Arma 3 Review-in-Progress: Launch Version First Impressions
One of the most popular mods so far, and rightfully so, is the Dynamic Universal War System. Simply put, it’s a full dynamic campaign generator. Supporting any official or unofficial landmass, you’re spawned into a small allied base with a few patrolling soldiers, and asked to set the rules and scale of the conflict. After deciding how many enemy-held zones there are, the initial troop density of both factions and some other variables, it thrashes your CPU to within an inch of its life. The result is worth it, as out the other end pops a unique AI-controlled war.
Acting as an independent squad-leader you’re given the freedom to pick and choose your own goals, assemble your own team and even take control of large operations if the mood so takes you. You can either join NPC units in capturing and defending the various control points scattered around the map, or undertake more personalized missions. They even go to the effort of generating silly operation names, reminiscent of Firaxis’ XCom remake. A personal favourite was ‘Operation Raging Rage’ – a stealth operation, believe it or not.
The DUWS module still has a few issues, most notably with how allied helicopters behave. It’s not unusual for your evac chopper to take off and fly away at full speed when you’re twenty feet from getting in, only to hover directly over the largest mass of enemy infantry it can find. It’s not entirely clear how much of the fault is rooted in the base AI of the game or the mod, but if it’s the latter, then improvements will likely come in time. Handily, Workshop content automatically updates too.
These are just a couple of singleplayer scenarios. Multiplayer is where the really strange stuff is at, starting with the remarkably popular Altis Life. More than anything, it reminds me of the kind of janky GTA: San Andreas roleplaying servers that were cobbled together by fans, repurposing the enormous open environment for large-scale (most servers seem to have 60+ players) multiplayer antics. It’s wobbly and clearly built on top of a game that was never intended to support silly cops n’ robbers shenanigans, but fun if you can hit a server running with a few friends.
On a more structured note, another successful sandbox mod for online play is Wasteland. Effectively a persistent sandbox take on Arma, requiring you to manage supplies and build camps between skirmishes with NPC forces and other players. In short, it’s pretty close to the concept of Day Z, only with soldiers instead of zombies. And far fewer glitches due to the game engine never having been intended to handle swarming melee enemies. Definitely worth a look if you want something beyond standard missions.
One of the perks of the mission system that Arma 3 uses is that joining a multiplayer server will automatically download the scenario file being used. So long as the server isn’t running any heavy custom content such as new weapons or vehicles, you can just jump into any server and play straight away. Scenarios come in all shapes and sizes, from short cooperative runs to sprawling pseudo-MMO scenarios like Wasteland. You can find something new and interesting each day just by server-hopping, if you’re so inclined.
We’ve not even looked at the swarm of ‘serious’ multiplayer servers inhabited by dedicated military sim clans, adding a further interesting facet to the game. Virtual chains of command being established via voice-chat and rules of engagement strenuously followed, it’s a world away from the anarchic, ramshackle fun of a scenario like Altis Life, but is supported by the exact same game. Such servers tend to be members-only affairs, but the clans are always eager for new recruits.
This is just the tip of the iceberg at the moment, and the community is churning out new content on a daily basis. Things will likely expand further as Bohemia release new official content – weapons, vehicles, etc – and mod production will likely accelerate further as more content from the previous games is ported over by fans. Arma 3 is a powerful toolbox, and if you’re willing to interact with the community and see what they’ve made, then it might well be worth the asking price.
If you’re planning on just playing the game as-is, you might want to hold off a while longer. With content still in active development and the usual assortment of performance and AI issues that every release in the series has been plagued with at launch, it’s difficult to recommend Arma 3 unless you know you’re specifically in the market for an online-focused infantry sim. While it was a much easier gamble to make when the game was highly discounted during Alpha testing, it’s a tough call now at the full RRP.
It cannot be denied that Arma 3 is a game that has found its niche, and even managed to carve out several new ones. The game will undoubtedly improve and expand in time, as every Arma title has, but whether what’s available now is worth $60 and your time is up to you.
- Peerless, detailed infantry combat simulation
- Gorgeous, huge environment
- Hugely moddable and flexible
- Mountains of user-generated content already available
- Easy to make simple missions for yourself and share them
- AI can be very impressive at times, especially in custom missions
- Occasionally glitchy
- AI can sometimes be very dumb or superhumanly accurate
- Long learning curve compounded by complex controls
- Very limited official content in the release version
Final Score: N/A
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