Unlike Arma, which had an instantly forgettable singleplayer campaign, Arma II's is actually worth a look. In it you take the role of Matt Cooper, a solider in the US Marine Corp sent to Chernarus to reinforce the local democratically elected goverment against a guerilla uprising. You're no mere peace keeper though - from the very first mission onwards you're thrust into the action.

Probably the most welcome improvement to the campaign is the storyline. Although it's still a bit hackneyed, especially in the light of the 2003 Gulf War, it's much better scripted than Arma's cringeworthy dialogue. For example, although you're always given a specific list of objectives to achieve, you may also be presented with additional optional objectives mid-mission. In the first mission alone there are four additional objectives, so there's a fair degree of replayability built in. The missions themselves are also pretty realistic - you're no longer required to take on an entire armoured battalion by yourself.

It's also worth pointing out that unlike Crysis or the Battlefield series, which seem to treat war like a cartoon with no real consequences for the characters involved, Arma II deals with some pretty serious adult issues. Everything from torturing prisoners to the big daddies of war crime - rape, pillage and murder - rear their ugly heads. In one mission you come across mass graves hidden in the forest by some guerillas.

Arma II Review Arma II - Gameplay
There are a lot of vehicles to get to grips with in Arma II

You and your squad also seem a lot more vocal in Arma II than other milsims. Cooper almost loses his lunch when he discovers the aforementioned civilian mass grave, while the members of your squad chat among themselves during missions. It's no soap opera, but it makes a change from the mute near-anonymous soldiers you fought alongside in the original Arma. This really makes a difference in later missions when you're put in charge of a squad and provides a stronger incentive to keep them alive from one mission to the next. You can now also talk to other soldiers and civilians (in Russian), to try and find out more about the situation you're in. That's not to say Arma II has turned into an RPG, but it's good to see a milsim adding more human interaction to the basic gameplay.

There also also several standalone single-player missions, but these are very generic and uninspired. Given that there is a separate set of dedicated training missions, we can't see anybody playing the standalone missions more than once. Once you've mastered the single-player campaign though then it's time to take Arma II online.

Although you can play Arma II in a traditional deathmatch, you'll get far more bang for your buck by playing cooperatively with other humans as part of a unit. This is because you spend so much time in the single-player game giving orders to your AI squadmates - and the interface for issuing commands in singleplayer isn't exactly intuitive. You don't have to play all together as an infantry squad of course, one player could be a helicopter pilot and the other a tank commander, but whatever mission you're playing you need to work together. Given the vagaries of human nature this can be frustrating at sometimes, so we'd recommend finding one of the more serious password-protected clan servers if you can to avoid inevitable rage-quits.

Arma II Review Arma II - Gameplay
Getting to grips with the various planes and tanks can take a bit of practice

Whichever type of multiplayer mode you try make sure you have a good headset and mike though - voice comms are absolutely essentially for online Arma II. Much more so than any other co-op or team-based multiplayer game we've played in a long, long time.

Like Bohemia Interactive's earlier games, Arma II also ships with an easy to use mission editor and underlying scripting language. You can make your own single and multiplayer missions using the editor alone, but once you've mastered the scripting language, which bears more than a passing resemblance to C and HTML, the options are near endless.

Because of these features, and an active community on the official forum, all of Bohemia Interactive's earlier games have been extensively modded by end-users. To date there have been well over 1,000 different mods released for the original Arma, from simple re-skins of weapons and sound replacement packs, to new units, vehicles, aircraft, maps and scripts that fundamentally alter the way the game is played. As Arma II was released in mainland Europe a couple of months earlier than it was in the English speaking world there already quite a few Arma II-compatible mods to try. Check out for more details.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04