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Expanding upon realism in ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead

May 18 // Ben Perlee
ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead (PC) Developer: Bohemia Interactive Publisher: Meridian4 To be released: Q2 2010 For players returning to ArmA II, one this hasn't changed is the openness of the world. ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead has been built to have absolutely no walls. In the three huge new maps in the faux nation of Takistan, the maps will go on forever. Missions will be laid out and planned, but you could theoretically walk on forever away from the drop zone. Levels are enormous, much larger than almost anything I have seen in a game before. Besides the three new levels (and they are huge), there is updates to many of the previous weapons and vehicles players can use at their disposal. For example, new thermal imaging visors and an updated radar system has been included. Other new additions include the decoy flares for the aerial units and smoke deploys for ground units, and the addition of the unmanned little bird UAV helicopter. This is possibly the biggest new addition, as this little helicopter currently being developed and used in real-world combat offers some really fascinating opportunities. For example, say players need to guide a helicopter into enemy region to take out a baddie. Since the helicopter will have to deal with anti-air and noise, it's a bad idea to rush in, shoot, then rush out. Instead, the helicopter can stay back a few kilometers, and send out the UAV. Much smaller and lighter, it's hard to be heard or seen, and can zoom just outside the enemy camp. By switching to thermal vision, the UAV can target lock elements of the camp, and the helicopter hovering kilometers away can launch missiles that will attack right there. It's amazing. Graphically, it's all in the small details. While the game looks pretty great, it's the fact that each element in the game has its own thermal signature, so that idling engines in takes will be cooler than ones that have been moving, or that rifle barrels with be hotter after a few shots. Real attention to detail has been applied, and it can really be seen with how items interact with each other. There is real weight and power behind each weapon and vehicle. Also, buildings can now be destroyed,  a feature fans have been asking for. Finally, attention was made to making the game approachable to new players. A new 15 mission boot camp has been added to address the overwhelming amount of tools available to players, and this should hopefully guide players in a mission. Bohemian Interactive has never wanted to define how players can complete a mission, and it really is as open as you want it, but the extra guidance is a major help. Also helpful is the inclusion of 4-player co-op. Unlike many other games, the co-op in ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead take control of different squads and troop roles. While one player is in the helicopter, the other will be with a delta team, and others will be doing something else. It's cool, and should be helpful practice for the multiplayer missions. And multiplayer promises to be just as intense as the single player. With a fully customizable create a missions, players can drag and drop troop elements into the field, with enemy emplacements, music, lighting, and more in developing the multiplayer modes. It's an incredibly deep and customizable tool set for players who want to create their own ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead game missions without modding the game. Considering over 50 players can play in multiplayer modes, knowing what's what will mean a lot. Modding, however, is in full support for ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead. With a studio built by many former modders, Bohemia Interactive not only supports mods, but they have built in-game support for mods. Instead of juggling files and organizing everything, ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead has a built in menu for toggling mods, and opening a game with a freshly downloaded mod is as simple as double clicking the PBO file. ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead is viewed as a platform, and it looks like the fairly strong modding community is making sure there is plenty of new content coming up. Unfortunately, much of this new content is not going to be cross compatible, so if you have the initial ArmA II, you'll want to get the expansion. Also helping players out with the game and the modding is “The Armory”. Acting as a sort of encyclopedia for the game, every weapon, vehicle, and  item is explained in-depth. Even more, players will be able to play with each item in a sort of open field, getting a feel for how everything works, and random missions will pop up in this mode, giving players more experience and time with the weapons. For a game this open and in-depth, having a mode to work through all the small elements of a tool is very helpful. I'm coming away impressed with the title, as this is a lot of new content with an expansion pack. It seems Bohemia Interactive has worked hard to create an update that will hopefully appeal to new players to the game. While the game is still daunting and oppressive, new players will find the difficulty to be better designed and more fun, and the hardcore fans of this lesser known series will enjoy the new tools at their disposal. Even better, there will be a combo pack offering both ArmA II and ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead combined for only $10 more than a stand alone release. While not for everyone,  ArmA II: Operation Arrowhead is promising to be a better designed and more approachable title.
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Back in June 2009, Bohemia Interactive from the Czech Republic released ArmA II. An intense realistic shooter, ArmA II was a generally well received PC title that was criticized for being too hardcore and difficult to play. A...

