Still, the cynic in you might be wondering why you should pay £17 for Operation Arrowhead when modding sites such as www.armedassault.info have links to more than 450 free addons that add very similar units. The answer to this is that Operation Arrowhead also includes a large number of new scripts and functions, plus a new thermal imaging engine, developed from VBS2, the military version of Arma II that various armies around the world use to train with.
While it’s arguable that casual gamers won’t notice the difference between the new engine and Call of Duty’s for example, for the hardcore milsim players that Operation Arrowhead is aimed at, it’s a huge improvement from the oversimplified green and black lowlight imagery of Arma II.
The new thermal imaging engine is a big improvement, being developed from VBS2, the military spec version of Arma II.
Another new feature allows players to adjust their sights manually to, for example, account for bullet drop, greatly increasing the realism of long range shooting. Many vehicles have now been upgraded with countermeasures too, though they are still just as vulnerable to a dedicated suicide bomber with a satchel charge.
Speaking of engines, Operation Arrowhead is still a massive challenge for any PC to play smoothly, so you should forget about running it on maximum settings. Bohemia Interactive claims to have optimised things for Arrowhead, but we didn’t find that it ran any faster than Arma II. This is a great shame, as when maxed out, Operation Arrowhead’s guerrilla-infested mountains are simply breathtaking to behold.
Arma II still has the best graphics of any PC game, but requires a supercomputer (still not available) to max out the settings and maintain a smooth frame rate.
Operation Arrowhead doesn’t fundamentally change the gameplay of Arma II, so it’s still a very unforgiving milsim. If you’re expecting to run and gun and live then forget it, in a milsim such as Operation Arrowhead you have to think like a soldier to survive.
What Operation Arrowhead does deliver is over 300 new units, buildings and weapons to battle with and several key improvements, such as a much more realistic thermal imagining engine.
Arma II is a mil sim so even uses standard US Army map symbols in mission briefings.
It’s a shame that Bohemia Interactive was unable to improve performance and fix many of the annoying AI issues that all too often bring a single-player mission to a shouting, keyboard bashing conclusion, but at under £20, Operation Arrowhead is a well priced way of enhancing and expanding one of the PC's most challenging and tactical FPS games.