Arma III‘s had what you might call a rough development. Back in 2012, two of its developers were held in a Greece prison for 128 days with charges of espionage, and a little over a year later, the game released with hardly any official single-player content to speak of. But now, a few months since that release, ARMA III’s core campaign is complete, and available to those who’ve purchased the game. While that fact certainly improves the game’s value quite a bit, there are, unfortunately, a few caveats to take into account before making the decision to enlist in a virtual tour of duty.
The ARMA series’ stories have never been they’re selling point, so it’s par for the course with ARMA III. The story is, as it was with its predecessors, more or less just a vehicle for delivering a wide variety of military operations. You step into the boots of Ben Kerry who is, at the beginning of the game, a mere private stationed on the small island of Altis. Over the course of the game, Kerry moves onto the larger Island, Stratis, and eventually gains rank to the point of commanding his own squad. The actual arc of the story is hardly worth paying attention to, chock-full of less-than-elegant set-pieces and a number of oddly unrealistic plot-points. However, the missions themselves are wholly worth experiencing, granted you have the patience for them.
In the beginning, the game is about what people have come to expect from a modern first-person shooter: You follow the orders of a man who ranks higher than you. Admittedly, that portion of the game is pretty dull. But as Kerry gains rank, the player gains freedom. Where linear mission structure ruled, now every decision of how the operation plays-out is up to the player. Assault from afar? Or run-in guns a’blazing (not recommended). Approach from the North, South, East, or West? What should each soldier in your squad be doing? It’s all up to the player. And with what could be described as realistic damage taken with each bullet you’re hit with, the game is challenging, but upon victory, very rewarding. But there are a few things that get in the way.
The most quickly apparent issue to many will be the game’s frame-rate. On a fairly high-end rig that far exceeds the game’s requirements (details below), the frame-rate was anything but consistent. On some missions I’d be running the game at over 70fps where on others I’d be in the teens, and the only difference between having the game on its highest, or lowest settings was about three frames. Seeing as how I don’t have another system to test it on, I headed to the forums to see what other people with different builds were getting. Their answers were all over the place. Some people with high-end intel processors claimed to be getting a smooth 60fps at all times, while others who said they had the same high-end processors said performance similar to mine. Then, some who claimed to be users of the same AMD processor I have said they’ve been getting terrific performance. Things have improved since launch, but not by as much as many would like. It’s also worth stating that while running the game my CPU usage never went above fifty-percent.
The other issue is the game’s AI. During my time with the campaign, as well as several user-made missions, my computer-controlled squad-mates would occasionally decide to completely ignore my orders, and sometimes even walk straight across my line of fire. In the game, you’ll pretty regularly walk long distances to covertly travel to an enemy camp. Luckily, though, you can speed up time to get to the action more quickly. The problem is, though, several times while walking these long distances, I would arrive at the base I was supposed to assault only to find that three of my squaddies got stuck behind a wall. There are other slightly less annoying issues as well, such as both enemy, and friendly AI having the ability to spot hostile forces through walls, thick fog, and thick foliage, all presumably without the aid of thermal vision or something else of that nature.
All this said, people who want a genuinely realistic shooter don’t have much of a choice but to hold their nose and endure the game’s issues, as it’s one of the only of its breed. Luckily, the AI issue can be mostly side-stepped by playing multiplayer, but from my experience, the framerate issues become worse when engaging with other players.
What’s worse, these issues are a true shame because of how cool ARMA III is when its working properly. Whether assaulting an enemy complex on foot, or engaging in a dogfight in a jet, there’s just something about ARMA that makes my experiences in it stick out in my mind. With life-like bullet dynamics, and a brutally realistic damage system, the game never holds your hand, and makes you work hard for every accomplishment. But there’s an incredibly satisfaction that comes with each enemy eliminated, and each objective completed.
Aside from its few issues, though, ARMA III is a pretty fascinating “game”, if it can even be described as such. It’s slow-moving, and incredibly demanding, but I can’t help but adore the fact that it actually assumes the intelligence of its players unlike other games of its type. For those who want a shooter that could be described as “tactical” and “realistic”, then I’d definitely point them toward ARMA III, but only if they’re able to tolerate its shortcomings, and have the patience to appreciate its complexity.
Processor:AMD FX-8150 GPU: GTX 670 Ram: 8gb DDR3 OS: Windows 7