Arma 3 Review-in-Progress: Launch Version First Impressions

Sometimes, a game defies review through sheer creativity, originality or downright strange avant-garde design, confounding any attempt to assign it a numerical score. Bohemia Interactive’s military sim sandbox Arma 3 is not one of those games. It does, however, pose its own set of problems that render it difficult to critique in full. Specifically that it’s still incomplete, and the developers have clearly indicated as much.

Despite shrugging off the mantles of Alpha and Beta testing during an extended stint in Steam’s Early Access section, the ‘final’ released version of Arma 3 is anything but, with the entire singleplayer campaign and an assortment of vehicles and weapons still absent. Bohemia have promised that this content will be coming as free episodic updates over the coming months (the first set coming in October), but it seems unfair to assign a final score to something so visibly unfinished. So we won’t, at least not yet.

What we can do in the interim is take a look at exactly what the game offers here and now, and examine the reasons why a rushed, incomplete release is already maintaining a very healthy player-base on Steam, sharing about the same level of online player activity as the impressively successful Payday 2. And no, ‘zombies’ isn’t the answer, especially with the enormously popular Arma 2 mod Day Z being branched off as its own standalone game.

Arma 3
Platform: PC (Reviewed)
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive
Release Date: Sep. 12, 2013
MSRP: $59.99

It should really be said up front that Arma 3 (or any of the series, for that matter) is not what you’re looking for if you want a traditional military shooter. While this latest iteration is the most user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing to date, you can’t get away from the fact that the Arma games are serious, hardcore military simulators. There’s even an official military-spec version known as Virtual Battlespace, which clocks in at over $3000 for a single basic license. This is heavy stuff, and will feel stiff and awkward to anyone used to twitch shooter gameplay.

More than anything, the Arma series are infantry simulators. While vehicles are supported, they’re not quite as precisely modeled as some would like – while you can fly planes and helicopters, they’re going to handle a little closer to, say, Battlefield, than an actual flight sim. That infantry simulation, however, is all-encompassing, tracking everything from endurance to blood loss, and allowing you to adjust your character’s stance via a dedicated key, letting you raise, lower or slant your posture to exactly fit around whatever you want to use as cover.

You’ll be wanting to use cover a lot, because infantry warfare is very deadly. Even the best body armor provides weak protection at best, and both you and your enemy are likely equipped with rifles consistently accurate to several hundred meters. Sniper weaponry or tank armaments can often hit a target at a kilometer or beyond, and unless you’re shooting at something big – like another tank – that’ll probably appear as little more than a vague dusting of pixels in the distance. Arma is not an experience for the poor of eyesight, cheap of monitor or short of patience.

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2 Comments on Arma 3 Review-in-Progress: Launch Version First Impressions

rickshaw

On September 21, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I love the whole Idea of Arma 3 and am a player, I think this sort of review which is honest and not too many holds barred is needed with games like GTAv, as most reviews are one sided and do not reflect the problems inside or the repetitiveness, whether these other reviewers have a fear not to backlash who knows, but I’m yet to read a honest review on the game, maybe its because most reviewers are first timers or held by promises. but this is a great review well done. :)

Dominic Tarason

On September 21, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Just wanted to add that I’ve been playing the series since the original Operation Flashpoint, and have enjoyed them all, warts and all. This series does have some rather hairy warts, but no other studio has even come close to matching the sheer scale and depth of infantry simulation that’s on offer here.

The best thing is the flexibility of it all. You can play it as a hyper-realistic simulation if you so please, but there’s plenty of more casual missions, mods and playmodes that’ll let you tweak and bend the experience to something more fitting to you. It’s a sandbox and a powerful toolbox. Just not much of a game in of itself right now.

We’ll be revisiting the game and looking at the first campaign episode in October, and probably assigning a score then.