Author: Edward H. Osborne
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Date: 2009-10-30 22:08
Submitted by: TV-PressPass

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Stealth has always been a difficult concept in games. Arguably the first stealth game was Thief: The Dark Project, and didn't find mainstream acceptance until Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. We've gotten very good at creating enemies who look for you and shoot at you, but making an enemy who might be unawares is much harder. Stealth games work through two basic gameplay mechanics: shadows and sound. Its the second that comes into Arma2 with the presence of silencers.

Arma2's AI is primarily script based, with a few basic instincts coming into play. So I've designed a few basic set-ups to put the silenced weaponry through the works and see just how feasible it is to be stealthy in Arma2.

The game offers a few modified weapons to have silencers attached. For the purpose of this I tested a selection of pistols, sub-machine guns, an assault rifle and the SS Vintorez sniper rifle. Silenced weapons generally fall into one of two categories.

Those with detachable suppressors and those with silencers built in. I realize that in the eyes of some gun-smiths a suppressor and a silencer are two different things, but for our purposes I'm going to use the terms interchangeably.

The first exercise was done with AI, stationing Russian soldiers at 50 m increments down a runway. Now I know that there are a variety of complaints about the AI in Arma2, so I won't reiterate them here. However its worth noting that even the M24, a loud and totally unsuppressed sniper rifle, only seems to alert AI units within 150m or so. Those at the far end of the airfield remained blissfully unawares as the rifle crack echoed across that empty space.

The results with the SS Vintorez were much more satisfactory.

At any distance, the AI often would only react when hit, unaware of shots behind or ahead of them. The same was true for silenced M4's, the MP5SD and the M9. Once hit though they have no trouble spotting you and engaging, effectively alerting other team-mates with in hearing. Its worth noting though that as part of the games “real world communication” the AI will respond to ricochet sounds and the player speaking to his own soldiers.

But really, the AI is limited in how it can respond to a silenced weapon. It either detects you or it doesn't. Adversarial play against real humans reveals a far more effective silencer.

In the village of Stelka I played a dozen or so hide-and-seek style missions against Andre using only silenced weapons. Here we found that the difference between built-in silencers and modular or removable ones is the difference between life and death. The sharp “pew pew” sound of an M4 with a silencer attached is much louder than the built in one of a MP5SD. After several rounds with Makarov's and Bizon's it became clear that the loudest part of a silenced weapon for the player under fire is actually the impacts and ricochets. The sharp crack of the bullet breaking the sound barrier disappears when a silencer is attached. Which is of course the way real silencers work, by slowing the velocity of the round.

When engaged in a full on battle, with the roar of armored vehicles and machine-guns blazing, a silenced weapon almost disappears. Particularly in urban environment's where there are many obstacles to sound traveling in the first place. Silencers behind a player were very difficult to hear, making a “backstab” an effective attack.

Between the two of us, we felt that the Russian forces had a better selection of silenced weapons, with more possessing the integrated silencers that are so useful. But for the quietest weapon in Arma2 seemed to be the MP5SD, from which the loudest sound is the brass hitting the ground. Suddenly the $19,000.00 price tag on a real world version makes more sense.

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