ARMA III – Day One
Death. And frustration. And a lot of fun. Myself and our resident tech expert Zyon jumped on the ARMA III Alpha earlier today, and were rewarded with an interesting experience, the highlights of which can be seen in this accompanying video series. But what should you expect when you load up for the first time? Probably confusion at the controls, awe at the graphics (even running a ‘Standard’ spec for 60+ FPS is beautiful) and slight annoyance at your team mates. Honestly, I’m pretty sure fighting in real life is much easier on the command front. The following takes place between approximately 1800 hours and 2000 hours…
0 – 5 minutes – “So many controls…”
As seasoned PC players we both immediately jumped into the configuration panel, and paused in appreciation for the long, scrolling list of key bindings at our fingertips. By the end of our session I think it’s fair to say we knew what half of the buttons did, but the other lot remain a mystery to me – I certainly know I was shooting, dropping things, and forever placing mines accidentally. I think however that with time and a little tweaking the options presented will allow a wide range of gameplay abilities and control, at least I hope. This game is one which would greatly benefit from a physical manual!
5 – 15 minutes – “Server name Zyon1989, password – tits”
The server-side client is one of the better ones on offer, and despite being only an Alpha there are a great deal of people online. We only played in our own, two-man private server, but I can already see multiplayer missions being a fantastic thing, so long as trolls stay away. For maximum effectiveness communication and teamwork is key, a full squad of eight human-controlled squaddies with half a brain will tear up shop much better than a squad of AI gunfighters, despite any super-sense they may have been endowed with. Connections are also very good, it must be noted. It didn’t take us long however to set up a private server and get in, assuming our roles within the team – myself a Designated Marksman, equipped with some fancy scoped rifle thing, and Zyon as an Explosives Expert. With, y’know, explodey things. We chose our mission from the wide choice available (one of two) and began our quest to remove some enemy officers. Reading the briefing I’ll confess to being excited.
15 – 40 minutes – “How/what/oh…”
Then reality hit us. Hard. I seem to remember a lot of confusion, but maybe that was just shell shock; it was dark and it took me a good while to find out ‘N’ was nightvision, or even where to go. In those twenty five minutes I lived a hundred nightmares, cut down by enemy fire and APCs time and time again, but eventually I began to learn; going prone is very effective when it comes to recoil mitigation, stay along the ridgeline, and the whole ‘spacebar interaction’ lark isn’t that difficult to learn. Despite being initially daunting, the learning curve isn’t that steep, at least not as steep as it could be. However after Zyon got trapped as a bird we decided to change up the mission.
40 – 50 minutes – “WAIT DON’T SHOOT!”
Then we tried the other mission. Much to our delight it was a daytime one, with the premise that we were forced to exfiltrate the island with minimal weaponry or backup. Again, I was excited, jacking a vehicle and hauling out of there sounded like a pretty darn good scenario! Due to the utterly sandbox and unconstrained nature of the game, I vouched for an reconnaissance mission to a small, seaside outpost a few clicks north-west. I set the way point and spawned, checking everyone was there… before the IFV turned up. Within seconds our squad was scattered and suppressed by heavy machine gun shots from the turret, impregnable to small arms fire. “Collins!” I screamed to our one capable AT squadmember, “Do something!” He decided to not. Within seconds he too joined the rest of the bodies in the brush, quickly followed by myself and Zyon. The lengthy two-minute respawn timer meant that our chances of escape were quickly dashed. No fear, we loaded up the level again… to exactly the same battering. We then decided to try the first mission again.
50 – 90 minutes – “How do we tell them where to go?!”
This time was much more successful, netting us a quick kill on the first officer with only minimal issue, with the rest of the squad providing superb cover fire from the hill whilst myself and my +1 mopped up inside the compound. One criticism I had however was the explosive charge I planted; desiring an unorthodox entry into the camp I placed a large, high explosive pack beside the outer wall, stepped back quite a distance, and pumped the trigger… but only succeeded in blowing myself half to hell. In a game which boasts (rightly so) it’s hyper-realism, you’d think a wall would crumble to that sort of pressure. That said this is only an Alpha, so I’m sure this won’t be a problem in the full release, because I do honestly expect destructible environments to feature. Even the bushes flatten when you lie on them!
