Civil war has broken out in Bystrica – a fictional environment based on the Czech landscape – so the Czech army are sent in to restore order. Running in conjunction with the success of the missions in Takistan (a fictional Asian environment), the Allies freed enough resources to aide the region in Bystrica.
With new vehicles such as the L-159 Alca, Pandur II and Dingo infantry mobility vehicle, this inexpensive expansion pack promises to bolster your armory even further than the previous three major expansion packs for Arma II, with the CZ 805 BREN and Scorpion EVO III to name a few, there’s also some really worthy weapons, too. I highly recommend the BREN for players in Takistan who prefer a steady aim and mid-long range over the SCAR-L Mk 16, or even the L-85.
Aside from the weapons and vehicles platter, there’s a whole new campaign, boasting 15 new missions between the campaign, scenarios and game-play types, all of which play out in two brand new areas: Bystrica and Bukovina, in the Summer.
There’s more to ArmaII than getting chased by zombies
Arma II has come a long way since its humble bug riddled sand-box release in 2009. With incredible changes to the AI system and many graphical updates that allow it to run on machines built for gaming (instead of media power-houses), Arma II has found itself being enjoyed by thousands of military enthusiasts of the casual and not-so-casual centric demographics. Sure, it’s still a clunky, unintuitive and very confusing beast of a sand-box environment, but Bohemia Interactive have updated and provided us all with the toys to enjoy it to its fullest: all it takes is a little time and patience.
We’re now sitting atop 6 full length campaigns that act as a theatrical tutorial, and more than 30 single player scenario missions – with the incredible Benny’s Mod and ACE Mod, and of course the ever popular DayZ. Many AI improvements on top of this, with the relative improvement of consumer hardware, makes Arma II a great investment even at this juncture. Still featuring a full mission editor and sand-box mode where a player can try out all of the hardware and weapons, Arma II remains a must have for fanatics of military warfare.
But how does this DLC compare to the others?
If you’ve played the PMC and BAF expansions, you’ll note the relative theatrics of the narrative. Both campaigns tried characterization which was a far cry from the original Arma II and Takistan campaigns. Attempting to deliver more action for casual players, both PMC and BAF ended up being more linar experience with more frequent reward. They didn’t suffer because of this: on the contrary, they were highly polished and very enjoyable simulation experiences with a tight story and some great moments. ACR on the other hand takes Arma II back to its roots; gone is the poetry of BAF and the humour of PMC, and in its wake we find detective work and a sense that Bohemia Interactive get the impression that we all know how to play, now.
If you’re new to the series, ARC is just not for you. The first mission expects a full knowledge on how to issue orders and approach scenarios. You’ll need to make use of the map mechanics and understand the standard NATO symbols and even a grasp on how a topographic map works. For instance, the first mission asks you to hunt down a known leader of a milita. To do this, they arm you with a crew of 4 guys and an unarmed transport vehicle. With no indication of how to pack your crew into the vehicle or what to look for, this’ll have you completely dumbfounded if you’ve not played the game before. For veterans of the series, such as I, this was great. Off I went.
The plan was to search marked areas on the map and find evidence. They don’t tell you this, but evidence can be found by searching on the bodies of downed enemies (do this by scrolling with the mouse wheel, then clicking the middle mouse button on ‘gear’, then double clicking on the ‘evidence file/photo’ to take it into your inventory). Having done that, the area within which you must search will shrink until you eventually find the leader. During this mission, you’ve also the option of intercepting another known leader as he tries to flee the district. You can choose to do this, but it’s very difficult. You have to camp the road and hope, perhaps in vain, that you didn’t miss him.
The eclectic mix of highly realistic combat, strategy, thought and planning is a real treat for fans of the series, and whilst there isn’t a huge emphasis on action, there’s a gigantic emphasis on reward.
For example, the image on the left shows an AO that I had to intercept. The map shows that enemies will have an advantage, since they’re hidden in the woods up hill. They’ll be able to see me before I can see them. The black arrow I’ve drawn shows a possible point of entry that players might take – but this POE will probably get you killed, since a successful attack usually needs a 3:1 advantage, and you can’t replenish your team when a soldier is down (although a medic can of course heal him). Because of these variables, I chose to intercept across the orange line, avoiding any fire-fight before I was at the top, looking down into the woods. The ‘x’ marks show downed enemies, who I then searched for evidence, pointing me to my next area of observation. What a victory, with a little planning. No other game delivers that experience.
Indeed, much like the original Arma II campaign, you’re the squad leader. That means you’ll be issuing commands to your team throughout the campaign. The team slowly grows as you progress with each mission – and you’ll still be taking orders from the CO at the FOB, but it’s nice to have some control rather than merely being pointed towards waypoints like in BAF and PMC.
Although this campaign didn’t feel as expensive as the prior campaigns, it was nice to get back into the greener pastures of Arma II – where slow and steady detective work was rewarded, with careful thought, with a real sense of progression and victory.
At the end of the mission, there are scripted and animated, fully voiced (in Czech) events which play-out the story similarly to the other campaigns, offering a fully immersive game-play experience that we’ve come to expect from Arma II in recent months. We got him! And, of course, he was a European in a tracksuit — how else would you portray a Czech war criminal!?
Of course, with your Allied Czech reinforcements, you can take them over to Takistan and help with the operation there. All your vehicles will have the paintwork to match, so you’ll feel right at home. For those huge 200 player Benny’s Mod games, when it is supported, you’ll enjoy using the BREN and speedy Dingo to traverse the rocky terrain.
To be painfully honest, this expansion is really only for die hard fans of Arma II. There’s no introduction to the game-play mechanics and the missions don’t start off easy. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to have a painfully hard time understanding even what you’re meant to do. I can’t mark it down for this, though, since ACR is the fourth expansion in a game from 2009, and if you haven’t played it by now you probably never will – but for those of you dying for more glorious Arma II goodness, this is definitely one to pick up.
With new weapons, vehicles; two new areas to enjoy, and new graphical fixes, bug fixes and AI improvements, there’s never been a better time to try Arma II. Oh, and just as an addendum, you can use a non-Steam version of the DLC even with a Steam version of Arma II or Operation Arrowhead.
Highly recommended for fans of the series, but not for the feint of heart. A military simulator through and through, Bohemia Interactive have come a long way from clunky to something more fluid, but this’ll never be a Battlefield FPS – and we’re all okay with that.