Arma 3 is not about a strong single player campaign with an engaging story and dramatic cut sequences. It’s about authenticity. The experience that it delivers lies in its factualness and purity to being a simulator. Fans of the series already know that this is not a game set to compete against the likes of Call of Duty or Halo, and those expecting to play Arma in the hopes for an alternative to such games will be disappointed as it distinguishes itself into its own genre.
In the same way that Gran Turismo places its focus on realistic physics and the visual appeal of luxury racing vehicles, is exactly the same way in which Arma focuses on its presentation as a military simulator. It’s not fair nor is it right to label this game as a first person shooter, its emphasis on authenticity is unmatched and doesn’t rely on stylised action sequences for attention.
The game’s main menu is an easy to navigate system that offers up plenty of variety in terms of missions and training. It doesn’t overdo itself or take itself too seriously as most people would generally expect from simulation based games. Single player missions and training options get straight to the point and tell you right off the bat which is which, as well as what to expect from each mission. All of the game’s missions set their own level of difficulty with a brief explanation before diving into the game.
This immerses you from the get-go and where most game menus simply feel like a barrier between you and the experience, Arma 3 does a great job of incorporating both elements into one overall experience. An in-game editor also allows players to create and share their own experiences using the Steam workshop to design their own levels and missions. This keeps things very communal and this is very noticeable in its online multiplayer.
Arma 3 has a huge implementation of training scenarios to help those who are new to the series get to grips with just how far Bohemia Interactive is willing to push realism. When first starting the game it wouldn’t hurt to head into the Field manual and take in the knowledge it’s willing to offer you. Working as an on screen text box the manual explains everything you can expect to encounter in the game. It delivers a hands-on and thorough explanation of just about every piece of equipment and situation you’ll find yourself in while playing. Later on in the game you’ll most likely find yourself back in there eager to learn more, and this works great as the manual is directly accessible from the pause menu.
Everything from monitoring your character’s health to weapon modifications and infantry controls to tactical play are explained in this manual. Although it’s a fairly in-depth read it explains each topic as being sectioned off in groups so you don’t feel overpowered or tempted just ignore it. To give an idea of just how detailed the field manual is the health section alone covers eight different topics related to the player’s health and how different actions may effect it during the game. Fatigue, the possibility of drowning, weapon aiming, and even fall damage having a consequence on your vision are all covered and are described well.
Further into the field manual is the weapon section which splits itself up into three main headings with more than ten sub topics in each. Recoil, height position, and disarming of explosives are just a few out of many that you’re expected to learn. The benefits that you reap from taking in this information translates to how you think and act once you’re playing the game.
The reason why the field manual works so well and doesn’t feel like a mandatory burden that you might expect is down to the fact that it’s actually useful and is something that the player will want to use. Text based tutorials don’t lend themselves well to gamers anymore especially with the option to skip them altogether. The topics here that I’ve spoken off are not even a fraction of just how much information is inside the manual. Chances are you’ll be reading this more out of self-curiosity for military equipment and survival as much as you’ll be reading it for your own to benefit for surviving the game.
The challenge menu is also a wise place to visit as it doesn’t hold challenges per say, but rather a training mode to help you get to grips with just how this game plays out. The challenge mode presents you with series of firing Drills each aimed at teaching you about different gameplay situations you’re likely to find yourself in. Tactical movement and target scanning, room clearing and sprinting, learning how to engage enemies from cover and familiarize yourself with the leaning mechanics are just a taster of what the mode has to offer.
Each training mode is taught by an NPC instructor that navigates and speaks to you as you make your way through the course. While the dialogue and instructions given are clear and understandable, I would like to have seen more from this in terms of options and the amount of challenges available. What’s great about the challenge menu is that there’s no sense of a tutorial gimmick that most games introduce before they sending you out into the wild. Arma 3 feels like its teaching you rather than delivering a check list of rushed objectives. The more time I spent playing the game the more addictive I found the challenge modes to be.
While the fun factor in this is purely objective I found myself becoming a better player the more time I spent here, and in a game where skill and reflex are key I considered this highly important. Two things have to be said at this moment, I’m either highly addicted to this game and the fun factor is off the charts, or I’m taking this way too seriously and losing my grasp on the nature of reality. The whole time I spent playing this game the more I felt as if I were an actual soldier and the more the outside world began to fade away.
