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Review

Arma III Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: September 16, 2013
  • PC

Victory at all costs

Much like the warfare it simulates, ARMA III is intense, messy, and challenging. The massive sprawl of two fiction Mediterranean islands provides the backdrop to near-future lethal operations that resemble little else in video games. Whereas most modern military games aim for the cinematic bombast of an action film, ARMA seeks inspiration from authentic clashes. The third iteration of this series of wartime simulations isn't about blood splashing unrealistically across the screen and playing whack-a-mole with waves of nonthreatening grunts. It's about the fire and ache you feel in your belly as you crawl toward your mission objective, fearful of the one bullet that could end your life in an instant.

Needless to say, patience is a necessary attribute if you wish to appreciate the wonders of ARMA III, though not just because you spend more time planning, scouting, and observing than you do firing weapons. It's also because you must spend more time than you might expect fiddling with menu settings to get the game to run at a decent frame rate in online sessions. It's because you'll spend time in the server browser seeking matches and modifications that best serve your needs. And it's because there's not as much developer-provided content as previous series installments had, leading you to sort through the available user-made content hoping for the cream of the crop to rise to the surface.

That ARMA III is still a work in progress--as much "platform" as it is "game"--is obvious not just from the prominence of player creations, but from the big "coming soon" message that arrives when you click on the campaign option. An episodic campaign is in the works, but for now, there's no focused single-player conflict to draw you in. There are, however, a number of showcases that introduce you to specific facets of the design, from infantry and armor to underwater navigation and drone operation. These disconnected missions are no substitute for a proper campaign, but they are good introductions to ARMA's unique take on large-scale warfare.

How you initially respond to ARMA III depends on your background with the series. If you're a newcomer, you'll be initially struck by the unusual control scheme, which has you using the mousewheel and spacebar to perform various actions, or the measured pace at which you crouch or vault over objects. (Forget bunny-hopping, of course.) If you're a returning fan, a new fluidity to the animations and an array of stances might stand out over other features, or perhaps how the weapons are now unlicensed rather than re-creations of real-world firearms.

A distant lighthouse can be a sight for sore eyes.

Are you a novice? You might hear the radio chatter and notice its stiffness, or cry out in frustration when every turn you make while controlling a tank as a gunner is accompanied by vocal commands. ("Left. Fast. Right. Right. Right. Fast.") Are you an ARMA fanatic? You will hear the radio chatter and cry out in elation that it sounds so much more natural than in ARMA II, thankful for the dialogue touches and audio mixing that make AI teammates sound more like real people. ARMA III's ambition in re-creating so many elements of modern warfare will astound you if this is your first foray into games of this ilk, and so it should. Yet there aren't as many unique vehicles and weapons as there are in ARMA II. There are numerous examples of one step forward, one step back.

As disappointing as it is that ARMA III doesn't come with more official content, the game benefits from its early public alpha and beta releases: there are already a great number of player-created scenarios, which are easily perused and added to your game thanks to Steam Workshop integration. Spending significant time with ARMA III involves accessing any number of modifications. Some are simple single-player missions that have you piloting a Ghosthawk chopper, ferrying troops around while flying low to avoid antiaircraft missiles. Others are popular online efforts, the most ubiquitous one for now being the Wasteland mod, a multiplayer survival mode that has you scrounging for weapons, ammo, and food while avoiding the violence of other players desperately clinging to life.

A mission requiring you to do little more than take off, fly, and land a helicopter might not sound compelling, but ARMA III's strength is in how tasks so seemingly simple in this game can provide so much tension. That's not because the flight controls are impenetrable, but because piloting requires self-control and an understanding of multiple nuances, such as how to use autohover and how to make the different camera perspectives work best for you.

Night falls in this Defend mission. Are you prepared for the darkness?

It might take you multiple failed attempts after falling victim to aggressive AA missiles and a few crash landings, but reaching the landing zone while under small arms fire and rescuing retreating infantry feels like a great triumph. When the men in your chopper thank you for the ride, you sense that they're not just grateful for the ride, but for the savior that dropped from the heavens. They, just like you, understand the peril of tasks as simple as flying, walking, and just being.

