‘Arma Reforger’ is one weird 80s Cold War fever dream

By Aidan Finn, Staff Writer

There has been a surprising resurgence in the tactical FPS genre in the past two years, with the Series X being the first console in years to get its hands on a real, legitimate military simulator. 

The “Arma” series has been that white whale of mil-sims for console players, arguably for decades, since the last true attempt with the 2009 “Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising,” being an underrated sales miss back on the Xbox 360. The iconic PC franchise is the birthplace of endless YouTube content creators, modders and even separate game series as a whole, the likes of “DayZ.”

Now, the latest entry is sporting a new engine and a console release exclusively on Xbox Series X. This review will be on the basis of just the console version, as both the community features as well as online support are vastly different.

“Arma Reforger,” developed by series heads Bohemia Interactive, is set in 1989 amid the Cold War crisis as Soviet Forces and US troops duke it out on the fictional island of Everon. A multiplayer-only sandbox where online servers of up to 32 players can be arranged in whatever wacky scenario the host desires, everything from organized town-by-town warfare to roleplaying a border checkpoint. 

Right off the bat, you’ll find “Arma Reforger” is shockingly one of the best looking games of the ninth generation so far. Beautiful lighting mixed with nature and detailed, cold war accurate character models create a great visual if the weather lines up right. 

A selection of period-accurate guns and tools are at your team’s disposal, and it’s the functionality, as well as the cooperation of your squad where “Arma” finds its core attraction. Its wide map with little objective direction means communication through in-game radio frequencies across entire valleys is vital to success. It’s this groove of talking to commanders and radio men while riding in a convoy that you’ll find that “Arma” will take its sweet time to get to the action, with much of the fun stemming from the silly arguments and banter with your squadmates while hiking through the woods. 

It’s bizarre, yet there is a relaxing zen while you march in single file up a mountain, lost in the crazy stories your team will be rambling about across your pocket radio. 

Then, in a moment’s notice, gunfire will erupt from the treeline, and everyone will duck for cover in the tall grass. No red dots above your enemies, not even your teammates have icons, which leads to too many cases of friendly fire. It’s you against the Soviets (or U.S.) hiding deep in the woods with nothing but a few magazines, a baggie of bandages and the screams of dying teammates in your ear. 

It channels an energy reminiscent of 1984’s “Red Dawn,” with guerilla warfare being the name of the game as your tactics fall apart the second an APC rolls in and half your team is wiped out. Desperation, fear, and a genuine sense of epic scale unfolds as echoes of distant explosions fill you with awe. It’s as cold war as the 80s gets (in a not so hot war scenario at least). 

The best moments in “Arma Reforger” truly stem from the creativity of whoever is hosting the game and the quality of your comrades. My favorite experience was during a late-night session where about sixteen Soviet troops were sent on a recon mission deep in the forest during pitch-black night conditions. Only a few flashlights lit the way before, a scene that played out like a bad horror movie, the headlights and horn of an APC came from behind, everyone turning around before the on-board turret lit up and the whole team scattered. Only three Soviets made it out of the forest alive, me and two other players who knew to just book it the second something was up. 

Arma is a playground of military nonsense and genuinely intense operations that no other game, let alone on consoles, can orchestrate. It’s the players that matter in this kind of experience, and you are sure to find some good ones by trying it out. 

Arma Reforger is available on PC and Xbox Series X/S.

 

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