A true breath of fresh air in warfare titles
WAR-TIME simulators are an area within the video-game game industry where the market's demand has consistently been met with titles that either underachieve or overreach. Ever since the seminal Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis first saw the light of day in 2001, no amount of endless Tom Clancy games was quite able to fill the void until the emergence of ARMA: Combined Assault in 2006, followed by the infinitely better ARMA 2 in 2009.
The ARMA games represented a Rennaisance in war simulators - where every other military title were oneupping each other in terms of outlandishness and alpha male back-slappery, the ARMA titles kept their integrity and presented modern warfare in its truest and most brutal form: 90% waiting around until a gunshot from somewhere you can't accurately pinpoint sends you on your way.
ARMA 3 got an official release way back in September, but its campaign mode is only now available in its gloriously divisive entirety. While large sections of it are somewhat spoiled with hideous voice acting and a cookie-cutter script, it's the glorious vistas and masterful environmental design that truly sells this title. You'll begin to notice the slightest of undulations in the terrain as you struggle to find cover from the almost laser-like accuracy of the enemy AI. It's tense stuff, particularly in the second chapter where the stabiliser wheels appear to suddenly fall off altogether. ARMA 3 may ramp up the difficulty, but the improved weapon handling coupled with equally improved optics provide the perfect counterbalance.
The second chapter does more than simply buff the opposition - it completely changes the way you play the game, thrusting you into the role of leader and opening up a whole new can of micromanagement. You now have a squad to control, and much like the Tom Clancy titles, this can become somewhat of a hindrance than a blessing. Ammo management is a constant stumbling block, particularly when your squad fly through rounds with Rambo-like abandon.
The third and final chapter of ARMA 3's campaign may not be as meaty as the second part, but it is by far and wide the most sweeping and spectacular of the three. Although there is only 6 missions in total comprising the third chapter, they are a glorious mixed pot of engagements across vast environments, leaving you with the ability to call in artillery strikes and attack helicopters.
ARMA 3's multiplayer is already well-documented and brilliantly community-driven. With a lengthy alpha-phase during the release of the title and a six month staggered campaign release, the sheer scope of the online support is as overwhelming as it is engrossing.
ARMA 3 may not be the perfect title, but it is certainly off the beaten track in terms of where is sits in the gamut of warfare titles. In a market saturated with games that blind the audience with big set-pieces and even bigger fireworks, ARMA 3 comes as a true breath of fresh air. A title for the forward-thinking gamer.