Monday, July 6, 2009

ArmA 2: First Impressions

After struggling for two days to get my ArmA 2 DVD to work, I finally could get some time to play.

Having neither enough patience nor time to play, I dived straight into the editor and scrambled a little something to both get my bearings and see what's new in ArmA 2.

Some assorted impressions follow.
  • The editor continues to be one of the best out there. Easy to use, incredibly flexible and powerful. I found at least one exciting new addition to the editor: linked waypoints (you can make one unit at a waypoint to wait until other arrives to a linked waypoint). This will make editing coordinated computer-controlled units a piece of cake.
  • In my aging computer (far from a gamer's rig), ArmA 2 runs better than ArmA. As noted elsewhere, ArmA 2 is using my two processor cores. Off course I had to make compromises like disabling post-process effects, putting everything to "normal" settings and lowering the resolution down to a 1024x768 pixels resolution. The majority of graphics-related options can be changed on the fly while playing a mission, which made finding my sweet spot relatively easy. Keep in mind, though, that graphics options are very scalable and tweaking settings to a comfortable level may take some time.
  • Visually, ArmA 2 is stunning. I'm not a graphics kind of guy but I have to confess I was floored. I really liked how my virtual Marine's vision blurred a bit while sprinting or while being suppressed by enemy fire. As noted by a fellow gamer who commented in my previous blog entry, some visual effects look more like the computer monitor is showing the virtual battlefield as seen through a camcorder rather than from human eyes.
  • OPFOR AI appears to be better than before. I edited a few small missions featuring a squad of insurgents against a fire team of Marines. The insurgents always tried to flank my Marines, this time apparently with wider maneuvers than the ones seen in ArmA 1. I still have to patch my game to version 1.02, which allegedly brings some changes into the computer controlled attack routines. I liked how the surviving OPFORs pull back when almost all their teammates have been neutralized. At least in my hastily-edited scenarios, the OPFOR refuses to take full-advantage of the cover offered by buildings in built-up areas. But compared to ArmA, at least they don't stand in the middle of the street. Don't take this as set in stone, as I have to explore more the options for waypoints available in the scenario editor.
  • As for the friendly AI, I was able to command my Marines fire team quite nicely. I've seen a lot complaining back in the ArmA days about the friendly AI being rather useless and eager to get killed. IMHO, the two most important things you have to recognize in commanding computer-controlled soldiers in ArmA/2 are: (1) computer controlled soldiers are not able to read neither your mind nor the OPORD and (2) tactically speaking, you are in charge (i.e. don't expect your computer-controlled subordinates to solve YOUR tactical problems). So, keep yourself busy with those command keystrokes and tell your subordinates what's going on ("All, danger"), what position relative to you to occupy ("Formation, column"), and where to look at ("All, watch at 2 o'clock"). And speaking of the "watch at" command, in ArmA I remember pointing with my mouse for the direction to watch at. Is that possible in ArmA 2? I liked the convenience of pointing with my mouse better than using cardinal points (my spatial orientation is less tha stelar).
  • Saving Marine #4: half-way cleaning up a town with my Marine fire team and, still not very handy with the command controls, I order Marine #4 to "Close doors at that house" some 30 meters in front of us. I was trying hard to find the damn keystrokes to stop the poor fellow going right into an enemy-held block when he comes back to me with "Men, dangerously close, front!". I pull out the virtual map and I could see how close he was to the danger with only a few meters plus a wooden fence between him and the certainty of being shot. I found the key commands to order him to hide and he went inside a house (closing the door behind him I would guess?). I then order Marines #2 and #3 to come through the flank of the enemies while I shot that fence with almost all the ammo I had on me. The flanking maneuver payed off handsomely, Marine #2 (machinegunner) mowed down the enemies with a thick curtain of fire. Marine #4 was saved. What's a "close doors" command useful for anyway?

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