After weeks of puzzles and hinting , Czech developer Bohemia Interactive has confirmed that a follow-up to its landmark military simulation game, Arma 3, is in development. It's still a PC exclusive, it's set somewhere in the Mediterranean, and it'll retain the fine, sandboxy, multiplayer-friendly, emergent warplay that we expect from the franchise with some key improvements. Within: I dissect every detail of the announcement, play Where In The World Is Arma Sandiego?, and change my pants.
Arma 3's story, as described by the press release:
"After years of intense warfare against Eastern armies, Europe has become the last stand for the battered NATO forces. On the verge of being driven into the sea, NATO command embarks upon a most desperate measure. In the hope of seizing what seems to be a well-guarded military secret, Operation Magnitude is launched. A small group of Special Forces and Researchers are sent to a Mediterranean island deep behind enemy lines. However, the mission is compromised and the task force destroyed, leaving Cpt. Scott Miller washed ashore upon the hostile island. In his effort to carry out the mission, he will face the dangers of modern warfare, an unforgiving environment, and the consequences of his own decisions..."
My take: What stands out here--other than the Mediterranean setting--is the concept of being behind enemy lines. Most of Arma's we haven't seen since the original Operation Flashpoint--. The other eyebrow-raiser for me, however mild, is the mention of an unforgiving environment. It's vague, but I can't imagine it's simply referring to the threat of being shot. If you're operating solo, maybe you'll have to worry about dehydration?
The announced features, one by one:
"Combining the strength of its predecessors with radical engine improvements, Arma 3 provides a unique experience of sandbox-oriented combat gameplay in the most detailed environment of the series."
My take: This is just a general hype line about the game, but "radical" is a very good word to put in front of "engine improvements."
"Single-Player Campaign - Evolve from a lone prey into a military commander in the open-ended & story-driven campaign."
My take: Open-endedness isn't anything new to Arma; the mention of being "lone prey" if we note that the press release also mentions being behind enemy lines.
"Vehicles & Weapons – Control a multitude of aircraft, vehicles and ships with accurate simulation; shoot anything from pistols to sophisticated weapon platforms."
My take: Breaking: military game to have war guns in it. Next.
"Physical Simulation & Improved Animations – Take advantage of PhysX™ supported vehicle simulation, in-game interactions and the revamped animation system."
My take: [The sound of coffee being involuntarily sprayed on my monitor goes here.] Whoa! PhysX? In Arma? Promising. For all of Arma's nuanced ballistics and fidelity, its engine doesn't model simple physics like vehicle collision or explosion blow-back well. New animations are a necessity, too. (As it stands, I can mime all of Arma's scant handful of death animations with perfect accuracy.) If genuine ragdoll can be added, even better.
"Rich & Authentic Environment – Explore an unsurpassed military combat experience set on an authentic Mediterranean island modelled from real geographic data."
My take: Mediterranean, you say. Real-world data, you say. I am become Evan Lahti, GLOBE SLEUTH . We know that Arma 2's biggest map is Chernarus , weighing in at 225 km² of area. It's safe to assume that whatever isle Arma 3 uses as its sandbox, it'll be near that size. That rules out Sardinia (24,090 km²) and Corsica (8,680 km²) off the coast of Italy, but makes Malta and the isles of Greece look like our probable candidates. Hmm.
"Multiplayer Gameplay – Experience both cooperative & competitive scenarios with the full support of dedicated servers for both Windows and Linux."
My take: Expected, comforting. Co-op, as we're keen to remind you , is the best way to play Arma.
"Completely Extensible & Moddable - Design & create countless customizable scenarios using the intuitive & easy-to-use mission editor."
My take: Arma thrives on its modding and mission creation community; Bohemia is reassuring its fanbase here that it isn't closing the doors to its own user-generated content factory. Start drawing up blueprints for another Battle Bus .
" Customizable Soldier Load - Choose your uniform; assemble your weapon kit; change your load-out; get loaded up. "
My take: This is good news bears. Armas 1 and 2 have put a lot of focus on creating a massive military library of weapons and equipment, but haven't put as much effort into refining the interface used to customize your war person. The result: everyone is stuck with the gear they're given unless they hunt down an ammo box or loot a weapon. I'm hoping this customization will take place at a main menu level, and will let me create a custom multiplayer character--with the gear and kit I like--that I can bring into any mission.
A final, interesting shell ejected from this announcement are the Arma 3's system requirements. Keep in mind that these are being issued a year before the game might release (and that hardware optimization is usually one of the last tasks completed in development), but I think Arma 3 is the first game to require a Core i5. Don't interpret that as a sign of concern--while Arma's sometimes-joggy framerate is a known annoyance, there's no reason for us to suspect that'll be the case in this sequel until we see it ourselves, and I love hoping that it'll be a game that continues to push what our hardware can do.
OS - Windows 7 / Vista
CPU - Intel Core i5 or AMD Athlon Phenom X4 or faster
GPU - Nvidia Geforce GTX 260 or ATI Radeon HD 5770, shader Model 3 and 896 MB VRAM, or faster
RAM - 2 GB
HDD - 15 GB free space
DVD - Dual Layer compatible
DirectX® - 10
There are still tons of unanswered questions. What new vehicles and gear will Arma 3 feature? Who're you fighting? What sort of bird will you respawn as after you die? If all this sounds scant, stand by: you'll be reading real, raw details in an upcoming issue of PC Gamer.