The term “First Person Shooter” doesn’t truly sum up the Arma franchise. The Arma games are military sims that favor hyper-realism for players who want more than the “One man army” experience of most other shooters. As in real war, there are no regenerating shields, guns aren’t magic wands that send bullets unerringly towards their target, communication between teams is vital, and missions can be easily failed by misinterpreting orders. Then there are the helicopters… flying a helicopter in the Arma games takes almost as much practice and training as flying the real thing! Yet, despite the merciless learning curve, the series has amassed a loyal following of hardcore fans over the last two games, and now the developers at Bohemia Interactive have a new installment where players can spend hours learning how to expertly crash helicopters.
Arma 3 isn’t out yet, but there is a commercial Alpha that players can join right now. There is a “Lite” build that lets them play a handful of single-player missions, and participate in multiplayer too. However they can only get the free version if they are friends with someone who bought commercial Alpha build.
Although it’s a very popular multiplayer series, Arma 3 will also offer a single-player campaign where players will engage in military operations like in the previous games. The alpha build includes a handful of single-player missions that show off some of the new features that will be available in the final release. These include underwater missions where players will be equipped with a rebreather and with weapons for underwater combat. The brief mission in the alpha has players disarming mines in the ocean, then infiltrating a beachfront base. The mission doesn’t have spectacular aquatic adventures, but it does give a taste at the potential for this new mechanic.
There are also vehicular missions available, one has players infiltrating an enemy base to steal a powerful armored vehicle and rampage around the free-roaming map. Players can also carjack random drivers too and tour the countryside in civilian vehicles too. Another mission provides opportunity for the crushing humiliation of helicopter missions.
Arma II was often criticized for spotty AI, but sometimes the AI could be too good. This applies to Arma 3, and players who don’t act aggressively will sometimes find that their AI squadmates manage to neutralize all of the bad guys without the Player needing to do anything at all. In other missions the bad guys seem to have a spider sense that alerts them to the Player’s presence no matter how sneaky the Player is. The stealth mechanics still need a lot of work, but it’s very encouraging to see such capable AI characters.
Arma 3 has next-gen system requirements. A PC that is barely capable of running Arma II will be able to handle Arma 3, but not on the higher graphical settings. This is because the games are designed for free-roaming play over a huge area, so it takes a powerful system to enjoy Arma 3 to the fullest.
Arma II was propelled into unexpected success when a player-made mod called Day Z appeared last year. It reimagined the vast Russian war zone of Arma II as a zombie-infested wasteland. The modteam that created it is bringing Day Z to the market as a stand-alone game, but it should come as no surprise that Arma 3 already has a similar post-apocalyptic sandbox mode – hereafter called a “Sandbocalypse”.
This sandbocalypse is called “Wasteland” and it’s a lot like Day Z without the zombies. Players drop into a ruined hellscape, and then fend for themselves in world gone mad, fighting over limited supplies in an every man for himself setting. Wasteland is just one of the many missions available, and it’s great to see such fan support in the Alpha stage of development.
Arma 3 has a legion of loyal fans, so there’s no shortage of people to play with in multiplayer, even though it’s still in alpha. Players who haven’t tried the series yet might want to consider grabbing one of the cheaper Arma II bundles that can be found on digital distributors. These will help newbies learn the ropes before leaping into this terrifying world ultra realism. Those who have tried and enjoyed the series will find the Arma 3 Alpha surprisingly robust for an alpha.