ARMA 2: Cold War Rearmed 2 – A Gaming Mod Review

When Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis was released in 2001, it joined a small number of other simulation-oriented first-person shooters of the era, including the original Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. Of these tactical shooters, Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis was probably the most ambitious, presenting technical features which are still rarely rivalled today. The game presented full combined-arms tactics with infantry, armoured vehicles and aircraft on huge maps of more than 100km2 in area, with firefights often taking place at several hundred metres. Along with an exceptional campaign which felt like an interactive playthrough of a Cold War thriller, the game included a comprehensive mission editor which allowed the game assets to be put to further use with user-created missions.

However, Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis feels like a product of its time and while it represented an outstanding first attempt at a properly comprehensive combined-arms simulator, there are several details of the game which feel outdated. Even as a long-term fan of Bohemia Interactive’s games, I will admit that the Real Virtuality engine still has its flaws and foibles, but the engine revisions in the more recent ARMA series have gone some way in making the game more accessible and more fluid. The graphics of Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis were adequate, but have been improved on greatly by ARMA 2. Character movement, while still feeling somewhat awkward and peculiar in ARMA 2, has improved greatly on the awkwardness of movement in the original Real Virtuality engine. There have also been a substantial number of additional features and improvements to pre-existing features.

All of these things considered, there are still details of Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis which would make it worth playing today even in its original version, but the Cold War Rearmed2 team didn’t settle for that, instead remaking all of Bohemia Interactive’s original content from Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis for the Real Virtuality 3 engine in ARMA 2. This includes not only the islands, vehicles and weapons from the original game, but also the entire campaigns from both Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis and its acclaimed expansion, Operation Flashpoint: Resistance.

Having been interested in playing through the campaigns of Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis and Operation Flashpoint: Resistance again since ArmA: Armed Assault was almost new, but finding it difficult to accommodate the changes between the older and newer games, I had been looking forward to trying Cold War Rearmed2 since before its first public release. One of the most obvious things about the Cold War Rearmed2 project is how much work has gone into all of the content. Not only have all of the original vehicles been brought up to the graphical standards of ARMA 2, but some of the additional features found in later Real Virtuality engine versions, including the ability to change the zeroing range on rifles, have been added as appropriate. There has clearly been a great deal of effort done on this mod.

Playing through the campaign of Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis again reminded me of how good it was in the first place, and I feel it is Bohemia Interactive’s best campaign to date. After the rather bland campaign of ArmA: Armed Assault, Bohemia Interactive improved things with its campaign for ARMA 2, and yet, there was a greater sense of personality and variety with the campaign for Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis.

Between the early infantry missions, where you play a wet-behind-the-ears infantryman who has barely passed his basic training, to the intimidating retreat from Everon as you are left alone, outnumbered and outgunned by the Soviet troops quickly occupying Everon as NATO troops try to regroup on Malden, from the tank rushes as an inexperienced officer to the hair-raising special forces missions where mere metres sometimes come between you and enemy troops, the campaign in Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis felt like a war in the Cold War sense. Each of the characters felt fleshed out enough to get behind their motivations without feeling like an anonymous soldier in the middle of nowhere. All of this contributes to a sense of immersion that helps when some of the missions take more than an hour to complete, consisting of terrifying crawls across hostile terrain, where the aim is to avoid having to shoot.

It also reminded me of how different the campaign is from the campaigns of many modern military first-person shooters, where you go gung-ho, blasting through enemies as if they were simply roadblocks rather than active troops in a conflict. In several missions in Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, particularly as the infantryman, David Armstrong, you are outnumbered by the enemy troops and have to rely on superior skill, tactics or any advantages you can muster in order to get through the missions alive. Also, unlike in many other games, where the special forces soldiers spend even more time blasting through the enemy troops, the special forces missions in Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis are genuinely intimidating, requiring real stealth and patience to complete as you are dropped into situations where you are vastly outnumbered and outgunned. The campaign in Operation Flashpoint: Resistance continues in this vein, as you play the leader of a guerrilla-style resistance against a Soviet invasion with superior troops, equipment and defences to your own poorly-trained, poorly-equipped partisan movement.

The improvements brought by the culmination of the new basis for the campaigns in the Real Virtuality 3 engine of ARMA 2 and the massive amount of work done by the Cold War Rearmed2 team to bring things up to standard is laudable. Indeed, it really does justice to the campaigns of the original games to be reproduced at such a high standard on the newer engine. Fortunately for the work of the mod team, the campaigns of the original games are not only still playable but sometimes still imaginative, even more than ten years after their original release.

Bottom Line: Cold War Rearmed2 is an exceptional mod which excellently recreates the imaginative, involved and exciting campaigns of the original Operation Flashpoint games with all of the requisite improvements necessary to bring them up to modern standards.

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