Mods like Wasteland, however, amplify ARMA III's frightening loneliness. The larger of the two islands is hardly an unblemished plain, but it doesn't feature the diversity or density of ARMA II's Chernarus, and is home to very few civilians. The even geography might make for some tedious air travel, but in Wasteland and its variants, the flatness means that every ravine and outpost is a vital sanctuary. When the sun sets, anxiety rises.

Test your piloting skills and try landing without employing autohover. Good luck!

One possible scenario: Without night vision goggles, you and your buddy rely on your truck's lights to guide you toward a weapons store. On the way, you glimpse muzzle flash and pull off the main road. You get out of the vehicle and notice a telltale green aura, indicating someone has dropped glow sticks in the grass. The two of you approach to see a trio of looters rifling through the rear of an armored personnel carrier and gun them down before you fall victim to their murderous greed. Not only do you escape death, but you pilfer valuable goggles and binoculars from their corpses. That green glow is no longer a sign of danger, but of safety, as long as you are prepared to defend yourself. After all, that light might seem comforting, but it draws survivors to it like moths to a flame.

That isn't to say that you must rely on user creations to have your fun. Feel free to get started in the included Co-op, Defend, or Seize missions, all of which must be started up as a multiplayer game, though Co-op and Defend allow you to fill available slots with AI soldiers. In ARMA tradition, however, you shouldn't expect the AI to exhibit humanlike behavior. Oftentimes, enemy combatants fail to react to your presence even when you're a few feet away and in plain view, though gunners that do notice you have the eyesight of eagles, landing shots with eerie accuracy. Not that your teammates are the brightest bulbs either, sometimes failing to respond to the commands you issue from ARMA III's in-depth squad interface.

And so you should seek out populated multiplayer servers to find the most exhausting and rewarding battles. Mind you, this requires some legwork. You won't always know how a map or mod works until you've annoyed other players with your ignorance, or you might join a match you are comfortable with only to have some simpleton join the fray and stick a bunch of mines in front of a friendly transport chopper. (Demands to kick the moron quickly follow in the audio and text channels, of course.) And even in a fantastic match populated by military-minded grenadiers, visual performance is a problem. You might maintain a perfectly acceptable frame rate in single-player scenarios, only to find that large-scale warfare often entails large-scale slowdown.

Not only did the independent team blow up your transport, but you forgot to bring marshmallows!

It's worth fiddling with your graphics settings to diminish the annoyances, though, because once you get into a fantastic match with organized players, ARMA III soars. Chat channels erupt with strategic commands and formal military parlance, giving the match a role-playing sensibility. A chopper pilot lands, and you and your squadmates board, hoping to be dropped near a factory that you must assault. However, the pilot must make a detour: a submersible and its helmsman need to be transported to the waters just off the coast. As you pass over a hot spot, missiles approach, but the pilot is on the ball: he fires off countermeasures, and for now, you have escaped a fiery death.

Finally, the chopper lands, and you leap out and press forward with your buddies. After several minutes of rushing forward, crouching, and going prone to scope the landscape ahead, you finally get into position and aim down your sights. Below, you see several enemy combatants in the streets, as small as ants. Your assault rifle may not be a sniping weapon, but it will do in a pinch. You carefully line up the shot and sink a bullet into a soldier's head but miss another, who runs behind a nearby structure. Unthinkingly, you rise and rush to the other side of the mound to your right, hoping to get a better line of sight, only to spot a heavy tank at the same time its driver spots you. You have given yourself away, along with your nearby comrades. And so you run, but it's too late: chasing after one enemy soldier has led to the demise of you and your mates. Better luck next time.

Cloudy, with a chance of artillery fire.

The vast island of Altis and its little brother Stratis aren't teeming with civilian life, but they do feature beautiful and lifelike vistas. ARMA II was impressive, too, but poor animations could make it hard to appreciate its achievements. Here, the improved animations create less distraction, and the environments can be terrific to behold. ARMA III makes no attempts to stylize what you see: these islands are meant to look like the real thing, and often do. When taking in the entire landscape, you notice how tree trunks and branches bend and warp as if molded by nature, and that they sway with the wind, but not in a way so scripted that they look like synchronized ballerinas sticking to precise choreography. Lighting and shadows are authentic enough that glimpsing your own shadow as you pass in front of a truck's headlights might make you jump.