When a game is able to deliver positive player feedback in the sense of noticing your own skills improving rather than how many headshots you can achieve, then it’s clear that the game is doing its job. It’s experiences like this that remind you just what games are about, and in a game that’s more simulator than an actual game, you start to become more aware of just how bad or just how much other games are forgetting what a game is supposed to be about.
The possibility of this game being played with anything but a keyboard is completely a myth. The insane amount of animations and techniques required to play this game simply can’t be replicated on a gamepad. I found the controls overwhelming at times but this could be down to player adaptability, and the more time I’m likely to spend with this game in future the more I can see myself adapting and improving.
Moving on to the Showcases menu, this is a selection of missions each with a specific objective to complete that’s focused on a certain military scenario. For example I took part in a mission where I had to infiltrate an enemy territory at night. The game required that I create a distraction and take advantage of the equipment available before engaging the enemy in a full on assault. The sense of immersion is invigorating and packed full of adrenaline. The weight of responsibility that you feel when working alongside your other team mates reminds you to think before you act.
In another mission titled Combined Arms, I was introduced to the motorized infantry and the support of air based vehicles. During this mission I felt the learning curve for me had stepped up again as did that feeling of team work and choice. Each scenario brings a selection of different weapons, equipment and vehicles that provides a clear distinction between your training courses and the real fight that now lays ahead of you.
There are other forms of battle that don’t always require you to be directly within the fight. Commanding your squad from a distance and coordinating a strike on enemy locations are just as important as everything else that you’re required to do and this is dependent on your selected role.
The A.I. of your squad members is something that needs to be rewarded. The choices they make and the way in which they communicate with the player, has an immense life-like quality to it that other games would do well to take note from. The character’s dialogue go hand in hand with everything going on in the current situation, and whether you’re planning an attack from the distance or engaging enemies up close your squad will always have something to say.
It’s not unusual to spend time giving orders to your squad not to mention taking advice from them before you decide to enter combat. Squad members take note of the environment, alert of you enemies in the distance based on their exact location, and make you aware of your options to engage them.
As you are able to send commands to your squad members it’s possible to approach any scenario in just about any technique you can think of. The commands available are just as comprehensive and detailed as the rest of the game. The amount of commands at your disposal places a grip of responsibility over your head as you know that any mission faults or failure are a direct consequence of the choices and strategy that you decided to take. Ordering your squad to go prone, hold of at a given location, or even ambush from different environmental positions are just as fun as they are terrifying.
A smart sense of A.I. allows your squad members to differ somewhat in their personalities depending on what orders you give to them. A stealth mission during the night would result in them whispering and acting completely different than if you was to enable combat mode, which makes them more aggressive and full-on with their actions. The immersion and level of detail within the planning of a fire fight does a great job of helping you before you take the next step.
Highly detailed weapons with realistic physics and weight carry a direct effect on the characters animations and movements, and everything from the way character handles the weapon such as reloading and looking down the scope are all presented in a realistic manner. The bopping of a gun moving up and down as the player’s head tilts as he sprints across a field results in minor motion blur and rapid breathing. There’s an insane level of depth to this game in that you feel so wrapped up and caught within the game’s world that you start to feel that realistic burden of the physical feats and limitations of being human.
Your character is fully human here there’s no advanced military cloaking tech, no overpowered mech suits, and no relation to a scientific serum or potion that turns you superhuman. With so many characters in other games of the first person shooter genre claiming to be realistic and genuine, many seem to forget that people become fatigued, get short of breath, and taking more than four bullets and still being able to move at the same speed is simply not possible.
If you get shot in the leg, Arma 3 will let you know about it. Continuously running with a fading red border around the screen is not a step towards realism, moving across the ground as your vision becomes obscured until you can seek medical support is. This is why soldier classes and teamwork plays a huge role in how you play the game, everybody relies on each other and the A.I. the game delivers simply cannot be overlooked.
The amount of vehicles present in Arma 3 is only limited by actual reality. The game packs in an immense variety of vehicles all with different traits each geared towards different user cases. Whether it’s by land, sea, or air there’s always the right vehicle for the job. Helicopters, tanks, transport trucks, quad bikes, and even submarines are at your disposal with plenty more to take advantage of. The most interesting thing about the vehicles in the game is the PhysX implementation coupled by its ragdoll physics engine.
