E3 2011: ARMA III Preview
You gotta love Bohemia Interactive Studios. For one thing, they have that name because they’re actually from Bohemia, which was what people used to call the western half of the Czech Republic when it was still loosely affiliated with Germany, and before it was the place where you go when you want smoke cigarettes to combat the ennui caused by the student loans you incurred earning a degree in art history at a New England liberal arts college.
BIS is best known for its ARMA games, a series of sandbox combat simulators so realistic that they border on the obsessive-compulsive. New offering ARMA III is no different. The gameworld spans over 900 square kilometers of gorgeously rendered terrain. Every single building is enterable. The clouds are volumetrically rendered. The oceans, through which you will be able to scuba dive, are not only populated with fish, but also with plankton.
Reviews were mixed on ARMA II. Everyone agreed that the technology, potential, and attention to detail were unsurpassed, but players had a hard time finding the game underneath all the painstaking simulation. In ARMA III, the developers promise a beefed-up tutorial system and a refined UI, two improvements that will help flatten the learning curve and inject some fun into the fictional region of “Takistan.”
The BIS team’s mantra this time around was “play how you want to play,” and with that in mind they’re offering wargaming customers a truly dizzying array of options. In addition to infantry missions, players can command helicopters, APC’s, Tanks, Gunboats, James Bond-style scuba sleds, and many more vehicles not on offer in the E3 walkthrough. Vehicles have been enhanced with a number of realistic touches. Ground vehicles enjoy enhanced physics and localized damage — if you hit a tank in a tread, that tread will stop working; the phrase “mobility kill” was thrown around. When you launch rockets from your Comanche attack helicopter, you can see through the holes in the rocket launcher pod where the spent rocket used to live. As if this weren’t already enough, there is a full customization suite available, enabling players to tailor their gear, uniforms, and small arms to their exact needs.
As a player progresses through the game, he (sorry grammar nerds, but if you find me a girl who plays Arma III I will buy you the newest edition of Strunk & White) has the option of adding more soldiers and vehicles to his squad, so that by the end of the game, you’re playing the role of a colonel or a general, instead of a foot soldier. If you prefer to remain in the thick of it, however, BIS is committed to supporting what they call “Lone Wolf” gameplay.
Without a hands-on demo to test out the studios promises with regard to interface, ARMA III is a tough call. As a tech demo, a proof of concept, or just a stunning-looking bit of war porn, ARMA is hard to beat, even for mega-rich studios like EA DICE and Infinity Ward. As its predecessors proved, however, fancy-looking graphics and realistic design are not a surefire recipe for fun. The game’s uber-demanding system requirements, too, are likely to give some people pause. Still, the guys at BIS obviously love this stuff, and its always fun to see a master at his work. Especially when his work involves attack helicopters.