Here at zGamer, we were lucky enough to have been given the chance by Bohemia Interactive to play the Alpha Lite version of their newest pre-release – Arma III, the tactical military first person shooter that takes ‘reality’ to a whole new level. The Alpha Lite version is missing two things – the ability to play online multiplayer, and the ability to mod the game. These are the two things which really bring character to any game, and is most true of the Arma series, but as a simple play test they weren’t needed, and we had quite good fun without them.
The Arma III Alpha Lite offers us four single player “showcases” : the Infantry showcase, the Scuba showcase, the Vehicles showcase and the Helicopter showcase. Each of these focuses on a different aspect of game play, and they are each very entertaining snippets of the alpha game that we’ve been handed.
But this doesn’t feel like an alpha test.
So far, the Arma III Alpha feels like a polished product, and it’s certainly more polished than many of the recent releases we’ve had to suffer through. Everything it does so far it does well and without issue. In around 3-4 hours straight game time, I’ve encountered few glitches technically and fewer graphically. The game looks, runs and feels beautiful.
I’m surprised at the level of quality Bohemia Interactive have managed to attain on an alpha test, and playing through the different scenarios thus far has been a rewarding experience. Whilst the game won’t win any awards graphically (as I’m sure has been said of every Arma game since the series’ conception), the game sticks true to it’s name: it’s one hell of a tactical military shooter, and gets as close to virtual realism as I guess we’re likely to get for years to come. The guns feel weighty, they pack a punch and that punch is fatal. Bullet travel, character movement, and combat all play out superbly under Arma III’s Virtual Reality 4 engine – a massive improvement in every way from Arma II’s engine.
Even the sounds of Arma III are a vast improvement to it’s predecessors. Gone are the hilariously voice acted teammates of Arma II and the game’s iffy environmental sounds. Arma III’s Stratis feels alive. Bullets sound superb, and whilst teammates voices can still be hit and miss, they are an improvement over previous game’s attempts and often sound good.
Despite Arma’s traditional graphical hinges, I do not believe for a second this should impact anyone’s overall opinions of the game – the graphics do what they have to do, and sometimes they can even be beautiful. It is not an ugly game, but it’s not claiming to be the hottest girl at the bar. Trees, bushes, and flora still retain their paper-craft lattices, but Arma III’s textures and lighting effects are superb, and the Virtual Reality 4 engine’s ability to do this across the entire Island is magnificent.
Because of this, the Arma III Alpha has shown us that the game can be quite taxing on any system. I am running it on a system with 8gb of RAM, a 3.2ghz AMD processor, and an Nvidia 660Ti on 1920×1080, and the game runs relatively well on these settings, averaging around 29fps. But performance can drop dramatically when small changes are made to the game’s vast array of graphical settings. Leave them as they are however, and the game is a technically and graphically rewarding experience.
Purely from a game-play perspective, Arma III takes what Arma II did well and does it better. The enemy AI are tactically superb (especially when their difficulty is cranked up to Expert) and offer a distinct, yet terrifying challenge which many other games fail to capture. The only thing preventing me from pushing their difficulty slider higher is fear.
The Scenarios all provide interesting challenges as well. From clearing a village of hostile forces, to deactivating sea mines as a scuba diver and shooting down a helicopter, all the way through to highjacking an enemy vehicle and sabotaging their depots. Even merely as Alpha snippets of the final product, they were very well chosen and highlight hugely interesting gameplay features.
Unfortunately, vehicular combat and flight in Arma still remain an issue for both new players, and players returning from a hiatus. Helicopter combat in particular seemed downright dangerous, and qualified in my mind that I should never, ever, be behind the flight controls of any kind of flying machine. Whilst still a step up from Arma II, the controls are still difficult to learn and even harder to master – but it isn’t impossible, and when attempted, can offer some fun and interesting effects on gameplay.
That is ultimately where Arma III’s largest flaw lays – in the steepness of it’s learning curve. It is a tactical military sim more than it is a first person shooter, and any mistake you can expect to have punished fiercely. But regardless of this, the game remains bundles of fun – and even in it’s single player modes offers some incredible gameplay moments that any player will be sure not to forget.
Whilst the game may struggle to attract new fans based on it’s steep difficulty, I don’t mind. I do not want this game dumbed down in any way – it is brilliant where it is. It doesn’t need to appeal to a larger market, because it controls it’s own section of the market entirely. No other game does what Arma III does, as well as Arma III does.
And even better yet – this is only the Alpha, a taste of what is to come. Here at zGamer, the future of the Arma series seems bright – and in entirely safe hands with Arma III.