Spec Ops: The Line, 'The most provocative shooter ever'

Jan 26 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Spec Ops: The Line (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC [demoed])Developer: YAGERPublisher: 2K GamesTo be released: Winter 2010 Dubai as we know it is a place of architectural splendor, powered by advancements in technology. As great of a city as it is, it’s still surrounded by a sea of sand. In The Line, Dubai has been getting ravaged by devastating sandstorms. Army Colonel John Konrad and his battalion of soldiers were aiding in evacuation efforts when the Colonel was ordered to abandon Dubai due to a large sandstorm heading their way. The Colonel refuses and stays to continue helping with the evacuation. The sandstorm hits and it’s bigger than anyone could have possibly imagined. The Colonel and everyone else left behind are presumed dead. Two years later, a very weak distress signal is picked up coming from Dubai, which prompts the military to send in a three-man team led by the main character, Captain Martin Walker, to investigate the signal and retrieve the Colonel if he’s still alive. It turns out that the Colonel is indeed still alive and he’s gone a little crazy. The demo we were walked through is near the beginning of the game, and it’s part of what was shown in the debut trailer from the VGAs. The Captain is looking over the hung corpses of fallen soldiers while the Colonel asks the Captain if he still intends to rescue him. The Captain and his team are then fired upon by a large group of soldiers from a nearby building. The player immediately takes cover behind a concrete barrier and orders his men to move off to his right. You’ll have basic control over your squad and you can issue orders such as telling them where to move to, regroup and attack. Your teammates will also have certain specialty abilities that you can call upon during battles. Your squad is as much involved in the story as the main character, so while the squad seems to be competent enough on its own, you'll want to watch their backs. After a few minutes of fire exchange, an RPG blast impacts the area near Captain Walker and destroys the roof that was hiding below the sand. As sand pours into the building, the Captain hangs onto the barrier he was hiding behind and continues to shoot anyone he can from his position. After clearing some of the enemies, Walker drops down and joins his teammates who fell in before him. They don’t have much time to recover as the enemy forces continue to attack. The shooting dies down after a little bit but you can tell you’re not out of harm’s way yet. You can see soldiers running around above you. Stupidly, they’re running right over glass, so the player can shoot out the glass ceiling and watch a couple of soldiers fall to their death for a cheap laugh. You won’t have much time to laugh, however, as the baddies drop down a bunch of C4. Walker and his men make a mad dash out of the building as the bombs explode behind them. The team is able to catch their breath in the next section where they come across a small camp of civilians taking shelter in the next building. Somehow, against all the odds, these people have managed to survive. The team is walking among the civilians when they hear one of the enemy soldiers demanding that a civilian tell him where Captain Walker and his men are. The poor civilian has no idea what’s going on and gets shot in the head. This sets off Walker, who rushes the soldier and beats him to death. In the next room, the enemy is lining up civilians for execution and this is where we see how the moral choices works in The Line. There are no simple pop-ups that appear, giving you the good or bad choice. Rather, it’s all up to the player to make the call on his own. You could send your teammates forward so your team will have an advantage over the situation. If you do that, though, the civilians could all get executed in the time it takes for you to get set up. In our demo, the player doesn’t waste time and immediately opens fire on the enemy. The enemy forces start to become too much to handle, so Walker shoots the large windows behind the enemy group. Walker and his crew are well above the enemies on the floors below, so they’re perfectly safe as the sand comes flowing in and crushes everyone below. The player could have also shot out the windows at the very beginning and saved themselves some trouble. Of course, the player would be crushing all the civilians below and more enemies could still come from different areas of the building. Sand can also be used to find alternative routes. If there’s a room filled with sand, you can shoot out a window to let the sand out and give you access to the place. We can expect frequent sandstorms during the course of the game as well, which will alter the gameplay and can either help or hurt your progress. Your team will evolve as the story unfolds in The Line. They start out as a very close-knit team, but the story will take its toll on the characters. The way they look, their attitude, the way they talk -- everything changes as they become more and more desperate based on what’s happening. It’s not so much a good or bad moral choice, but rather a bad or worse choice. War isn’t as simple as good or bad. War is about that line a person has between what they think is right and what they’re ordered to do. War blurs that line. There will be multiple endings and your choices will determine the ending you get. The narrative plays an important role in The Line. YAGER wants people to care about these characters and feel what they’re feeling as they do what they must over the course of the game. The dialogue will also adapt based on the situation. During the last firefight, a rocket explosion goes off near the team and Walker orders his sniper specialist to “take that fucker out!” The more stressful the situation, the more the dialogue will reflect what the team is currently feeling. The build we were shown was in pre-alpha state and aside from a few noticeable graphical issues, Spec Ops looked very good. It wasn’t as good as in the debut trailer, but YAGER has all this year to get the game all prettied up. The screen is also free from clutter. All you see on screen is your gun reticule, your ammo counter on the bottom right of the screen and the occasional pop-up prompts. From these initial impressions, I have to say that Spec Ops: The Line will be a game a lot of people will be looking forward to when it’s released later this year. The sand mechanics don’t look like they’ll be gimmicky and the huge focus on narrative should definitely please those that are sick of what we get in most shooters right now. Seeing as this is a military shooter, there will be multiplayer modes as well, but we won’t be hearing much about it until E3 later this year.
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Cory Davis, lead designer on Spec Ops: The Line, didn’t waste any time in our preview session -- he began by stating that The Line will be “the most provocative shooter you [will] ever play.” That’s a ...