ARMA III is a game with few modern counterparts. The influence of Operation Flashpoint isn't felt in many current games, even the modern OF, leaving the ARMA series to lead a charge accompanied by Red Orchestra, Iron Front, and too few others. With that uniqueness comes a dedicated community willing to overlook the flaws because they crave a kind of tension and large-scale teamwork unavailable anywhere else. You should consider joining that crowd. ARMA III is a beast. It occasionally flails and moans, but once you learn how to balance yourself upon it, it gives you a marvelous, turbulent, and memorable ride.

The Good
Measured mechanics prioritize strategy over haphazard gunning
Coordinated attacks lead to tense warfare
A vast array of interesting user-created scenarios
Lifelike visuals can inspire awe
You can contribute to battle in all sorts of ways
The Bad
Somewhat light on developer-provided content
Performance problems, particularly online
Finding a good multiplayer match requires effort and patience
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Arma 3

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd is a lifelong RPG lover and violin player. When he isn't busy building PCs and composing symphonies, he watches American Dad reruns with his fat cat, Ollie.

Discussion

352 comments
gufberg
gufberg

I'm usually not one to bitch about how one part of a game shouldn't drag the other down. I do feel, in this case, thats the Arma multiplayer should be judged somewhat seperately. Even though these reviews are made by different reviewers and shouldn't be compared, it feels weird that iterations of Modern Warfare/Black Ops has gotten better reviews for less than Arma. 


This isn't really a critique of VanOrd or the review itself per se. It just goes to show the artificiality of scoring games by numbers. Such scores naturally invite comparisons which shouldn't be made.

acana79
acana79

How can you give this game an 8?! The performance issues are terrible, even after all patches and whatever....



Williams0907
Williams0907

For all that are saying multiplayer is bad and or non existent, look up units like 15th MEU or other realism units and I guarantee your view will change.

derikgw
derikgw

Kevin said "Finding a good multiplayer match requires effort and patience".  Kevin you must have been a blessed miracle prone child because playing multiplayer is pretty much impossible for me.

madgame23
madgame23

I prefer games that have set game modes, like tdm and such.  Unfortunately I have to contend with BF4 and COD Ghosts, both of which suck, until Titan Fall.  If everyone here wants a decent fps, next year is Titan Fall.  This will undoubtedly be my last fps game for a long time.  I've wasted enough on this genre, I wouldn't mind trying out Arma, but the review says it all, you can camp with an Assault Rifle and shoot like a sniper with realistic health that means expect a lot of point camping and vehicle whores.  I recently reinstalled MW2, now that all the cheaters and massive laggers are now onto Ghosts, I actually had several days of decent game play and had a much better experience than anything.

UbiTricked
UbiTricked

On the bad points, don't forget to mention there was actually no real content when the game was released, the users had to wait several months before a first part of the campaign was out.

And now it's out, it's only 7 missions.

This game has a great potential, but it's just empty, really disappointing. After the bug-crippled Arma 2 I think I'll stop here, FlashPoint was great, but that was something else.

legends13
legends13

IGN reviews suck ass said all bad things about arma Gamespot number 1 in reviews

tushwacker
tushwacker

I hope they put in a ton of CO-OP missions into this game. The few ones from ARMA2 were lots of fun but were also really short.

differentiation
differentiation

ARMA is a military simulation, not a game to me because it's 90% frustration and 10% fun. Controls take a long time to get used to because it's complicated, you can get killed in a split second from an enemy from a mile away that looks like a speck in the dirt (reminds me of playing Delta Force back in the day!). Lots of slow calculated movements. I just want the DayZ standalone!

MarxMods
MarxMods

Well for people like me that like more realism in games, you should get it, its great. Actually i haven't played the 3 yet, only ARMA 2, still looks like it kept the same route.

If you want something more unrealistic and fast as possible action, avoid it, you will find it boring for sure.

volc-123
volc-123

Kevin Van Ord... You know, i love this game and all. But the review isn't accurate at all. There are some major issues he didn't discuss. 

