Have you played… ArmA 3?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

I’ve long possessed a fondness for Bohemia Interactive’s military simulators, ever since Operation Flashpoint invaded my hard-drive back in 2001. But ArmA 3 is the first Bohemia game since OpFlash to successfully modernise that that initial concept, striking a pleasing balance between ambition, accessibility, and stability of play.

There are so many ways to experience ArmA 3 that its hard to summarise in a handful of words. Its multiplayer alone is hugely diverse, ranging from online military exercises to full-blown roleplaying servers like Altis Life. You can team up with friends and act as a GM over your own war via the Zeus DLC, and even assume the role of a humanitarian organisation with the recently launched Laws of War update.

The single player, meanwhile, is the strongest campaign Bohemia has put together since OpFlash. It got somewhat overlooked because of the way the developers released it, in three separate parts after the game itself was officially launched. Combined together, however, it makes for an impressively varied introduction to ArmA that sees the player defending a US military base from a large-scale surprise attack, joining up with guerrilla fighters in a series of open-ended mid-game missions, before concluding with a counter-assault on the Mediterranean island of Altis.

Even if you’re not interested in waging war, Bohemia’s virtual landscapes are wondrous things to behold. Indeed, there’s something surprisingly relaxing, almost Proteus-like, about the sound of your boots scuffing against the undulating ground as you quietly chase the game’s azure horizon en-route to you next objective. ArmA 3 doesn’t quite succeed in purging the clunk that has harried all of Bohemia’s games, but it’s a splendid military toybox regardless.

26 Comments

  1. guidom says:

    not to mention that it has spawned several mods, which went on to become major releases. DayZ, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds et al.

  2. Viral Frog says:

    I got into ArmA 3 because of Plunkbat. I wanted to see where it stemmed from. Now I’m completely hooked on it. Whenever my squad isn’t online for Plunkbat, I’m poking around in the ArmA 3 campaign.

    • benzoate says:

      Plunkbat used in the wild? (aka. not an RPS writer using it) It’s a Christmas miracle! :-)

      • Viral Frog says:

        Haha, I’ve been using the term ever since I first saw it here. It’s caught on in my gaming circle.

  3. Hekkel says:

    Nope, tried twice on 2 pc’s but always got a black screen.It does not want me to play it.

    • assassin3435 says:

      did you use shit pc’s tho?, and did you try uninstalling it or searching for a fix…

  4. Mungrul says:

    We play this in co-op mode regularly. We’re hopelessly bad at it compared to people who take it more seriously, but we always have a laugh. And while generally much more stable than ARMA 2, it’s still pretty wonky, which is endearing in its own way.

    There’s enough mods and modability that over time, Thirith (who hosts our sessions) has managed to tailor the experience to our abilities, adopting a more lenient healing and death system. Occasionally, it goes horribly, hilariously wrong, such as the time he made a “Town Escape” scenario, and drastically underestimated how many enemies would spawn.

  5. Kollega says:

    I haven’t played ArmA III – but I’ve got a question to ask to people who do play. I’ve been thinking for a long year now how cool it would be to grab a bunch of friends and play out tacticool military action against AI on big open maps. But what’s stopping me from getting into ArmA is its reputation for being very complex, realistic, and hard to learn. And also not knowing how hard it is to set up and run a mission against AI-controlled enemies. And the game’s fairly high price.

    So, can someone here tell me about those details? Maybe ArmA III in particular is more suited for tacticool co-op with friends than I think it is…

    • Viral Frog says:

      I’m by no means an expert at the game, but I’ll take a whack at this.

      Reputation for being complex, realistic and hard to learn. Complex, yes. Realistic, also yes. Hard to learn? Not really. If you’ve ever played an FPS before, you can get into it fairly quickly. I would say “hard to master” would be more correct than “hard to learn”. Also, there are TONS of solid videos on YouTube that you can watch to learn the ropes. I know that doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing, but really, 5 to 10 minutes of watching videos and I knew what I needed to get started. And if you come across things you need to know (as I am still doing), then you can pop onto YouTube or just do a quick search on Google and figure it out.

      As for how hard to setup and run a mission against AI, I’m not exactly sure. I’ve just been doing the campaign and nothing custom. But I’ve heard it’s a fairly straightforward process. Again, probably easy to figure out with a quick trip to YouTube/Google. As for the price, yeah. It’s a bit pricey. But there is so much content available in the base game (not even counting mods or DLC), that you’re going to get far more than your money’s worth out of it.

      I would say that if you’re interested in a great tactical FPS, then this is a good one to go at. It might just take a little bit of time to learn the ropes but, in my opinion, it’s a genuinely rewarding experience in the end.

      • rochrist says:

        The complexity arises when it comes to commanding an entire squad. It’s not horrendous, but the interface is not particularly intuitive, and it would take some practice and fairly constant reinforcement to be any good at it. That said, it IS an incredible toolbox of tactical goodness.

    • ByrdWhyrm says:

      It is certainly complex, but the game has a ton of in-game tutorials for just about every aspect of the game. Also, depending on what part(s) of the military sim interest you, you can out of learning a lot of the complexities. You could skip learning helicopters and planes and tanks and large scale command and you’d still know enough to have several dozen hours of fun.

