(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 1.5 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 2 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 2.5 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 3 Stars
- Bottom Line
- Skip It
- Street Date:
- October 1st, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Trevor Ruben
- Review Date:1
- October 31st, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Bohemia Interactive
- Bohemia Interactive
- ESRB Rating:
- RP (Rating Pending)
The version of 'Arma Tactics' reviewed here is the Steam version of the game, which utilizes the mouse and keyboard as the primary control scheme. The reviewer was able to sample touch screen controls with a touch-screen computer and found the schemes comparable and manageable, if not immediately intuitive. Controls were rarely an issue.
From Bohemia Interactive comes a turn-based, mobile-friendly highly tactical 'Arma Tactics,' an offshoot of 'Arma,' the large-scale PC first person shooter/battle simulator series. Available for iOS, Android, and Steam, Bohemia presents its take on the infantry-style combat made popular by the 'XCOM' series in as small a package as possible. Four gruff and bland military dudes are at your command, but is this flavor of 'Arma' battle-ready?
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
To Bohmeia Interactive's credit, 'Arma Tactics' is a smart business decision. Everybody's doing it. Take your big brand, shrink it down to a bite-sized portion and feed it to the masses through those touch screens in their pockets. Activision did it with 'Call of Duty,' Ubisoft did it with 'Rayman' and EA seems to hemorrhage mobile versions of all things considered Electronic and Artistic. Oftentimes the yield is a wonderful taste of the bigger thing.
But 'Arma Tactics' is simply not a smart game, which is a serious problem for a game with the word "tactics" in the title. "Intermittently broken" is perhaps, a more suitable though sadly just as applicable, way of putting it.
The game is broken down into missions and before jumping into a mission, you're tasked with outfitting your team of four generic military fighters, with names I never felt the need to know and backgrounds that had absolutely no effect on gameplay. By the end I was referring to them as "shotgun guy" or "sniper guy," because, frankly, the weapon they carried was just about the only relevant characteristic. There's an upgrade system in place as well, allowing you to increase one guy's individual weapon efficiency, movement speed or what have you. It's one of a couple barebones systems that, despite their directness, do very little to increase any sense of engagement in the game or investment in the characters. That any one death resulted in the failure of a mission was the single reason I feared for their safety.
Fortunately, death is uncommon, because despite many basic issues from horrid communication of tactical information to the player to basic failures in sightline programming, thinking is not a requisite for winning. In the end, all you're doing is moving your squad forward, discovering enemies or allowing them to discover you, and pressing the 'shoot' button with the occasional revival or heal thrown in. Anything more advanced, such as discernable tactics never really come into play.
Similarly to the recent 'XCOM: Enemy Unknown,' each unit has two moves per turn, comprising of "shoot," "move" or use an item, be it a grenade, med kit, or some other basic modern warfare expectation. Again, you'll mostly be doing the first two things, and that's for a couple of reasons.
Most obvious and most damning is the enemy AI. They move about with the efficiency and intent of a headless chicken. Concepts like flanking, flushing out or otherwise positioning your squad members in intelligent ways are inherently less effective than allowing dumb enemies to wander in the path of your gun, which is just as likely to happen as that same enemy wandering into cover. Even if he does, he'll wander back out eventually. They don't heal, rarely reload, and have absolutely no concern for their own wellbeing. They aren't enemy combatants, they're moths to the flame. Much like watching a tennis match where one man double faults his way to a loss, the experience is wildly disappointing.
Beyond eliminating the absent-minded AI, however, there is a severe lack of anything to do outside of shooting and healing. What few disposable items there are, which you purchase from an armory outside the missions, are severely underpowered when compared to weapons. For example, explosives may give you a coveted area of affect, but illogic of the AI behavior means that using a move on using explosives is pointless as each turn lacks the need or reasoning for making a special move. There are no scenarios. The fact that every squad member is capable of performing every task further makes them both forgettable and tactically numbing. There exist absolutely no special abilities for either side of the battle.
Move and shoot. Move and shoot. Win. Upgrade "sniper guy" to snipe better. Buy a med kit or two.
On top of a core design that barely touches on faintly interesting are a collection of glitches, lazy programming and awful mission design that would render a more difficult game completely frustrating. Finding accurate lines of sight is often a fleeting ambition, forcing you once again to allow the AI to make the mistake instead of searching for the bext tactical position. Sometimes you'll simply be able to shoot through a wall. Finding cover decreases the enemy's chances of hitting you and vice versa, but then there's another problem.
The "Fog of War" aspect, which darkens areas that your characters cannot see, often results in enemies emerging form the strangest areas. Apparently there's some sort of magical candy directly behind open doors. Even worse, navigating interiors is often a chore as the game often can't decide whether you want to view the roof or the ground floor, leaving you blind one way or the other.
Missions often bottleneck your squad on one path or another, eliminating the need for level awareness altogether. And aside from the final mission, there are virtually zero twists on your objective that aren't a story-contextual version of "move your squad here."
As for the story, it distinguishes itself about as well as the gameplay, inciting a deep boredom with mentions of generic terrorists trying to generically kill people in generic locations rendered generically on screen.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The 'Arma' games have never been a visual knockout, with Bohemia Interactive maintaining a minimal approach to visuals in an almost noble, low-budget sort of way. 'Arma Tactics' is no exception, though coupled with the dismal gameplay the boring presentation seems far less acceptable. Browns and greys dominate the screen while variation in character models extend as far as beards, skin tones and military gear. Bohemia Interactive seems to have ported their designs from the core games instead of embracing the mobile platform and adjusting accordingly. A little color and simpler geometry goes a long way.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The minimalist visual treatment extends to the audio, though the team's efforts are a bit more admirable here. Voice acting, while supplemented by uncharismatic banter and grossly unengaging mission setup, is, well it's there. However clichéd, it made me remember that "sniper guy" is supposed to be a person. Sometimes. Less impactful are the expected combat sound effects, which may have been ripped from a soundboard online somewhere.
If somehow you truly enjoy the gameplay, Bohemia Interactive has included a "Create Mission" mode wherein you choose a map from the campaign and select an objective, such as defending an area or killing a target. The effort is clearly in response to the anemic experience offered by the mere ten campaign missions.
'Arma Tactics' is too easy, too broken, and too lazy for any serious consideration. Even if it worked a little better, the missions are often too lengthy to fit into that mobile format we've come to expect, and the subsystems of customization and item purchasing do little to engage the player outside of the shoot-and-move combat. The engaging and uniquely executed experience of the 'Arma' franchise isn't found here. Simply put, there's too much of not enough in almost every aspect of the game.
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