by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Ready for the Real Thing?
Call of Duty and Battlefield are the most popular military shooters around today, but they're not exactly what you would call realistic. The destination for people who want what Bohemia Interactive calls a military simulator is the Arma series, and with Arma 3, the Czech publisher is looking to take that realism to a whole new level.
The game is set in the 2030s and Europe is on the ropes after years of war with the “Eastern Armies”. NATO command launches Operation Magnitude, a final desperate attempt at taking a well guarded military secret. The player will control Cpt. Scott Miller as part of a Special Forces unit sent to the Greek island of Limnos in the Mediterranean. This all sounds like a standard shooter storyline, but what sets the Arma series apart from the rest is the unbelievable customisation, freedom and authenticity, and Bohemia says that it will improve upon the features that made the previous games in the series so widely regarded on the PC for their new title.
Bullets in a Sandbox
Arma 3 is set on Limnos, and not a cheap representation of Limnos either. The game boasts around nine hundred square kilometres of area, both land and sea, with a view distance of around twenty kilometres, and that the island has been recreated using a staggeringly high number of high definition photographs and geodata. There will be a huge number of different environments, ranging from sparse desert to dense forest, and for the first time, Arma will include underwater combat. Bohemia has shown us some of the underwater based missions, with some fine detail all the way down to the sea plants and fish. The game looks absolutely gorgeous, to the point where there are websites showing off picture comparisons between game screenshots and actual google maps images. Even the textures on the interiors of the many vehicles look super sharp, and will include fully functional rear view mirrors.
Anyone who has played an Arma game before will tell you about the remarkable amount of freedom you have in the game. Most missions start with you in a forward base somewhere on the edge of the combat zone, where you will get your tasks from your commanding officer. From there you can do anything you like. You could grab a Jeep or a tank and roll straight along the road to your objective, or you could just jump in a helicopter and go sightseeing. When you finally reach your objective, for example if you have to clear out a certain location of enemy soldiers, you're still free to do it however you choose. You could run in with your squad, all guns blazing, or you could try and infiltrate the area and take everyone out quietly, or you can even call in an artillery strike and just watch the destruction take place before your eyes. That first approach would likely be a bad option, because as you'd expect from a game touting ultra-realism, bullets hurt, and you won't be able to take much punishment before you go down and have to reload your save. You will be able to choose to play on your own, as part of a squad or as a commander. If you choose the second option, you will have a small squad of soldiers who you can order around in any number of ways. You can set their formation, their spacing, how hostile they are, and can communicate with them to find out where they are, what they can see and what their status is.
Since Arma 3 is called a simulator, you would think that there would be a huge amount of customisation involved, and you wouldn't be wrong. Bohemia has shown off a wide range of weapons, scopes, imaging systems and camouflages. There is even a mechanic where you can take the clothes from a fallen enemy, Hitman-style, and use it to fool others. The weapon demo showed the realistic ballistics on offer, with gravity and wind meaningfully affecting your shots. The game will also come with an extensive 3d mission editor, where you will be able to create your own combat scenarios and upload them for other people to play.
Greatness comes at a Cost
The sad point about the Arma series, and any other game as ridiculously ambitious at it, is that because of the large scope, they are not without their share of technical hitches. While looking magnificent, some of the animations, AI and physics within Bohemia's own engine detract from the realism a little bit, although the developer says that these aspects are still a work in progress.
If Bohemia can iron out the bugs, and still keep in the enormous amount of gameplay options, then Arma 3 could turn out to be a great game. Ultimately, it probably won't be a CoD-killer, but it looks like it will be the best Arma yet, and for fans of the series, or for shooter fans who want a little more realism in their games, that's an exciting prospect.