We stole our very own IFV and made of into the night. I was on the main gun, unfortunately very hard to operate; one must use the small screen inside as opposed to taking a camera from the weapon element itself, meaning the only real way to hit somebody was to use the tracers to walk the bullets into your target – not particularly effective. We made our way to the next objective and dispatched CO No. 2, before taking a quick break to try some command keys. Unfortunately my attention span is not the greatest, so whilst Zyon spend ten minutes trying to get the squad off the hill four kilometres away and over to us, I decided to steal a fresh vehicle and go for a drive. Switching to the gun was a bit of a task and I was loath to use the action-scroll-bar-list-thing in fear of ejection, so I resorted to running over patrols I found in the valley to the third objective. I met another pesky armoured car at the entrance to the third base, however that tale is one for the video here (links will be added when it goes live). I hear Zyon exclaim over Skype at his success at figuring out the command structure, and we decide on a two-pronged assault for the final objective; I would run up the hill on the far side, alone, as a flank, and he’d lead the main attack with a vehicle full of AI aimbots right through the front gate. I was ready.
I made my way up the hill. I could hear Zyon opening up with the HMG at the entrance, it was all going perfectly. That was when I was spotted and forced to retreat, heels blazing, into the wood again. I managed to counter and pick off a man before being taken down, but luckily the spawn system is perfectly implemented and I was able to reappear at the vehicle moments later, to find Zyon, alone, shooting the enemy. “Where’s the rest of the squad?” I asked. “I told you, I brought them all here! The ones that were left, there were some casualties…” I didn’t blame him after flattening our medic earlier. We cleaned up quickly, the game still retaining a fast pace despite the kills occurring in one to two shots – after a while you got used to taking things slowly, peaking around corners (YES, LEAN) and generally moving from cover to cover. Complacency became our worst enemy as we became overconfident, but we managed to dispatch our final target easily enough – by some glitch he was stood in the middle of the room, unmoving (in fact in hindsight they all were, but the last was the most noticeable) in, for once, an advantageous glitch. I sauntered up, pulled the trigger, and we were home and dry.
90 – 120 minutes – “Revenge is a dish best served with a side order of man operated wire guided missiles.”
This time I was ready. I selected my class as an anti-tank specialist, ready to remove the threat I knew approached. As soon as our squad dropped to the floor and the heavy thud of machine gun fire began to impact around our position I pulled out my HLAW and began to hunt. Taking cover behind a rock I pulled up the sight and, with a satisfying whoosh, sent my point-initiated, base-detonated warhead straight into the armoured beast. All that remained was a carcass of smouldering scrap. I let out a cry of joy, finally taking down one of the untouchable behemoths that has plagued our progress thus far.
We then trekked over the the little fishing village with, somehow, two computer controlled team mates, and I decided to go for a little swim to try out the water mechanics. Just like the rest of the game it was not fluid, although that isn’t a major issue – I wouldn’t want to be under fire whilst taking a dip though. Our reward here however was much, much greater than that; Quadbikes. Just a few metres up the road. I ran off at a pace, desperate to try these new machines, and in my haste I ran straight under a ridgeline where two enemy riflemen had their sights trained on me. I barely survived the ambush, taking cover behind a wooden shack until help could arrive, but when it did we were quick to retaliate, proving that human skill beats the computer every time. I got patched up and was ready to head off on the next part of our adventure…
All in all, my first two hours with ARMA III were a blast. Playing with a buddy definitely improved the experience as we learnt together, and if you have the patience required to survive the initial bewilderment you’re in for a ton of fun. Any issues or glitches are sure to be fixed – it’s the third day into the Alpha for crying out loud and it works better than most triple A titles do at release! I’m expecting a lot more from this as I learn it better, and be prepared for more accounts of my adventures in the near future. At £20 right now this game is a steal; so many potential routes, options, and personal stories to write and be a part of, Bohemia Interactive do it again, already proving their dominance in the field of realistic combat simulators.