I'm hunting for Russian tanks with an AS50 anti-materiel rifle. They're guarding the dead forest that surrounds a nuclear site, idling over broken terrain like fat, metal deer.
I put my eye to my thermal scope to find the hottest part of the tank (the engine) and poke a 12.7x99mm hole between its pistons; my well-placed shot blows off the last T-55's steel lid, clearing the way for my civilian inspection team to access the facility. This is exactly what an excellent ArmA 2 mission should be: violent, unscripted problem-solving with realistic military equipment. But oddly, this is one of only three open-ended missions in ArmA 2: Private Military Company's 11-mission campaign.
PMC puts its focus on storytelling, which remains a weakness of developer Bohemia Interactive, and your role as a mercenary escort is hamstrung by awkward, on-rails missions that are at odds with ArmA 2's massive, wide-open landscapes. In the intro, you're running aimlessly through a village trying to locate a contact while artillery shells drop around you. In another, you man a minigun mounted atop an AI-driven SUV, gunning down roadside ambushers. Yet another assigns you the busywork of shooing civilians away from a facility. ArmA 2 has never been good at scripted sequences like these, and while the voice actors have improved, the lines they're reading haven't, and rigid facial animations make characters look like Kevlar sock puppets.
PMC's new equipment also pales compared to the previous DLC. There's a speedy-but-unremarkable Ka-60 helicopter, a machinegunning UAV drone that's good for harassment and the AA-12 automatic shotgun, a weapon that's rarely effective on ArmA 2's expansive battlefields.
The star of PMC is the new Proving Grounds map—it's dotted with skeleton trees and ruined shrubs; the bomb crater at the middle of the eerie scrubland looks like the work of God's spoon. Unfortunately, Bohemia didn't produce any stand-alone missions for it with PMC, so you'll have to make your own (or download user-created ones from community sites like www.armaholic.com) to fully enjoy it.
While there's novelty to playing as a mercenary in ArmA 2's realistic universe, but there are too few new military toys and too few unimaginative missions to make PMC a must-download.
Gear that doesn't evoke gun lust, missions that make being a mercenary feel tame. An inexpensive but uninspired ArmA episode.