ArmA 3 Alpha Preview

It’s like DayZ without all those nasty zombies

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The Arma 3 alpha has finally arrived with some single player showcases and a hefty multiplayer section to boot. We’ve picked it up and have a few of the ‘lite’ versions (singleplayer only) to give away for the first few people to comment on this post. Impressions of the alpha after the break.

First of all, this is very much ArmA2+. With many sequels that might be seen as a bad thing, but with the open-ended nature of ArmA 2 and the simulation aspects, all we can reasonably expect from a sequel is for it to be more realistic and more refined than the previous entries, and this is exactly what Bohemia have delivered so far. For those who don’t know, ArmA is a hyper-realistic military simulator in the same vein as the original Operation Flashpoint. This means lots of walking often to meet your maker due to one sly bullet. For many this can be frustrating, but for an equal number it’s exhilarating  especially once you throw multiplayer into the mix.

The first and most obvious change is the graphics, everything’s been given a high-res overhaul and while it isn’t optimised well at all (this is just an alpha) it looks considerably better than ArmA 2 in most situations. Vehicles in particular look gorgeous now, as I appreciated as I hid behind many during my time playing so far.There’s a wealth of settings to tweak but sadly visual fidelity drops off fairly quickly once you start lowering settings, so perhaps expect to be gaming at 30fps unless you have some kind of beast of a machine.

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All of the really new gameplay mechanics are shown off in the four showcases. There’s a typical infantry showcase that doesn’t really show you anything new except for the lovely graphics, there’s a SCUBA showcase that unsurprisingly shows you underwater infiltration (which works much better than you’d think and has made me much more frightened of the sea), there’s a vehicle showcase that also introduces picture-in-picture modes which are a real resource hog, plus the vehicle you get seems incredibly flimsy, and then there’s a helicopter showcase in which I struggle to keep the crosshairs on an enemy without flying into the ground or going upside down. Each one is around ten minutes in length but give you a fair bit of freedom in how you approach your objectives, and as a game it works much better than ArmA 2, the objectives make sense and the radio chatter has a little more heart to it than previously. There’s a lot of rough edges, but you can definitely see the promise in the title.

The main attractions for many are the editor and the multiplayer modes. You can create any kind of scenario you want with the right know-how in the editor, and multiplayer has a wealth of options and modes to set up different scenarios. The same hardcore rules still apply, so often you’ll be killed before you know what’s happened, but if you get a decent team together it’s a fantastic game.

Taking inspiration from ArmA 2 mod DayZ, there’s also the wasteland mode, which is basically with money and without zombies. You spawn into a team on the island, and do what you want. I chose to go find a town, got an APC stuck under a bridge, shot a man driving a truck, then got shot by someone on a hill after a tense game of cat and mouse. With the DayZ standalone still a way off and the original DayZ a hacker’s playland at the moment, it’s definitely worth picking up the cut-price alpha (£20 on Steam) to get your open-world MMOFPS fix.

As we said at the start, if you’d like to try out the game, leave a comment (and register) and we’ll get some invites sent out to you so you can at least play the single player.

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