Gamerhomer
Gamerhomer

Most boring game ever. Van Ord living up to his generous scoring!

remysola
remysola

I'm having fun with ARMA 3.

It's a good game. Different to any other Militar FPS

mcrawf21
mcrawf21

The only thing that would make this game more realistic is sitting in your chu for 7 hours waiting for a mission, and driving in a convoy where nothing at all happens.

failboater
failboater

As a Marine with combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan I think this is about as close as you can get to war in a video game. As realistic as they come.

Jebril
Jebril

Hope this game comes to Linux.

dr_jashugan
dr_jashugan

What's with the MGS joke in the review? 8-\

Apelgrandure
Apelgrandure

Performance issues? I'v had none and my PC isn't that great. Compared to Arma 2 this game runs 5x better. I agree with the score though. Kevin is the only reviewer I can really trust anymore.

shreddyz
shreddyz

cover me, reloading  cover me, reloading  cover me, reloading! sounds fun.

nait2k4
nait2k4

Nice review Kevin, cheers.

jnco10999
jnco10999

ARMA III delivers sprawling geography, intense online military engagement, and a dedicated community. Just be prepared to give as much as you take. - Pretty much sums up the game. People that don't have the time or patience to play this game will be turned off by it, which is probably the majority of the gaming population.

bigruss51
bigruss51

I'll stick to battlefield thank you

nicecall
nicecall

cool graphics but online shooters aren't fun for me

The3rdGracchus
The3rdGracchus

Fantastic review, Kevin. Arma 3 is a deeply flawed game from a technical perspective, but the mechanics and online community make it a unique and consistently rewarding experience that few other games rival.

CaptWaffle
CaptWaffle

I love the idea of a hardcore, "Military Sim" rather than all the unrealistic FPSs out there.... don't get me wrong, I love me some Borderlands and FarCry.... I just think that a game that tried to actually be a "War Sim" is pretty bad-ass.  My PC starts getting nervous when I put in X-Com Apocalypse so there is no way on Earth I'll probably ever get to play this..... but this would be top of my list if I had the ability to play it. 

Mr_BillGates
Mr_BillGates

So they went to jail for this mere simulator. LMAO. Stupid.

TransvormerSCol
TransvormerSCol

How can a brilliant game like Arma3 catch a lower rating than CoDMW2+ ?

derikgw
derikgw

The campaign released so far is pretty boring and easy.  I found that almost 100% of populated online games were the Wasteland mod and there appears to be many variations of that, each with their own control scheme which makes thing incredibly confusing when going from server to server.  Wasteland is pretty frustrating too in that when you die or disconnect (and you will disconnect often) you have to start over from scratch.  So if you are almost to a rally point with your team, and the game server resets or you get kicked, you will spawn randomly again with a pistol and nothing more.  DayZ was much funner than Wasteland, and Arma 2 is much funner than Arma 3.  If you are looking for tactical warfare, Arma 3 isn't what you are looking for.

nicolasetespqr
nicolasetespqr

@madgame23 

Ehm... try the game... it's nothing like you described it.


I'll grant you, if you want the quick action provided by set game modes then you can avoid it entirely. In my opinion, they are different experiences and you can enjoy them all.


I can tell you that i have been a big fan of Counter Strike (which is pretty much what CoD is today, with less gimmicks), all the Battlefields (more open ended, play for fun, less directly competitive gameplay with vehicular combat) and Arma 2 (a sandbox) and I have liked them all.

I've got the most immersion (and by far the better teamplay) in Arma (or in Bf2 project reality mod), but from time to time it's nice to have a quick, easy adrenaline injection from arcadey titles such as Cod or (in a lesser degree) BF.



TitanFall certainly looks sweet, but not perfect. I personally enjoy big, sanboxy maps with more variety in vehicles more. Titanfall won0t have that, neither will it have the graphics or the -absolutelly awesome- destructability BF has.


I'd much prefer a BF2142 remake (if they did it right). But TitanFAll looks fun, nevertheless. Just don't get too hyped. 



About Arma:

If you are not playing vs retarded bots, expect a rain of mortars, helicopter guns or suppressing fire if you just camp. (and also expect to get bored, the maps are huge, you can't just camp one place, you might not see an enemy in hours, you have to anticipate enemy movements and change posiitons, and it's very hard to stay undetected after you have fired your first shots.

