There are two types of military games that exist: crazy mental, Michael Bay explosion-gasms, and hardcore authentic battlefield simulators. Arma 3 has its flag firmly planted in that second camp.
The Arma series is renowned for its attention to detail and its realistic approach to modern warfare and Arma 3 is no exception. However, with this third iteration in the series, Bohemia Interactive have taken the important step of simplifying the Arma experience by making their complex, authentic games more accessible. This is a very good thing.
I had a chance to get hands-on with Arma 3, and interview one if its game designers - Jiri Zlatohlavek. He took me through three of Arma 3's new mission types: combined operations, stealthy night excursions, and training challenges.
The combined operations missions showed off the whole Arma 3 experience, combining vehicles with ground troops and artillery. It was clear that Bohemia have tried to make the battlefield simulator experience as authentic as possible. Your squads move carefully and with precision, and your supporting vehicles provide good suppressing fire. For an immersive tactical experience, it was pretty enjoyable. Although it was very hard - Bohemia Interactive take this "realistic" thing seriously. A bullet to the body anywhere and you hit the dirt.
But it was also clear that Bohemia have realised that ultra complex simulations are a little hard to manage. So they've simplified the in game menus and made a real effort to make the gameplay accessible and easy to understand. This is a welcome addition to the Arma experience, and should hopefully increase the amount of gamers engaging with a well thought-out and polished series.
It's also obvious that a lot of work has been done to iron out the problems that plagued the alpha. The game plays much more smoothly and the physics have been improved. Arma has a reputation for being a little bit buggy, so it is heartening to see Bohemia take the time to get that right.
The night mission I played through showed off the work that has gone into the title. The lighting effects were soft and the line of sight was clear. Jiri told me that there would also be realistic night vision settings - but that players could choose to go without if they wanted. It was also an example of the second type of playable missions in Arma - the night mission was done solo, letting you have a more commando-esque experience.
What was particularly interesting about this mission was the inclusion of civilian buildings that could be destroyed. On top of a hill there was a lighthouse that Jiri instructed me to take down with C4. After clearing out some guards around its base, I managed to make it come tumbling down. The lighting effects and fire that resulted were really impressive. But Jiri also told me that the destruction of civilian buildings would have an impact on how well you'd completed the mission - and hinted that too much collateral damage would have an impact on the rest of the game.
The last type of gameplay that Jiri showed me was the tactical training simulator. These are a series of boot-camps that you can play through to improve your skills and complete challenges. These challenges don't appear to be an integral part of the Amra 3 experience, but should give you another avenue to hone your authentic warrior abilities.
Arma 3 is shaping up to be an impressive, realistic, and authentic simulation of the battlefield. It's a nice title that will appeal most to hardcore war simulator fans, but the attempt by Bohemia to streamline the complexity of the Arma experience is welcomed. For fans who are itching to get their hands on the closed beta there is not long to wait - it should be available for download on June 24th through Steam.
The Good: A realistic simulation that shows you the true complexity of war
The Bad: There are still a few new bugs that need to be ironed out
The Ugly: Blasting soldier's heads off from 400 meters away