    • fleet hassle says:

      It’s a marvelous military sandbox and very well suited to your stated aims. My only caveat is that the AI in this series has always been lacking. It’s at its worst when it’s supposed to be managing friendly units; for playing the role of enemy gun fodder it’s not too bad, though it does have an alarming tendency to see you through solid objects. I haven’t played it in a while so they may have improved this behavior — they are always patching this game.
      In other respects, it’s hard to beat for sheer scale, naturalism, and the diversity of game modes. The complexity really only comes into play once you start doing complex things with it, like building & running elaborate scenarios; the basic controls (even for things like flying vehicles and using MANPADs) are only slightly harder to pick up than any other shooter. If you start out just playing MP the biggest adjustment for most players, I think, is getting used to the ballistic model.

    • Chaz says:

      As is typical with most sim games, I’ve found the complexity with the OpFlash/Arma series comes from learning the controls as they’re a little on the convoluted side. Especially for what is a essentially an FPS at heart. That extends to the movement and control of your character, which often feels more clunky and vehicle like, than fluid and human like.

      Having said all that you do get used to it the more you play and practice. Oh and the game is quite hard as well, even with all that taken into consideration. I got up to a bit where you are supposed to protect a crash site, and got stuck on that after numerous attempts to get past it.

      Where it really shines is in co-op play. So if you can rustle up a few friends or find a group to play with, then you’ll probably get a lot more out of it.

      Not that I’ve played one of these online since Arma 1, but it never looks like much has changed from one to the other. So much of the god awful UI is still present and correct from the OpFlash days, even after they have supposedly re-written the game from the ground up several times. Maybe they have, but they seem to keep re-writing back in the same clunky crap UI and stodgy movement, over and over again.

      Oh yeah it looks very nice too. The Arma games always used to be king at showing off big open sprawling landscapes that stretched off into the distance for miles. However lots of other games and engines have now caught up and are doing the the same sort of thing but better. Just look at Ghost Recon Wildlands or some of the new Unreal Engine stuff like PUBG.

      If they don’t start to iron out some of the kinks and eccentricities for the next one and make things a little more user friendly, then they’re in danger of becoming a has been. And by user friendly, I don’t mean dumbed down, I mean a better UI, control scheme and handling. They’ve managed to keep bringing the engine and graphics up to date, it’s about time they did so with the rest of the game, which still feels like it’s stuck in 2001.

    • FLoJ says:

      Not too hard to do any of what you want. Just download a mission from steam workshop and you’re more or less set. Learning it takes a little setup to play optimally and learn some of the details. Check out dslyexci on YT for a real avid fan with some great tutorials.

      The AI can be very hit or miss and uses a lot of CPU grunt to be effective. You want someone with a properly grunty workstation (i7/i9) hosting for this reason.

  6. JustAchaP says:

    I was part of a small Australian mil-sim group for a bit and did various missions in ARMA 3. Then Squad came out which offered the experience I wanted out of ARMA 3 but was way more user friendly.

  7. v1tr1ol says:

    Um, don’t be ridiculous guys, tried it several times and AI is so fucked up that it’s unplayable. I got used to controls, it’s clunkyness, got used to command menus, finding workarounds for bugged out tasks, but the AI…man…those soldiers refuse to follow orders. I just gave up.

    • JB says:

      “it’s unplayable”

      No, it’s not.

    • goodpoints says:

      yeah the AI is pretty pathetic. I remember I had some mods that improved it somewhat though; AI would maneuver more as squads, have functional NCO roles, seek cover, suppress, etc. The biggest problem with Arma 3 for me is how many damn mods are needed to get something close to its infantry sim pretensions. Then, keeping up with all the updates for those mods, new mods, which config files need tweaking, which mods have become abandoned, conflicting, etc….. It’s a nightmare unless you constantly play and read the forums. But for me, who plays games in stints, it’s just too much of a hassle to get back into. It’s the same reason I’ve also fallen off the DCS wagon.

  8. GunFox says:

    This game series has always interested me because it plays the straight man in what inevitably becomes a comedy.

    The game plays everything so straight and is often so tense, that it becomes nearly impossible to avoid abusing it to some degree.

    When you are in the middle of a firefight and desperately cowering in a crippled MRAP with what remains of your squad while the enemy lobs grenades at you, the game manages to provide an experience like no other. When you are then subsequently rescued by a crazy British man playing the A-team theme over local VOIP flying a chinook who sling loads your vehicle and flies off with all of you still inside said vehicle, it is far more amusing than it has any right to be. It is a game of extreme contrast, which makes for a lot of fun moments.

  9. JS says:

    Arma 3, the game title nobody seems to be able to spell correctly. It’s not ArmA 3, ArmA III, ARMA 3, or any of the other ways people always seem to misspell it.

    • Mungrul says:

      Even the devs don’t seem to follow any consistency, with the game’s website appearing to use all variations thereof, but mostly using ARMA 3. So there’s not much point getting precious about which one is the correct representation.

      And on the covers of the game boxes since the first game, it’s always been all caps, but with the middle RM being subscript. There’s unfortunately no easy way to type that in most comments sections, so people settle for whatever they’re most comfortable with.

      • JS says:

        The devs are always consistent, they use nothing but Arma 3 everywhere. I see on the home page ARMA 3 used, but only in all caps headlines, so of course they use all caps there. Also, the logo uses III, not 3, but that is just a picture. In text, only the correct spelling of Arma 3 is ever used by the devs. Naturally, they know how to spell their own game.

    • Greedy Raider says:

      Err.. actually is ArmA, Because it is “Arm”ed “A”ssault… but all caps seems to work best.

      • JS says:

        No it’s not, that was changed years ago. Today it’s just Arma, it’s no longer an abbreviation of “Armed Assault”, as it used to be with the older titles.

  10. TotallyUseless says:

    I didn’t know Arma 3 has a single player campaign since all I see on youtube are multiplayer. xD

    I’d better grab it on a sale then. =))