And everyone can buy their own vehicles (at least in the modes i usually play), so vehicle whoring is not an option. And not everyone is willing to jump into choppers, as it happens in Battlefield, since a) they are expensive and b) most people suck at flying them. 

I personally enjoy a lot more infantry combat, specially if you are coordinating with other human players.



monstachruck
monstachruck

@mcrawf21 This game does actually have long waits, but you can accelerate time to get to the action, or just wait it out like a realism-loving chump! hehe

JDFS
JDFS

@mcrawf21 LOL... indeed... or waiting 8 hours under the 60-degrees sun until we're dried out.

Divaythe00
Divaythe00

@failboater We actually used a simulation using this engine in the advanced tow gunner leaders course.

aLmAnZo
aLmAnZo

@dr_jashugan It's a user created mission using sounds from MGS. You'll even find the first level of Wolfenstein 3D redone in ARMA III.

shreddyz
shreddyz

@Apelgrandure oooh don't trust games reviewers. They have concerns outside of giving accurate information.  look at this as an addition, not the place to tell you what to buy.

doremonhg9x
doremonhg9x

@shreddyz It's about realistic, not Cod for kid.

Back to your momma's basement, kid.

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

@bigruss51 what a game with more then muscle memory too much for you?

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

@bigruss51 Being open world seems more appealing than Battlefield's more 'rts-esque' maps, but Battlefield will be way more excessable and because of that, probably the more fun option too... which is all that matters really.

autopilotpothed
autopilotpothed

@Mr_BillGates 

its a good game though. 
i won't mind going to jail for a while to make the game even better. been playing the series since OFP back in 2001.

If the world have to pick between Apple products and Arma series, I ll pick Arma anyday.

faizanhd
faizanhd

@TransvormerSCol 

1.2009 vs 2013

2.The campaign is yet to come out so the game is still incomplete.

3. Optimization and bugs still need ironing out (which it will)

4. Why are you comparing a stupid arcade FPS game to a Military sim ?

doremonhg9x
doremonhg9x

  @Gamerhomer @failboater So what do you expect? Carry a gun and go rambo at the enemy base?

Please do, you'll do this world a favor. One less dumbass to worry about.

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

@Divaythe00 @failboater it was probably VBS2 or VBS3.

You think arma has realistic features? vbs will allow you to turn on your turn signals, wind shield wipers and all kinds of other crazy stuff that even the Ace and Tactical Realism Mods would dream of.

TransvormerSCol
TransvormerSCol

@faizanhd @TransvormerSCol  

1. 2009, ok, so what now? Even for 2009, CoDMW2+ was bull$hit.

2.  Sure, the game is not complete yet, so the review should have wait for the complete game as well, but it has not. Besides, the campaign of CoD is even more annoying than the actual Arma3 multiplayer.

3. Yes you're right, and that's why I gave it a rating of 9.0/10 for now.

4. It's like you said it already. Because CoDMW2+ is a stupid arcade FPS game and Arma3 is not, so why does Arma3 catch a lower rating then that stupid FPS game anyway?

rce1n1
rce1n1

@faizanhd @TransvormerSCol 

Actually, the multiplay is incomplete as well.  They don't have template play styles like BF3 or other online shooters.  It mainly relies on user content.  Id love to see them provide templates for conquest style, rush etc.  I love the game, don't get me wrong however, if it were completed, it could be a 10.  Im very much hoping that after a few patches and a good multiplay along with a decent campaign, it will be the game is can be.

C-P-30
C-P-30

@faizanhd @TransvormerSCol it's kinda like comparing a big pile of shit to a bar of gold, after awhile there is enough shit to be worth as much as the gold... doesn't make the shit better.

Arma 3 More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • PC
    Arma 3 is the brand-new installment in this series of critically acclaimed realistic military simulators.
    7.3
    Average User RatingOut of 197 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Arma 3
    Developed by:
    Bohemia Interactive
    Published by:
    Zoo Corporation, Bohemia Interactive
    Genres:
    Simulation
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language