The Demoman: ArmA 2


Sorry! I've been playing the ArmA II demo, and it looks like I've adopted some of its odd, robotic speech patterns. With all the attention the game pays to realistic armed combat, you'd think maybe someone could have spent just a few minutes making sure the characters speak actual English.

First things first, though: as with all military simulators, I started out in boot camp, slowly proving to my superiors that I am not fit to retrieve them a iced mocha during peacetime, let alone lead troops into the chaos of battle. I managed to pass the obstacle course on my first try, not because of my superior reflexes but because it's not much of an obstacle course at all: I've been in buffet lines that are more challenging to navigate.

The, um... daunting... obstacle course.

One I learned how to walk around a railing and climb a gentle incline, it was on to stationary target practice, first-aid training, and a driving course that challenged me to follow a paved road for about a quarter of a mile. Grueling! A MOUT course put all my skills to the test, as I drove a few yards, walked around a couple fences, and shot some slow-moving guys in the head. I was almost starting to think I was turning into an Army of One.

Unfortunately, the training got a little harder from there. I found myself jumping out of a chopper with a parachute, something I felt confident about due to the explicit instructions given to me: free-fall toward the target, then "wait a while to open your chute." Um, that's very specific and all, but can we maybe go over the definition of "a while" before I jump out of the heli--oh wait I'm suddenly falling to my almost certain death. I waited what I thought was roughly "a while", pulled my cord, and after eight minutes of slow circling, wound up landing face-down on a rooftop. I was eventually dragged off by my chute, and when I gently hit the ground six feet below I suddenly died.

Rooftop secure, sir!

Since I clearly couldn't jump out of a chopper, I thought I might learn to fly one. It went about as well as you'd expect, with multiple crashes into the ocean, the ground, and various buildings. Once, after I'd managed to get my chopper a few feet off the ground without flipping it over or crashing, I somehow lost power and gently sank back down. My instructor, his life preservation instincts kicking in, actually leapt out and ran away at top speed. Can't say I blame him.

Next, I tried to learn how to command my squadmates in another boot camp training mission, but just reading the instructions of the nine (nine!) different drop-down command menus made me want to surrender and accept the foreign aggressors as our new overlords. After several minutes I'd managed only to make one squadmate jump into a Humvee, though he then drove about a mile away from me. The AI is pretty good, I guess: they realize the key to their survival is to get as far from me as possible.

My instructor leaps out of the chopper I'm flying and sprints away, eager to tell everyone what a great pilot I am.

I was tired of looking incompetent during training missions: it was time to look incompetent on a real mission, which was where I was treated to the odd speech patterns of the game. Rather than record some actors reading a bunch of sentences like "Enemy in front of us!" or "Sniper in the trees!", they seem to have recorded one "actor" reading individual words, like "enemy" and "front" and "close", with random degrees of inflection, which they then knit together on the fly as you play. The result is reminiscent of a robot having a stroke while reading words off flash cards. "ENEMY MAN! Close. TO THE FRONT OF! Us. Ahead! GO! Target FORWARD! MARKSMAN! Left. ENEMY MAN!" To which I respond: "What! The hell. ARE!! You talking? ABOUT!"


Baffling dialogue aside, the actual combat missions are pretty neat, and my boot camp failures were forgotten as I began taking down ENEMY MAN after ENEMY MAN. There's tons going on, with soldiers running everywhere, choppers thumping overhead, tanks rolling past and explosions booming in the distance. It's sort of refreshing to feel like a single, below-average solider amidst the backdrop of a massive battle instead of being the one heroic lynchpin to the entire campaign, like your Call of Duty games would have you believe.

I was actually doing pretty well, advancing, picking off ENEMY MEN, until I drew some fire, went prone, and got run over by a tank. My own tank, no less. Maybe the middle of the road wasn't the best place to lie down. "OUCH! I. Am Crushed. INTO! Paste? RETREAT FROM ENEMY MAN!"

Download the ArmA 2 demo on FileShack.