All the vehicles are bound by weight, speed, and movement and react accordingly to how they’re being driven and in the terrain that they’re driven in. It’s a no brainer that crashing the helicopter during your first flight is embarrassing but as you get better as a pilot it becomes more enjoyable for you as the player. For those looking to just hop in and take off I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere, because of the approach that Arma 3 takes to controlling a vehicle, it’s easy to see why some may be put-off by this unless they’re highly interested in simulation.
There’s no denying that satisfying feeling of accomplishment once you get to grips with a vehicle’s mechanics, especially those of the submarine. Each vehicle has been replicated to the point where the player’s driving skills and landscapes have a direct impact on the physics of the vehicles. Different vehicle scenarios such as flying and manoeuvring helicopters and how to drive tanks in different landscapes and situations are all a fun and rewarding experience.
Everything the game teaches you gives you a justified reason for why it’s teaching you it, and its up to the player if they wish to take it a step further and master something fully. Starting a vehicle’s engine and repairing it when damaged are all played out differently according to what vehicle it is that you’re using.
As only certain types of soldiers are actually able to repair the vehicles it’s best you drive safely and keep in contact with the rest of your squad.
Every vehicle utilizes real dashboard displays and features to deliver that authentic element. Speed meters, gears, radars, night vision, engine RPMs, fuel meters, and compasses are all present on the dashboard of its rightful vehicle. Each and every vehicle within a category feels distinct from one and another. Needless to say when I was driving a truck I knew I was driving a truck, and if I had been placed inside a similar vehicle I would have noticed the difference.
The online multi-player section of the game is fairly similar to its single player. While you are able to create and share your own experiences and scenarios, everything else was largely the same game. It doesn’t offer up much in terms of an extended experience as it moves at much slower pace than that of the single player. Some may say this is rooted in its simulator presentation but I expected it to move at a far quicker pace not to mention more enjoyable, as my A.I. team mates would now be replaced by actual players. Multi-player is a love or hate situation and that’s largely dependent upon how you feel about the single-player and other games that you may be used too. It’s certainly not for everyone but is still worth a go, it’s an acquired taste.
Arma 3 not only simulates a military experience in terms of weapon firing, training drills, and vehicle handling but also in its visual prowess. Arma 3 is without a doubt one of the best looking games I’ve seen in years, the attention to detail is staggering and the effort that’s been put into its level design is one not to overlook. It’s worth saying that in its basic terms the trees look like trees and soldiers look like soldiers.
The animation in the game is what compliments its rich visuals, and that’s noticeable in both the environments and the characters. The movements and footsteps that the other soldiers take go hand in hand with their highly detailed clothing and the attention to detail of their artillery. You can’t help but become distracted by the sheer amount of life within the game that it’s not long before you’re gunned down for admiring its beauty.
Arma 3 is a well optimized game and it ran completely solid and continuously smooth throughout my entire playthrough. Running on an Nvidia GTX 560ti I had a pleasant experience and was able to achieve very stable frame rates on forty to fifty frames per second on high to very high settings. The game offers five graphical presets from Low to Ultra with a custom user based option. I found no issues with the current settings I was playing the game at and the experience was an enjoyable one. Textures look crisp, resolution is highly scalable and the even the smallest of details have been payed attention to within the game’s design. Depending on the settings you choose to play the game at will greatly affect the objects and textures being rendered in the distance.
This game has an enormous draw distance and that’s purely because the environment itself is so large and so packed full of objects. Regardless of what setting you’re able to play the game at, it doesn’t suffer from random dips in frame rate, screen tearing or any random artifacts obscuring your screen, and best of all the game looks stunning. Everything within the environment to the design of the characters in the game has been polished to a T, and although there are minor glitches here and there of characters hanging in between walls it’s nothing to take away the experience, as you really have to be paying strict attention to notice these things.
All in all, Arma 3 does a terrific job of being distinctive and has an immersion factor that’s unmatchable by other games that fall into the genre of being a shooter. A must buy if you are into realistic simulation.
This game was reviewed on the PC.