The Theater Of War
The year is 2035, and things aren’t looking good for Europe and its allies. As a risen China expands its influence and control over the East, Russia uses oil money to lure countries away from the EU, and Iran begins taking territory along the Mediterranean. Turkey has fallen, and the Middle Eastern power is now looking to Greece, weakened by its financial meltdown and politically isolated from the rest of Europe. Beginning from this near-future scenario that sounds disturbingly plausible given current events, Arma III takes players into one of the most realistic military simulation games yet.
Arma III opens with the player caught in a failed NATO withdrawal from a flashpoint on the Iranian-occupied Greek island of Limnos. The player character, Captain Miller, finds himself trapped behind enemy lines, with only a ragged local resistance group for support. This scenario opens up into a huge war-game sandbox that takes place over nine hundred square kilometers on Limnos and an additional twenty-five square kilometers on the NATO-controlled island of Stratis. Open world shooters are quite rare, and Arma III makes the most of the opportunities provided by this sandbox design while also providing a story campaign for players who want some focus to their fighting.
A wide variety of missions are available on Limnos and Stratos, on land, at sea, and in the air. At the start, Miller will be struggling for survival, gathering information on the situation from the locals and attempting not to get in over his head. As the game progresses, he’ll be able to rise in the ranks militarily and command a squadron, but he can also choose to play as a lone wolf if the player prefers.
The game’s sandbox style means that the player has a great deal of choice in terms of how Miller confronts his situation: with diplomacy, stealth, leadership, or commando bravado. It’s even possible to kill civilians, although it’s not advisable considering the consequences of killing non-combatants as a uniformed member of the military.
Of course, this is primarily a war game, so Miller is going to have to get down to the business of combat. During the game, the player can acquire any number of modifiable weapons, allowing for many different kinds of infantry combat. Taking to the air allows the player to fly military jets through lifelike clouds and get a bird’s-eye view of the islands, which have been thoroughly recreated from geographic data and photographs. Tank driving will use highly realistic physics, and the tanks have been carefully replicated from real life down to the last detail, including things like working rearview mirrors. There will even be underwater segments including everything from SCUBA gear to an underwater transport for quick movement around the island. The Arma team is notorious for a scrupulous attention to detail, so military hardware nuts should have a field day with all the equipment available for their usage.
All this attention to detail would be wasted without the visuals to back it up, and Arma III has those in spades. The Greek islands are instantly recognizable as such, rendered in gorgeously photorealistic detail. The buildings and foliage are impressively true-to-life, and the military hardware is painstakingly modeled after the real deal. Watching video demonstrations of the game shows impressive physics footage, such as a buoy bobbing over when bumped by a boat. The team is aiming for a draw distance of about six kilometers: Arma III an excellent example of what can happen when game development is unfettered by the restraints of current-gen console hardware. It’s also likely to require a pretty powerful rig to run smoothly, but that’s the sacrifice one makes for this level of fidelity to real life.
There’s a good deal of extended play value included in this package. Along with the single-player campaign, which has multiple endings, there’s co-op and competitive multiplayer available. On top of that, the game will include 3D mod tools and a mission editor, allowing the community to create plenty of new content for the game.
Arma III is a labor of love by a team that is absolutely dedicated to military simulation. It’s also a gift to PC gamers who are looking for a shooter that takes full advantage of their hardware. While we don’t yet know how much fun the game will be to play, it certainly reaches for the stars when it comes to establishing its setting and getting all the details of military technology correct. Look for Arma III to come to the PC toward the end of 2012.