Argo looks great. In the trailers. But then, so does every Bohemia Interactive game. What was once called Project Argo didn’t actually have a major name shift when it was released on Steam a few weeks ago. I almost just instinctively added a disclaimer about Argo being an Early Access game… but it’s not.
There’s a seed of potential in Argo that may make a diligent fan of hardcore shooters want to persevere long enough to find the gold, but there’s so much getting in your way of the core gameplay experience that Argo is impossible to recommend in its current form. That kind of line is usually reserved for the end of an article, but in the interests of respecting your time, you can not bother downloading the free-to-play game right now, and you can even stop reading here if that’s all you want to know.
It’s just not a good game, despite the lack of funds required to play it.
If you’re still here, know that Argo doesn’t respect your time. Argo is a mess out of the gate. Though I ragged on it, Fortnite runs like a dream. Fortnite is, of course, on Unreal Engine 4, but it defaulted to Ultra settings (at 1080p) and was hanging around the 60fps mark. When I dropped it to the next highest graphical preset, it now hangs around 120fps. Argo, on the other hand, defaulted to Ultra and struggled to get more than 30fps in the menus.
Fair enough, I thought, I’ll just drop the settings until the frame rate goes up. In fairness, I actually prefer it when a menu fps counter is in line with what you should expect from gameplay: it makes tweaking a whole lot more straightforward. So, I started dropping settings on the assumption I could get it to 60fps. How wrong I was. By the time I’d dropped everything to Low, the menu frame rate was at 35fps. Woohoo! Five whole frames gained by dropping it from Ultra.
Next, I jumped over to the Steam page to see if my desktop was below spec. Uh, nope. I’m comfortably above the recommended spec. At least it’s not a twitch shooter, I thought, even though I loathe playing any shooter at under 60fps (minimum), I figured Argo should still be playable. That’s not the case, either.
I joined a server that one of my mates was playing on. Argo offers Easy and Normal modes, where Easy has UI elements and acts like a tutorial for beginners, and Normal strips all that away and forces you to learn the ropes the hard way. My mate was in a Normal server, so I was readying for a trial by friendly fire.
You don’t have to venture too far online to find player anecdotes about how often they’re killed by blue-on-blue gunfire in Argo rather than from an enemy. That’s bound to happen in any game that has friendly fire enabled, but it seemed to be happening a disproportionate amount in Argo. Determined to not be one of those greenhorns, I deliberately waited until the other player saw me and started shooting at me before I opened fire.
That’s hardly the best way to play a military simulator, but given that most of my teammates had mics, I wasn’t up for the lack of tolerance that comes with newbie friendly fire. Aiming felt terrible. I thought it was just the low frame rate (still around 35fps), at first, which didn’t help. But then I stumbled on this in-depth video review, and realised I was actually also likely battling input lag.
This meant the shooting felt floaty, inaccurate and, at times, nonresponsive to the kind of muscle memory mouse movements I’m accustomed to. Obviously, there’s a certain degree of acclimatising required when shifting between shooters. That’s why I deliberately go out of my way to have an aggro warm-up round in Battlegrounds when shifting from another shooter like Battlefield 1.
The thing is, I was playing on a team that knew what it was doing in Argo, so I didn’t have that artificial learning curve that comes with jumping into a hardcore shooter for the first time and ending up on an incompetent team (like my time with Rising Storm 2: Vietnam). I was also scoring more frags than I figured I should, despite only having bare-basic weapons with iron sights. After all, normally, my aim is on par with an Imperial stormtrooper when it comes to shooting with iron sights.
To earn a scope, or any other attachments, you have to play more. That’s not a bad thing and is part and parcel with mainstream shooters like (older) Battlefield games and Call of Duty titles. The problem is that Bohemia Interactive commits a cardinal sin in its skill tree by upsetting the damage-deal /damage-taken balance, which means newer players—particularly those joining weeks after launch—are at a distinct disadvantage.
You can unlock two different levels of body armour, for six skill points apiece, and you can also unlock frag grenades. Admittedly, the frag grenades only cost one skill point, but it’s technically two because you have to first spend a skill point on smoke grenades (which, admittedly, are useful). Bear in mind that if you’re saving points to go straight to either of these options, you’re foregoing sights, suppressors, bipods and new weapon types.
For players who’ve already sunk the requisite hours into Argo, they have an easy and noticeable edge, even in just attachments. Argo is a high-lethality game, after all, and being able to slap a high magnification scope on your weapon gives you a noticeable advantage when an enemy only has iron sights or a red-dot sight and can’t see you.
If Bohemia Interactive can patch out the bugs, improve the performance, and address the concerns with the unlocks, I’d be willing to give Argo another crack. But in its current form, Argo isn’t worth the hard-drive space.