E3 2011: ARMA III Preview Impressions

In ARMA III, the sprawling military sim series heads to the Mediterranean.

One of the best shooting games of E3 2011 is not one you would see at a big press conference. Instead, ARMA III was tucked away in Bohemia Interactive's South Hall booth, where it remained unseen by the crowds wowed by the hype of Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. Those are fine games, to be sure, but as PC gamers know, the ARMA series is something special. The games aren't first-person shooters as much as they are military simulators, and ARMA III looks to expand upon what made the first ARMA games so beloved. Major engine improvements, a 3D mission editor, and plenty more features are in store for this sequel, which will give you an extraordinary amount of flexibility in how to accomplish your goals.

Bohemia's Ivan Buchta walked us through many of ARMA III's features as he showed off the game. The demo began with a paratrooper in free fall, which allowed Buchta to talk about the game's look and scope. ARMA III takes place on the Greek island of Limnos and encompasses 900 square kilometers of area in total. The island is painstakingly re-created to the last detail using actual geodata for its terrain and countless photographs. And indeed, one of the most striking aspects of the demo was how photo-realistic the game looked. Many developers tout photo-realism, but ARMA III doesn't resort to tricks like motion blur and lens flare to pretty things up. Buildings, pavement, and grass in this game look like they do in real life. The effect, in the air looking down onto the island, and on the ground itself, was remarkable.

Like its predecessors, ARMA III is focused on infantry combat. Improvements to the sequel include a better inventory system, as well as more equipment customization. Weapons can be modified with all sorts of different sights, markers, flashlights, suppressors, and so on. Buchta showed off several weapons by sniping some far-off soldiers and then hitting a nearby group of them with a grenade launcher. He then moved on to discuss vehicles. Physics and collision detection are being reworked to be even more authentic, and to prove his point, Buchta drove around in a camouflaged tank, ramming into barrels and other vehicles. The vehicles will be re-created down to the last detail, including fully working rear-view mirrors.

The infantry part of the demo showed off an industrial environment, but the island includes terrains of all types: desert, forest, farmland, mountains, and so on. To show off the diversity, Buchta hopped into a helicopter and showed off the stunning landscape and volumetric clouds, as well as the chopper's authentic-looking inside view. If you worry that such vistas will bring your computer to its knees, take note that Bohemia wants the game to run as smoothly as possible, while still aiming at a 6-kilometer draw distance. In ARMA III, you won't just stick to land and air, however: you will also be able to don a wetsuit and swim underwater, as well as man a fighting vessel and battle at sea. Buchta showed off the underwater scenery, which was amazing to behold. You can explore the sea bottom and admire the fish that swim by, or use a one-man underwater transport to quickly make your way to other portions of the island.

ARMA III will let enthusiasts modify the game as they wish using included 3D mod tools, but it will also ship with an extensive campaign and multiplayer options. Buchta showed off a battle in progress, the sky lighting up with artillery fire, while he snuck forward in the underbrush, surrounded by tanks ready to take on whatever challenges were ahead. Smoke rose in the distance, and the din of gunfire filled our ears. To give battles context, ARMA III will include a strong near-future story campaign, with multiple endings. You can play as a lone wolf, or as a commander type, or somewhere in between: the game lets you play your way, whatever that might mean to you. Assault, hide, collect, destroy, support, climb--do whatever you want. You can even kill civilians, though there are major consequences to such actions. You can still finish the campaign, but you may not be able to do so with the support of the locals in such a scenario.

Like past ARMA games, ARMA III looks to be insanely ambitious. It covers a huge amount of territory and gives you countless ways to take down your foes. That it looks so real is just one of its many wonders, so whether you've played an ARMA game before or have never even heard of the series, this is one sprawling thrill ride you should be looking forward to. ARMA III is due for release in the fall of 2012.

Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

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28 comments
ShadowRun02
ShadowRun02

i just hope they get some better friendly and enemy AI in the campaign, and clean it from all the bugs seen in most ArmA games (im not a huge multiplayer fan so i really wan't the campaign to be special...)

Meat_Bag
Meat_Bag

As a faithful Operation Flashpoint fan and veteran, I am NOT impressed. All he talked about was the graphics, and how huge the environments are supposed to be. Yes, the game is huge. So what? Farcry was also huge. Skyrim is also huge. Operation Flashpoint was even more huge. But what about AI? What about a squad command system? How smoothly will it run on hardware that does NOT fall into "supercomputer" category? They haven't adressed a single problem that plagued the ArmA series since it's beginning. And until I see one shred of proof that some of it's biggest flaws will finally be corrected in ArmA 3, I'm calling B.S.

