E3 2011: ARMA III preview – bigger and more realistic than before

In many ways, this E3 was a show about the little guys. For every massive game like Skyrim or Rage, there was an awesome smaller game that somehow managed to grab our attention away from the megaton titles. At a show in which shooters are going to be matched against none other than Bioshock Infinite, Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 (not to mention Halo), it is no small achievement for any game to steal even a small amount of attention. That’s why it’s so amazing ARMA III, which comes from a small developer from the Czech Republic, actually walked away as one of the most exciting games of the show.

The previous games in the ARMA series have gained something of a cult following over the years. They don’t enjoy massive fan bases, but their fans are rabid and their modding community is extremely active. Over the years, ARMA has built itself up, and this could be the installment that finally launches the series into the limelight. In an age of Jerry Bruckheimer war games, ARMA increasingly has the war simulation genre all to itself. While Battlefield 3 is tossing absurd city-rending earthquakes in the middle of its battles, ARMA is honing its craft and tightening up its realism.

The core of the series has always been its multifaceted nature. While most war games focus on one very specific action (e.g. shooting a rifle, flying a plane, sniping) ARMA expands and enables you to do any of those things when you want. The theater of war is huge, spanning multiple square miles of island space, and you can use practically anything to get the job done. One mission could have you gunning down enemies in a helicopter while the next will have you stalking through the tall grass with a sniper rifle.

The issue for Bohemia Interactive (ARMA’s developer) is where to go from ARMA II. The game is so beloved by fans that it’s hard to go up from there. The answer, it seems is to one-up everything. In most games that would mean bigger-badder-explosions-and-stuff, but in ARMA it means tightening up the core gameplay and providing more content for users to experience.

The AI will be enhanced; the ragdoll physics is getting an overhaul; the island that the game takes place on is even bigger than before. It’s sort of a cliche, but this game ain’t broke, and Bohemia doesn’t seem to be trying to fix it. The big new addition to the game is underwater gameplay. Players will be able to swim wherever they please, and they’ll even have access to underwater vehicles like one-man underwater scooters so they can fight at sea.

The most impressive aspect of the game still takes place in the air though. The skies and even the clouds look gorgeous. From up in the sky the entire island looks amazing, and Bohemia is aiming for a huge 6-kilometer draw distance.

There seems to be no end to ARMA’s ambition. The game is said to only be 20% finished (it’s scheduled for summer 2012 release), but it’s already looking fairly good. If you’re tired of the brain-dead explosion fests that Call of Duty and Battlefield have become, then you might want to keep ARMA III on your radar or check out ARMA II. Clearly this is the antidote for modern shooter malaise.

Jun 14, 2011

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