It is under a dark, pitch black sky that I slowly infiltrate the enemy territory by sea, lowering myself into the icy cold waters from atop my inflatable boat in order to reach my designated targets unnoticed. My mission: to create distractions so that my comrades can rescue an important individual. These ‘distractions’ can be dangerous illustrations of my ability to wreak havoc, usually resulting in large explosions and plenty of dead enemy combatants by the end of it all. Or perhaps it can end quietly without a whisper, with the enemy having but the smallest of inclinations of my actual involvement in creating such distractions and thinking it was just mechanical failings. What makes Bohemia’s combat simulator Arma 3 so imaginative is that it essentially leaves all these choices up to the players themselves.
I have been a fan of the Arma franchise since its inception, easing my way into a playing style that is not exactly what one would deem as “accessible” to many gamers. From the one shot deaths, real-time mission structuring, the effective inclusion of external ballistics in relation to bullet dropping and much, much more, Arma has established itself as a franchise that caters to a specific crowd of gamers who enjoy immense realism concerning their FPS experience. With the growing popularity of the Day Z mod for Arma 2, the Arma franchise has been brought into a more mainstream spotlight, with Arma 3 easily becoming one of most anticipated PC FPS titles thus far. It is certainly one of the highest titles on my list.
Fresh out of the alpha phase and into its beta phase, Arma 3 is already quite the polished experience considering that it is still very early in development. My overall experience with the first two titles in the series have been fun but iffy at best, mainly stemming from a technical standpoint. Performance issues were a significant problem in the two previous titles, often eliciting many players to upgrade their computers just to simply partake in playing a title in the franchise. I for one could run the game relatively well, but technical issues did crop up from time to time–considerable slowdowns and glitches being the most prominent. These unfortunate issues left many players never having the opportunity to fully indulge in the graphical beauty that was Arma and Arma 2. With Arma 3, I am happy to say that Bohemia has done an incredible job in correcting the performance issues seen in the previous titles, delivering a title that runs almost too well on my computer considering the graphical upgrade this title has received. Vast open terrain that stretches for miles (quite literally), character details, and the interiors and exteriors of buildings are all highlights of the game, bringing about a photo-realistic world that is alive and visually astounding.
While limited to the small island of Stratis, the presented world of Arma 3 is relatively small compared to past environments, but then again this is only a beta. The game splits up missions that each exhibit a tutorial-like premise, introducing players to the new–and old–mechanics of the Arma universe. It makes for a rather structured approach that teases the player as to what the full version of the game will have to offer more so than being anything significant. The A.I. for the most part has also improved, making for tougher enemies that do not exhibit the impeccable marksmanship skills as in Arma 2, this time actually making an attempt to get closer to your position in order to fight you. It is at the very least attempting to be more realistic, and it is an element of the game I would like to see even more refined as the title nears completion.
Fortunately, one of the greatest elements of the Arma franchise makes its return here, which is the sandbox mode, a “create-a-mission” environment that allows the player to essentially set up any situation they desire. Want to have an entire platoon battle against an opposing enemy force? How about adding a massive helicopter battle commencing right above them? How about just skydiving into the middle of all of it? Or how about just playing as a civilian and having an ATV race with your friends? All this and more can be done, offering up all the countless possibilities that you can conjure up as a player. This has always been a staple favorite of mine since the first two titles, vastly increasing the replay value and scope of the game for me. I simply love creating my own missions that cater to my liking, ultimately sharing them with other players to see how fast they can complete them or if they complete them at all. Arma 3 adds much more to this game mode, including smarter A.I. routes and a multitude of A.I. behavior that you can adjust, making each mission or scenario incredibly entertaining as you become the ultimate designer of your own game. This element of the franchise has always been the key to longevity for many players, including myself, so I am incredibly happy to see it make its return.
Given its current state of development, Arma 3 is definitely going in the right direction. With considerable adjustments made in graphical performance and minor gameplay additions and improvements, the overall feel of the beta version is one of opportunity for polish, but I am certainly surprised to see just how much Bohemia has already accomplished given the time frame. Those players looking for a more genuine attempt at capturing both the calculating nature and dexterity of warfare will find Arma 3 to be the finest example within the PC realm yet, with Bohemia having much of its foundation already in place and ready to go in a short couple of months.