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VGA teaser shows off a new 2K game


Nov 20
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Spike released a new teaser today for some mysterious game by 2K. No details were released but we were promised the full reveal during the VGAs on December 12. Unfortunately for Spike, it looks like this trailer was already ...
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Modern Warfare 3 will be even more realistic, boring


Nov 10
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
The Onion News Network got an exclusive look at the next Modern Warfare game. It's looking like it will be a lot more realistic as you'll be doing a bunch of boring ass sh*t throughout the game, just like in the real Army! ...
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Activision donating $1 million to veterans


Nov 10
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
This week sees the release of three new Call of Duty games across multiple platforms from Activision. This Wednesday is also Veterans Day here in America. To honor both occasions, Activision will be donating $1 mill...

A Beirut battleground in Marines: Modern Urban Combat

Sep 30 // Ben Perlee
Marines: Modern Urban Combat (Wii)Developer: DestineerPublisher: DestineerRelease date: November 10, 2009Creating a realistic military game is quite the challenging, especially when you place the game on the Wii. Destineer, thankfully, has worked in the past with creating products to help real-life marines train for combat life, called First to Fight. Marines: Modern Urban Combat, thus, is the resulting product of a true military simulation.Some of the really neat features is how the squad can be commanded with context sensitive commands and controls. The way your squad interacts with knocking through doors and shooting targets is pretty cool, and their defensive columns squad movements show a certain sense of realism.The AI, I've been promised, will be pretty intelligent, covering your back when need to and dealing with threats in a serious and authentic manner. Like in other FPS games, you can also command air support, and the constant threat of enemies can be dealt with in an intelligent manner. What may or may not be a problem for Wii FPS fans is the speed of the reticule. Movement and control are slow, but I believe it is a conscious decision of the dev team. This game is supposed to recreate the actions of Marines, so hiding behind walls, crouching, and patiently waiting for your squad to do their part means that running and gunning is a no-no. Some people will hate it, but Wii-gamers with a realistic bent might like it. This is certainly designed to at least play realistically, so slow and steady kills the bad guys.Unfortunately, I have to say that this is not the prettiest game ever seen on the Wii. Textures are muddy, flat and dull, and while the squad members and enemies look a little better, movements are rather stiff. This is in part due to the power of the Wii, as well as the budget nature of the game.There is also not a whole lot going on in the streets, with levels mostly quiet of action until you come across a baddie. At that point, expect to be shot at, so teamwork with your AI controlled squad is important, as only a few shots will kill you.Unfortunately, this embodies the sounds of a budget title. Voice and audio were not much to be too excited about, with many of the levels substantially quiet.Multiplayer is also completely nonexistent, except for one admittedly weird co-op mode. In this, one player controls the marine and a reticule, and then the second player piggybacks with a second reticule. It's like player one is playing an FPS, and player two is playing an on-rails shooter. For a game that prides itself on military realism, this is a little odd. However, the