Uberfinn
Uberfinn

@jasonzilla11 Unfortunately, ArmA not only has a steep learning curve in the gameplay, but with the editors and everything else. It would be better if they had more tutorials and simplified the basic parts of the game like the editor so people could create things easier. That way, we'd have a lot of free user missions to download and we aren't limited by having to learn the thing as much. It hurts the creativity because it just means less people make good stuff. The game is really worth the effort to learn it though.

jasonzilla11
jasonzilla11

I found the map creation and creating servers and stuff, and overall, playing Arma II, was difficult and confusing, and that's why I absolutly hated the game. Hopefully, it will be much more simple in III.

Taffelost
Taffelost

The UI always needs some work in an ARMA game, plus I always find the command system extremely arcaic, clunky and uncooperative. At release it's also very unoptimized and usually has a lot of bugs. With that said Bohemia Interactive is about the only dev still out there making realistic FPS. That makes them top people in my books. I just hope they would polish their products a bit more before release. This is the people that made one of gaming history's best tactical shooters, the originial Operation Flashpoint series. That is before Codemasters ruined it and made the serie into a scripted and brainless console shooter franchise. I wish BI all good and they deserve to profit from their labour.

lsw3638
lsw3638

If this game has some unified MP version to play like GRAW2 MP or BFBC2, it would be second to none :D

hystavito
hystavito

I love that they are keeping this alive and in the spirit of it's past. I wonder if all the ARMA games are or will still be built on top of the military simulator engine, VBS I think it's called. That may be the reason they are able to keep this going without having to sell out so to speak, since that engine will continue to be worked on for the military they can simply build the game on it without as much need for massive sales to fuel development costs. All speculation, I haven't done research, just thinking out loud :).

watchawant
watchawant

I didn't even know they were working on another. ARMA II was like an Earth Simulator, and you played a soldier. Everything was how it is in real life, down to the friction on your tank treads.

Superman1938
Superman1938

Damn, I've stayed away from the ARMA series....until now!

rgray34
rgray34

I'm so excited for this game to come out been playing it since flashpoint series and into arma series. There was talk on Bohemia forums that they were going a different direction boy was i sad. But i wrote them a email and begged them to make arma 3 and they just did that told them BF3 is coming and told them they can do better. Me and my friends play operation arrowhead everyday and enjoy playing team base play and cti. Armoholics website always has new islands,weapons,sounds IE ace mod etc which will make you duck behind your chair lol ...and campaigns single or multilayer. If you never played this game before or have your missing out yes it takes time to understand the style of play but when you do you'll enjoy every minute. arma2 pro server if you like to play and learn from us we will help if you ask setup your mic hit your period key until it says global channel and hold your caps lock key to talk hope to see you. Let us know if you found us thru GameSpot ,Brewbro or Beerisneeded and me doatg are admins. I wish more people like us can get more people to support Arma. I have a Phenom 965 BE 6 gigs of corsair and Nvidia GTX 570 and the game runs smooth 45-60 fps.

106473
106473

ARMAII was great but this looks so much better, lets just hope the improved the AI a bit more. I'm sick of getting my head blown open by a light tank from a mile a way.

sexyweapons
sexyweapons

Hope the framrate is better this time,since Arma 2 was like a slide show for me

PcGamingRig
PcGamingRig

@kenogd can't have* it may be impossible, in it's entirety anyway. :D

kenogd
kenogd

A LEAST THE PC HAVE ONE GAME THE CONSOLES DONT HAVE

andyacegt
andyacegt

I only played Arma 2 minimally, but i really liked it. Felt so authentic, much more than any other shooter I've played. Only thing holding these games back seems to be the bugs, and I'm really hoping Arma 3 will take care of that, because from what I've seen I can see myself get really into this :)

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@3dfreak2000 -- Sorry about the typo! It has been fixed.

109emil
109emil

I just hope the setting is as good as that of OA and that Bohemia manages to balance realism with simplicity. Looking forward to it!

3dfreak2000
3dfreak2000

900 m2?, is a very narrow map!. It's 900 km2 (347 sq.mi). BTW I am happy what Bohemia Interactive have not selling their souls to the big publishers, otherwise they will want to transform this amazing game into a typical spray and run generic FPS. Just to see how Ubisoft convinced Gearbox to transform the latest Brothers in Arms into a ridiculous FPS with a Inglourious Basterds wannabe style. Developers like Bohemia Interactive as well digitalcombatsimulator.com deserve all our support.

hotshot_
hotshot_

hope for better performance engine

rory_pamphilon
rory_pamphilon

If you liked battlefield but sometimes wondered what it would be like if the map was alot larger, the graphics were better, you didnt have to empty a whole mag into somebody to take them down and there were far more ways to kill the enemy, you will love this game ;)

Neyowolf
Neyowolf

Hope the engine isn't a complete PoS this time around

Neosword
Neosword

Never played an Arma game. Might have to go check them out.