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Gamescom 2012: Warfare like it's 2035

Spark to a flame

Gamescom provided us with an excellent opportunity to go hands-on with ArmA III and spend some time with the people responsible for its creation. I’m glad to admit that my gaming heart started beating faster seeing a realistic First Person Shooter again. Playing ArmA III, I drifted back to the early days of PC gaming when games like Delta Force sparked a flame that only ArmA games have managed to rekindle.

ArmA III takes place in the not too distant future of 2035 and the demonstration zoomed in on Stratis a tiny island in the Aegean Sea facing an Iranian invasion. Tiny is relative though, as moving about on foot on a 25 square kilometer island makes it feel huge. And that’s just Stratis, Limnos will be approximately 200 times larger. And when you deem defending the islands to be a daunting task, you will also have to defend their skies and the waters surrounding them.

In the nightwatch

Some of the missions that you will play you will be by your lonesome while others require you to team up with other specialists. In a group, the dynamics of going out into the wilderness change quite dramatically. Squad members increase your enemy-spotting abilities which can be a big help attempting to outflank them so that you can get the drop on them instead of the other way around. The comms will fill with chatter as soon as a ‘Tango’ has been spotted and it will last until your squad leader gives the ‘all clear’ signal when he believes all hostiles to have been eliminated. Be advised though, that one or two strays may still populate the area and surprise you, so even after the signal has been given, it may not be the best moment still to start chasing butterflies and roll around in the (realistic looking) foliage again.

Visibility during the night is ok, but ok just doesn’t cut it if you want to stay alive. Putting on your night vision goggles will drastically improve your vision. Such tools proved wasted on account of me having the attention span of a goldfish. The environments are so life-like that a stroll through the foliage became something of a fun adventure of exploration and discovery than a mission to find dangerous foes and stay alive. The shadows cast by the full moon especially where mesmerizing, offering a distraction of the wrong kind when there are bad men with guns patrolling the area. You can guess what happened next.

Painting the town red

One fun pastime is using a laser rangefinder to flag enemy targets so that they can be taken down by your forces. Peering through the infrared enhanced camera of the rangefinder, you can see which vehicles have been stationary and which have been recently used due to the warmth of the tracks or tires and engines still emitting a stronger heat signature.

Deciding which target needs to go first is step one, deciding how it needs to go is step two. Rockets are extremely visible and especially so during nighttime when smoke trails reveal their point of origin a little too easily. The tradeoff however, is the fact that a great number of rockets can be fired off in a short time frame. Alternatively somewhat less dramatic looking shells can be fired off as well but these have the drawback that the rate of fire is far lower, adding some risk that the first short does not take out your intended target and losing the element of surprise.