has made the north nervous, and when the US leaves they attack the south in a pre-emptive strike. Unfortunately for the player he/she is one of the last squads of US soldiers to leave, and consequently becomes caught up in the conflict. So, initially you are very much on the defense, fighting against the invasion and trying to hold your own in a desperate situation. As time goes on of course the tide begins to turn and you go on the offensive, based on your actions.
One of the two most special things about this game is its non-linear nature. Every battle you engage in is pretty unique, and based on your actions has an adverse or beneficial influence on the war effort. You don’t fail and have to restart missions, as such; instead the consequences of failure impact on the course of the conflict; as does victory, and the way in which you achieve it. I found that this made the war seem more real, more living than the traditionaldepictions of such conflicts in video games. The extremely large landmass of Sahrania also helps make most battles different, and serves as a beautiful backdrop to the warfare.
The second special thing is the emphasis this game places on realism. Too often these days, war games are full of typical American melodrama and heroic conflict, along with the more traditional aspects of FPS’s, such as being able to take a dozen shots in the chest and still perform a tricky rocket jump off your opponents face. Not so in Armed Assault, which, like its spiritual predecessor Operation Flashpoint, allows certain aspects of real life, such as the odd shot from 300 meters away that takes off your head, or explosions which have the occasional habit of throwing shrapnel 50 meters in every direction. As a rule, realism is generally nice in appearance but bad in practice when it comes to game play. In Armed Assault however, it is carried off in a way that makes battlefield victories and well-executed maneuvers much more satisfying. There is a real sense that you are expressing your skills in battle, rather than simply following the instincts you learned a decade ago playing Quake.
There are some bad points that annoyed me, especially when contrasted against everything else. The most prominent of these issues is the strong-arm tactics of Starforce’s copyright protection. This reviewer is not a pirate, and especially not a criminal, so being treated as such and being forced to go through the ridiculous install process and verification system simply to play a game I’ve bought is always a huge, black mark against the developers and the publishers. Especially since, if the reviewer was a pirate, he would know that a quick search on Isohunt reveals at least half a dozen Starforce-free versions of this game for download, which come with the added bonus that no buggy, resource- mpacting and privacy-compromising drivers need to be irrevocably installed on your system. I hope that they eventually learn, these publishers and developers; that all Starforce and its ilk do will encourage – rather than discourage - piracy.
So in conclusion, this is a game that, while essentially an FPS, is also a title well suited to the military strategist. It manages to simulate a war in great and immersive detail, while retaining game play that is impressively realistic while remaining simple. While somewhat letdown by its enemy AI and moments of trickiness - particularly when flying helicopters, as well as being part of the small, distasteful group pandering to the dictatorial policies of Starforce, it nevertheless shines in its niche, and is a great buy for any gamer looking for a bit of challenge.
• A good war simulator which puts a refreshing emphasis on combat realism and the turmoil of war. Gameplay is complex and non-linear. Large detailed play environment is fun to explore and fight through.
• Some poor AI and confusing controls. Gameplay can be very difficult at times, even for pros. Starforce protection treats you like a criminal and achieves nothing.