ARMA 3: First Impressions

Well ARMA 3 is out and you can check out our first organised tactical co-op mission here:

The Release

Let’s take a look at some of my first impressions of ARMA 3 now that it’s officially released and out of BETA. This was a ‘soft launch’ meaning that there was plenty of access to the content prior to the release and no ‘big reveal.’ While this doesn’t create as much hype it also is a safer way to release the software given ARMA’s history of long post release support and bugs in releases.

History: Why ARMA?

If you’ve wonder why ARMA is so popular with some people and probably also why it’s so unpopular with many mainstream gamers I’ll try to sum it up for you.

Back in 2001 I went off to the video game store and looked for a game buy, I was earning money for about the first time in my life and could actually afford to buy new games when they were released. I looked at the box of Operation FlashPoint (OFP) and thought cool, a serious looking ARMY game where you can do lots of stuff.

The guy at the cash register said something along the lines of ‘So you want to kill some people huh?’ That really struck me as a weird thing to say, did this guy take this time to speak out against video game violence and what it’s doing to young people? Or was this titles approach to video games fundamentally different to the host of other First Person Shooters?

The first thing I noticed about OFP was the scale, the campaign had you driving all over a country in what was basically a highly detailed (for the time) simulation world. The other things that really gripped me was the level of control you had over your character. For the first time I could actually bring up iron sights and aim properly. No more crosshair with a gun barrel poking up out of the bottom of the screen… This actually ruined many other First Person Shooters for me. I wanted to be able to walk around with my gun slung over my shoulder, I wanted to be able to lie prone and crawl through bushes and much more. Other games started to feel like a floating camera and a cross hair that lead you in a linear tunnel from beginning to end. OFP changed my expectations.

Multiplayer

FT

Okay so fast forward 12 years and OFP is now known as ARMA 0. ARMA 3 is out and we’ve playing it for the first time this week.

Right up front is multiplayer. I’ve played 100 to 1 more multiplayer than single player in ARMA 2. That’s different to the original outing, Operation Flashpoint (2001), where I only played single player. Multiplayer is where the ARMA action is. Similar to other multiplayer games the interactions with other players are hugely important and engaging.

The first thing I’ll note is that ARMA relies on community content. You won’t get a wrapped up and locked into infinitely repeating games like in Call Of Duty or Battlefield XYZ. Here in ARMA the game is moddable, the missions are dynamic and the gameplay heavily revolves around working together and communicating.

If you get on a server or even just a team of players that are working together and communicating, helping each other and playing well the shear immersion, scale and challenge of ARMA shines.

Conversely, if you join a server containing nothing but trolls, hackers and solo artists then you’ll probably think getting ARMA was a huge waste of money (but persevere)

Many features remain in ARMA 3 that were in 2. This is both good and also an opportunity lost to improve things. Firstly the in game voice comms has many channels but isn’t great at simulating radios or even sounding very good. We’ve always used TeamSpeak in preference. You mileage may vary.

I’ve noticed vehicles instantly bursting into frames when people have jumped into them, also desync, or lag has been bad at times. The problem at this stage can’t be pinned on the game directly but could also be poorly converted missions or overly popular servers struggling to keep up. Here’s a short list of other strange happenings:

  1. Physics based animations looking decidedly strange at times
  2. Engine sounds sometimes missing
  3. Helicopters don’t like pulling out of a dives as you might expect
  4. AI might be too <insert adjective> for your tastes
  5. Vehicles use PhysX and therefore traffic accidents may occur

In essence the ARMA 3 online experience is fantastic though and set to only improve as more mods become available and patches are released.

Infantry

CQB

Firstly, it’s futuristic, set 20ish years in the future you’ll see some fancy technology that isn’t out of this world but modern to near future sci fi…

Stance

In terms of fidelity I’ve always thought the focus has been on the infantry, this is enhanced in ARMA 3 with some fancy adjustments to the controls available. You can now adjust your stance up and down and take a step out left and right. This stance adjust system makes using cover and moving low seem so realistic it’s hard to fault it.

Optical

Gameplay is also enhanced with the addition of 3D scopes. Not everyone will agree with them but I like them. The red dots are now collimated properly so it’s like a projection in front of the weapon (no seeing the red dot painted on the lens).

Some elements like being able to adjust the night vision would be nice but that should come with mods in time.

Armour

I’ve not had extensive gameplay in vehicles but from what I’ve seen, most often as a passenger, is that the level of modelling and detail on the vehicles is very high. The same concept is generally the same, cars have detailed interior while tanks have a detailed passenger compartment but 2D driver / gunner views. The biggest disappointments come with the lack of commander positions and the limit to the number of units in ARMA 3. The focus here is squarely on quality over quantity. There just isn’t as many vehicles in ARMA 3 as there were in ARMA 2.

Air

Helo

Flying is a fairly easy thing to do in ARMA 3. ARMA isn’t pretending to be a flight sim but allowing you to take part in some compelling combined arms warfare. The biggest plus here is that the new picture in picture technology gives you in cockpit views that are very nice. With a simple approach taken to flying the focus shifts to tactics, not monitoring exhaust gas temperatures and worrying about vortex rings states. Unfortunately the ‘press tab to lock a target’ still seems a little simplistic though.

The addition of volumetric smoke and clouds and the new lighting tech really shines in the sky, particularly flying at rooftop level in the detailed world of ARMA 3.

The Engine

Smoke

The Real Virtuosity Engine has been developed steadily since OFP started development in the late 1990’s. In ARMA 3 we see some fantastic new lighting technology as well as the addition of PhysX to handle vehicles and ragdolls. These are pretty significant gains and to be honest if they’d added this to ARMA 2 with a clean up of the units there it would have been worth the price alone.

Volumetric smoke and cloud also led to the addition of new fog technology in the lead up to release. This is the most convincing fog I’ve seen in a sim world and since you can script it to slowly roll in or dissipate you can create challenges for players who need to use it as concealment.

Inventory

The user interface has also been freshened up with a paperdoll dress up game, the ability to change your uniform for the first time, drag and drop management and more. But note that the scroll menu selection is still there and the 1- 9 command menu is still the same. You can still accidentally middle click to eject without a parachute if you wish. Sorry about that…

One last thing, ARMA 2 assets will be available for modders to migrate into ARMA 3. This is a huge win for people not motivated by the ARMA 3 futuristic stuff. Good things shall come.



Categories: ARMA 3

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