option seems to be nice, and it'll be something military dads can play with their kids.I really don't want to massively pass on Marines: Modern Urban Combat, as Destineer does have a certain pedigree when it comes to this sort of game. Without more hands-on time with the game, I cannot say if the stands up to its promise of realism. It really might reach that. I just believe that making a realistic shooter on the Wii, like Marines: Modern Urban Combat, is almost an unrealistic. While the actual elements and AI of the game is aimed to a high order, everything else (the graphics, the audio, lack of multiplayer) just creates an environment that doesn't quite feel realistic. I hope the team can pull it together, and we'll see how this game turns out. And hell, the $29.99 budget price will appeal to someone.
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When you think of a contemporary urban warfare videogame, almost every one is going to think of, well, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. That's an amazing game, setting the standard for contemporary shooters. The Wii version, exi...

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Activision helping out our troops, giving out body massages


Jul 15
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Pro vs. GI Joe has partnered up with Activison to host the Activision Showdown competition. The competition brings together active duty troops with professional athletes as they play games like Guitar Hero and Call of Duty. T...
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Preparing for the future, US Army developing Pip-Boy 3000


Jul 11
// Conrad Zimmerman
Players of Fallout 3 will no doubt draw some similarities between the conceptual design image above and the Pip-Boy 3000 so integral to the game. Working with HP Labs, the US Army has been developing a device to replace much ...
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Army hosts teen game tournament, accused of 'military pedophilia'


Dec 07
// Jim Sterling
My thanks to Veterans for Peace for giving me my favorite new term for 2008. Yes, the US army has been accused of "military pedophilia" after hosting a gaming tournament for teenagers, as protesters criticized the e...
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Jack Thompson versus The Unholy Alliance: Madman targets Defense Department


Dec 27
// Jim Sterling
It's been a while since we poked fun at the silver-haired maniac known as Jack Thompson, but the videogame-obsessed protectobot of chilluns everywhere is making sure he's not forgotten. His plans for the new year involve a ne...
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CoD4 FUBAR on Valve's service, gamers Steamed (I can't believe I typed that)


Nov 13
// Earnest Cavalli
For those of you old enough to recall Half-Life 2's original release, you'll remember how Steam -- Valve's downloadable content system -- absolutely ruined the entire thing for many thousands of people for almost a month afte...
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Battlefield 3 info leaked: it sounds exactly like BF2, so it MUST be true


Oct 10
// Earnest Cavalli
According to Digital Battle info on the inevitable sequel to the Battlefield series -- Battlefield 3 -- has been leaked via mysterious tipster. According to the tip, the game is scheduled to hit stores late next year with a p...
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Military recruiters pick up underage youth at Halo event, creep everyone out


Sep 27
// Earnest Cavalli
According to this piece on Gamepolitics -- the Daily Kos of the Mushroom Kingdom -- US military recruiters were recently found to be using ridiculously creepy creative tactics in order to get the youth of America interested i...

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