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.

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