Slowly but surely improving the tactical sandbox experience

User Rating: 8 | Arma III PC

This will not be a full review because Arma III is not done yet. It seems a lot of the content that was supposed to be out on release date is not yet there. At the time of this review the single player campaign is 1/3rd of the way out. Not all guns and vehicles are there. Bugs and performance issues are rampant. Bipods do not work. This is strange because according to Bohemia Interactive Arma 3 was officially released...a while ago. But this is not abnormal, ladies and gentlemen, because those who have been following and buying the Arma games must by now definitely feel that they have been paying several times for the same game that has been in development since the beginning of the millennium, when it started with Operation Flashpoint 1. It is almost like the the developers have seen how much the players of Arma (and OFP) are willing to take so that that now they aren't even nervous about telling us that they will release Arma 3 in parts, whenever they are feeling comfortable with it.

That sucks but there are two things that keep us players quiet:

1. There is still no alternative. If you want a sandbox tactical shooter this is it. The closest you can get to this is the Project Reality mod for Battlefield 2. If you know of any alternatives, please send me a message.

2. There is enough improvement and new content in each new game to justify our interest, and Arma III is a good jump ahead.

For those who have not heard, Arma is a largely multiplayer centered experience where you are let loose on a large map with other players and/or AI bots and given a choice of different weapons and vehicles to achieve various objectives in the way you see fit and usually with no time limit. There is a good amount of freedom available. Half way through the mission you could steal an enemy vehicle and drive over the enemies if you so prefer.

Arma 3 takes place in the near future on two Greek-ish islands in the Mediterranean and there are no Kalashnikov rifles here anymore as we instead see a large amount of new weapons and vehicles brought to light, many of which are concepts based on their modern equivalents while others are simply recent modern guns that had their names replaced. This does take a step back from the realism, but generally the concepts are very believable, both in looks and behavior.

Even after the the release for the 1st campaign DLC, the story is not clear. Anyway, it is not important because it only exists to add several factions and therefore a variety of weapons and uniforms for players to choose from. So far, Brits, Americans and two different Greek-ish factions have made an appearance.

The graphics are a real step forward from the previous games. It is not just about the quality of the textures, but there are many nice touches like the visible refractions from the hot helicopter exhaust. Sound has also been greatly improved. Gunfire and AI voices are not as embarrasing as they were in Arma 2.

However, as usual, the performance is less then optimal. This reviewer bought a new PC at the beginning of this year (2013) and yet my machine often struggles to keep its head above 15 frames per second. Make sure you have a powerful enough machine to run this thing and hopefully it will be further optimized over the coming months.

In addition to the high system requirements there are also bugs...quite a few. This has always been a problem with Arma and perhaps has a thing or two to do with the complex sandbox nature of an Arma game. However, the bugs are not game-breaking unlike in some other games (I am looking at you Rome 2).

There is enough to do online. You can play against AI, against other players or join one of the rpg servers, which take advantage of the sandbox nature of this game and the publically available modding tools to create role playing games.

The single player experience depends heavily on the custom missions created by users, but you may have to dig through a lot of them to find what you like. As for the official campaign....uh...not so good I'm affraid. Arma continues to try to be Call of Duty in its single player campaigns, which clearly does not work. Why the makers could not just try to copy the dialogue and real engagement scenarios from the recent Iraqi war I do not know. It would have been in line with Arma's nature and would fit much better.