An In-Depth Look at ArmA 3 @ E3 2012

An In-Depth Look at ArmA 3 @ E3 2012

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 11th Jul 2012

ArmA 3

In the rather large community of open world tactical shooters Bohemia Interactive's ArmA 3 stands out for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it belongs to that rare school that places the realistic military action in a not-so-distant future, and it embraces the concept of ultra-modern weaponry in the form of an arsenal that includes

The game takes place in near future during Operation Magnitude, an military action that is launched by NATO forces who are doing battle with "Eastern armies" in Europe -- well, specifically in Greece but hey, Greece is still part of Europe even if it has more than its fair share of sunny beaches and Tiki bars that distribute boat drinks...

When we approached the unassuming booth at E3 we did so already familiar with ArmA 2 so we had an idea of what we were expecting to see -- and what we were anticipating -- but what we ended up experiencing in the hand's-on demo went way beyond what we were expecting to the point that we found ourselves slightly amazed and very stoked. Right, so now you know that we were impressed, so we should probably get around to telling you why, right?

The Campaign
The first point we sort of have to make is that NATO is not very good at picking its battles... You only have to mention spots on the globe like Korea, Kosovo, or its optimistic entry into Afghanistan where the plan was to provide "security" in several provinces so that U.S.-led coalition troops could focus on operations elsewhere in the country... We all know how that worked out, and as for Kosovo and Korea... Well... So true to form NATO now finds itself deployed in the Greek islands of Limnos and Stratis in the Aegean Sea in the mid-2030's trying to hold off a massive Iranian military offensive from the east.

The Pre-E3 Demo Video released in preparation for E3 2012 reveals a number of elements that were not actually part of the hand's on demo that we saw at E3 save for the underwater vehicle bit (which is pretty brief in the video and does not do it full justice) but it does provide a fair and accurate depiction of the different vehicle types, strategic weapons, and the impressive optics.

The single-player campaign largely consists of play as the protagonist -- in this case a British Special Forces Operative named Captain Scott Miller -- who finds himself well behind enemy lines after the NATO forces have pulled out or been defeated, with Operation Magnitude having gone all pear-shaped. Being behind enemy lines like he is, Captain Miller sets out to undertake a variety of mission types, from ninja infiltrations to massive armor attacks, with a number of player-selectable objectives largely shaping game play.

Between the two main islands there are over 45 villages, most of which can be visited and all of which contain a very destructible environment, and these areas factor high as the focus for most of the missions. When we sat down for the demo however, that was not the part of the game that they most wanted to show us -- in fact the bit that we got to see is probably more impressive than the bulk of the missions since we got to start with an underwater approach, using an underwater vehicle, and special underwater weapons, and how cool is that?!

Actually when you consider the very high-quality and realistic game world (including the underwater bits) it is pretty cool indeed!

The Hand's-On Demo
The first stand out feature is the physics of the PhysX3 game engine, which fully applies to vehicle handling, ragdoll effects, and the underwater environments -- whose focus is split between the vehicles, diving, and some very cool weapons that are, for the most part, based upon real weapon tech. The lighting engine and the strategic use of shadows helps to reinforce the idea that this is real, and serves to speed up the process if immersion, helped along by the glimpse of a helicopter flying overhead through the distortion of the water on a very sunny day.

A developer-hosted tour of the weapon and combat features of ArmA 3 at E3 2012 -- bear in mind that the version of the game that was demo'd at E3 is an Alpha Build that was prepared specifically for E3 in order to showcase some of the more impressive features in the campaign -- not the helicopter combat featured in this video and pay special note of the underwater environment which was the bit we demo'd.

Compared to ArmA 2 -- which was not a sucky game by any stretch of the imagination -- ArmA 3 feels like a different world and a different story -- but hey, it is! Having said that though the basic feel is similar enough so that you know you are playing the direct sequel (assuming you played the previous game or the Operation Flashpoint games that it was the sequel to) so it is all good!

If you watch the middle-section of the video embedded above you could have been sitting behind us looking over our shoulder as we demo'd the underwater section, which in addition to the diver vehicle features a purpose-engineered underwater SMG with special ammo that allows for effective underwater combat at ranges out to fifty-yards. Target beyond fifty-yards were hard to hit and when hit, seemed not to take full damage -- not that we are complaining mind you, after all just being able to hang around in the crystal clear beautiful water of the Aegean Sea where we saw strange Iranian divers -- and killed them!

After the underwater bit we had a brief traditional grunt's tour on one of the island in which we got to sample a few of the weapons -- and we can happily report that in keeping with the tradition of the series considerable care was taken to keep the weapons as close to the real thing in their performance, look, and feel as the developers could manage. You will not be performing miracle shots on a consistent basis to be sure, but that also means that neither will the enemy, so you will not have to worry about an Iranian popping up on a hilltop two-hundred-yards away and snapping a single shot from the hip from their AK that kills you... Cool that.

The one area of the demo that we felt we did not get enough of was the helicopter combat, but to be honest we could have spent an hour flying and shooting the choppers and we still would not have experienced enough to please us :) During the presentation phase before we actually got our hands on the game our host told us about the different special features -- including a high-exit-low-opening parachute drop, the different air and land vehicles, many of which feature mounted weapons, and the wide variety of weapons in the ArmA 3 arsenal, which included about what you would expect being culled from the modern military armories of the world.

ArmA 3 is set for a 4th Quarter 2012 release date -- or so they tell us -- with significant strides in development planned by Bohemia Interactive that leaves them very confident that they will be able to host a community beta well before the holidays. Whether that ends up being true or not, even if ArmA 3 misses its release date and comes in during the 1st Quarter of 2013 it will still be very high on our list of desired plays, and well worth the wait -- not that we are implying it will miss its target date mind you, we are just saying that as long as it ends up being released, when that happens is a trivial matter, as this is a game that you will not only insist on having as part of your PC game rotation, but one that you are not likely to grow tired of any time soon when it is!