ArmA III Free Play Weekend Review

A couple of weeks ago Steam had a free play weekend going on for ArmaA III at the same time that the game was slashed to 50% down to $29.99. I have had the game in my wish list for several months and thought this would be the best opportunity to try out the game before making a purchasing decision. The free play weekend version was a modified install that provided access to one singleplayer campaign, the mission editor, and multiplayer.

I have a long history with Bohemia Interactive Studio games going back to the original Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis that was released in late 2001, as well as all of the games and DLC that have been released in between. The fact that I repurchased most of this on the Steam platform should be a testament to my faithfulness to the series.

I have spent the majority of my time using the fully integrated mission editor, and have logged over 800 hours playing time in single player missions. A liberal estimate of multiplayer time over the past 14 years would be about 10 hours maximum (it just never caught on for me). The ability to create my own private war in the high quality sandbox that shipped with each game was its selling point.

There are a number of reasons why I have not purchased ArmA III yet, not the least of which is that I am a card carrying Steam Whore. I buy a ton of games on Steam but only when they reach a specific price point. The 50% was enough to get my attention but sadly with what I saw in the game there was not enough to justify my pulling the trigger now when there are two major sales coming up.

My Quick and Dirty Review

So what do I do with what is basically an infantry combat simulator with vehicles and aircraft thrown in for good measure? I create a test mission using tanks and fantasize that I am playing the latest version of Steel Beasts Pro and my USB flash drive is cross dressing as a CodeMeter stick…

While the editor interface has changed, the underlying guts and glory is still there (units, groups, waypoints, etc.) There is enough that can be done in the integrated editor and ability to immediately play a scenario (without the need to save it off and launch a separate game application) that this alone could have been the selling point of the game.

One of the things that BIS have done poorly through the years is vehicle pathing. Trying to create a convoy in these games is a sad affair at best and a rage induced uninstall at worst. Here a platoon of four tanks rushes up to a waypoint and groups together. This creates a great many problems when trying to engage targets when there is a high probability that a friendly unit can pass right in front of your turret as you are firing.

Another thing that has never been satisfactorily addressed is how the engine treats damaged vehicles. There are no infantry units in my scenario and the soldier in the screen shot is from a friendly tank that has become disabled due to enemy fire. The AI dismounts and proceeds along the established waypoints without the vehicle (blindly ignorant of the enemy they will be facing) and often gets in the way of other vehicles causing the whole effort to slow to a crawl.

On the positive side the play area in the game is simply breathtaking which allows for as close to realistic long range engagements (armor on armor, marksman on material) as can be faithfully represented in a video game.

While I do not mind the futuristic setting of the game (2035 I believe), what would have been nice to see is that BIS addressed some of the long standing issues with the game such as the poor path ability of grouped AI vehicles, as well as some of the less important aesthetic ones such as the inability to place a sidearm in a holster.

I will definitely pick the game up but most likely will wait until it is deeply discounted on one of the big Steam sales.

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