Is this the start of a trend? Call of Duty: Strike Team repurposed a console FPS into a top-down strategy game, and now we have Arma Tactics, a turn-based take on another popular shooter series.

It does a little more than Strike Team to embrace its new genre: where that game was a curious hybrid of first-person blasting and overhead planning, this is a full-on TBS, albeit one that attempts to stay close to the Arma ethos of challenge and authenticity.

On paper, it looks like a smart idea. But as any good general knows, it's no use having a plan if you can't execute it well, and it's here where Bohemia Interactive comes unstuck.

Arma-d core

It starts off promisingly enough, with an ostensibly useful training exercise that smoothly talks you through the basics. The interface seems smart: you tap your men or their icon to select them and drag them to move them into position.

You have two action points per soldier to spend. You can spend them both to move larger distances, or save one to heal, reload or fire after a short dash, though you'll use them up instantly if you fire first.

Meanwhile, you'll need one point left over if you want to interrupt enemy movements. This way, you can fire when it's not your turn should any opponents stray into your line of sight.

In theory, then, you'll want to make short movements between cover positions, ensuring you've got multiple angles of attack covered. Yet when you engage the enemy, encounters rarely seem to play out as they should.

Arma let you finish

That's partly thanks to the limited camera controls making line of sight difficult to effectively gauge. Often you'll think you're in the perfect position to get a shot but the percentage chance of success is alarmingly low.

Yet at times you'll wonder whether it's actually anything to do with that, and more that you're beholden to increasingly erratic rolls of the dice.

Why, for example, does a soldier crouched with his rifle trained on his enemy in open ground, stand a lower chance of a good shot than when he's on the move?

Or how, for that matter, can enemies on the ground shoot a soldier you've placed on the roof as a spotter through a wall he's permanently crouched behind?

A chink in the Arma

You expect an element of fortune in all strategy games, but at times Arma Tactics defies all logic and reason. Enemies can miss you from point-blank range, yet others will kill you from halfway across the map when you're safely behind cover.

Assuming you've remembered to buy medkits, you can at least heal downed allies if you reach them within five turns (and, for that matter, disorientate enemies with a flashbang while you head over to heal).

But here, as elsewhere, it's easy to fall victim to the controls. With two icons on either side of the screen rotating the view, it's all too easy to move a man or finish a turn unintentionally when you were merely trying to get a better view.


That wouldn't be so disastrous if Arma Tactics's missions weren't so long. There's scant consideration of how most mobile players experience games, and while the game saves after every turn, if you make a single mistake you have to start again. With no mid-mission checkpoints, you can expect to lose over half an hour of progress.

Sure, that encourages you to play cautiously and take better care on the next run, but given how frequently you seem to get hit by a lucky shot, it's a bitter pill to swallow - not least when you're told that you're fighting inexperienced militia who apparently can't shoot straight.

It's poorly optimised for older devices, too, chugging terribly on an iPad mini, and crashing occasionally when entering buildings.

Arma Tactics does offer glimpses of greatness, when the AI offers a tough but fair challenge, and when a careful plan comes together. But these fleeting moments of satisfaction simply aren't worth the many moments of pain.