Monday, 8 June 2009

Arma2 on Steam: PC gaming is back on track

I'm going to be quick to admit that, for the most part of last year, I was brainwashed by console propaganda. Me, a veteran PC gamer, spending all my gaming time and budget on Xbox 360 titles and eventually even a PS3! I'm suddenly now at a point of total 360 reversal though. Console gaming has its place, sure, but PC gaming looks oh so promising once again.

I sort of gave up on PC gaming by about mid 2007. Essentially, the realisation that Call of Duty 4 was best played on an Xbox 360 and Live got me thinking and negating any potential long overdue system upgrade. I was also just fed up with the hassle of the installation process. Why doesn't it just work like with a console, I'd say to myself. I got infuriated by driver conflicts and low frame rates. I just wanted straight forward, hassle free, gaming on my HDTV.

Of course, I was right to think this way for a while. PC gaming was, for all intents and purposes, dead during a black period of about late 2007 to... now. Two things have suddenly changed this. One is Steam. The other is Bohemia Interactive's Arma2.


When Steam first launched in 2003, I hated it. So did everyone. Even your mother hated Steam. Steam was Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Steam, worse even than that, was Jar Jar Binks when it came to gamers. No-one wanted anything to do with it. It was the enemy of IRC, CS 1.6, and celeron processors. However, Valve knew what they were doing. Steam improved and it's now essentially Xbox Live on a PC... only better and free.

Because of Steam, I've hit up a few games and love them because of the ease of being able to download them and play them with friends. Left 4 Dead and Killing Floor are Steam-centric games and no-one can imagine playing them the old way.

Arma 2

Arma2 is BIS' latest title; a hardcore mil-sim and by most accounts the greatest. I'm an Operation Flashpoint vet but never played the original Arma due to my lack of upgrade in 2007. However, Arma2 is the reason why I've upgraded to a very high end rig and 24" monitor! It is the reason why I'm unlikely to log into Live or PSN for months. From what I have read and seen, this game will be astonishing.

When you combine the literally unlimitied potential of Arma2 with the fact it is going to be released on Steam this month I think it becomes clear that a very special moment awaits for those gamers that are into the FPS / mil-sim genre. This will be an easily accessible large scale co-operative game of scope and purpose. Sure, it will have bugs (that will get patched) but in the words of Eurogamer, this is clearly one of the most ambitious games ever made.

If I had to select one game to play for the rest of my life I would still, to this day, say Operation Flashpoint. However, this may soon be set to change to Arma2. Everything is in place here: gorgeous graphics, realism, a mass of customisable weapons and vehicles, a new and powerful mission editor, the huge 225km map, and countless online modes. I have no doubt that the mod community will also truly flourish. There are already impressive vids out there of projects that will no doubt add to Arma2's greatness.

There is also the potential of the organic campaign. I've read things about this that have simply flawed my expectations. Firstly, it is four player co-op. Secondly, it is persistent and not based on any standard mission structure. Things change on the fly, intel comes in, and you decide who to trust and what to do and what not to do. Like a real recon team, you're forced to act on information as it comes in. The potential here for arguments and squad in-fighting regarding what direction to take is enough alone to put a smile on my face.

Another important thing to note about Arma2 is its landscape. This game looks like it has an exploration factor comparable to Oblivion. The scenary, the animals, the plantlife, all stunning. The civilians, the weather, the night and day cycle, all incredible. This game is one to check out. Roll on the 19th! It is due out on Steam on the 30th but here's to hoping that they move that forward soon to match the retail release.