Hands-on: ARMA III

Roving reporter, jet-setting journalist and intrepid editor Siobhan Keogh gives her first impressions of ARMA III straight from E3 in Los Angeles.

Summary:It's still got the realism, but it's much easier to pick up this time around.
Games Info:Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Classification:Not yet rated
Test Platform:PC

The ARMA series was propelled to superstar status last year, when a mod called DayZ gained momentum among PC gamers. Suddenly, ARMA II shot to the top of Steam's 'most popular' list, and stayed there for some time. Most people weren't buying it to play the base game, however, but to play DayZ. ARMA II was complex, and difficult for the average gamer to get into.

ARMA III aims to strip out some of the complexity of the series, while maintaining the same authenticity and realism previous games are known for. In this respect they've succeeded - it has been a while since we last picked up ARMA II, and the controls were rather difficult at the time. But the controls in ARMA III were much simpler and more traditional, and we picked them up right away.

That doesn't mean the game is easy - when you play ARMA you're going to die, and you're going to fail missions. A lot.

In the first game mode we played, Combined Operations, you play in a large squad surrounded by different kinds of soldiers - a rifleman, a medic, a squad leader, and so on. It's best to move with the squad, as they'll warn you of any incoming enemies (and they make for good cannon fodder if you don't want to be the first to die).

Enemies aren't always easy to see, even when your squad has pointed them out.

You always seem to have support during a mission - within 30 seconds or so of starting to play, an armoured truck had showed up.

In another level, I was tasked with sniping two enemy soldiers carrying particularly nasty guns. Sniping is a very difficult task - the game tells you how far away your enemies are, and then you have to modify your weapon so you can shoot accurately at that distance. Then you have to zoom twice, which requires pressing the right-click followed by the + button, which seems like a bizarre placement given it's on the opposite side of the keyboard to your keyboard-hand. In theory it's not a big problem, as you shouldn't be under fire and in a rush while sniping.

Bohemia Interactive showed us one other game mode, called Challenges. These are a series of time trials, where you race against the clock to complete a course while cardboard-cutout enemies pop up in front of you. Game designer Jiri Zlatohlavek said that since the game would be on Steam, players would be able to create and share their own community levels. They're not really designed for seasoned ARMA players, but to teach you how to play the game without the stress of potentially deadly combat.

While we're hanging out for DayZ, ARMA III is improving dramatically in its own right. It's still got the realism - the grass crunching under your feet and flattening under you when you go prone - but it's much easier to pick up this time around. We played alpha code, but it goes into beta on 24 June if you want to see for yourself.