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E3 2012: Arma 3 (Hands-on)

by: Travis -
More On: Arma 3 E3 2012
As a fan of the Arma series, as far back as when it was titled Operation Flashpoint, I was excited to spend some hands-on time with Arma 3. The message touted on multiple instances during my appointment with Bohemia Interactive was that of providing both gamers and modders with the utmost freedom. The enormous military sandbox is still intact with Arma 3, but instead with a significant focus on improving a variety of features and polishing rough edges. Players will have an extensive array of freedom from using a particular weapon or vehicle to exploring any area of the game's massive islands.

The Arma 3 showcase at E3 featured a wealth of activities with underwater combat and a night patrol mission to name a few. Each of the showcase events highlighted improvements that have been made to the in-house built Real Virtuality engine, which has been continually improved since Operation Flashpoint. I was quite taken back at the level of polish that has been added to the gameplay and presentation. Simple things from aiming a weapon to the movement of characters has been significantly improved to make for a smoother gameplay experience. Even the addition of the now common ragdoll physics to the game enhances both realism and immersion of gameplay.

Visual quality has significantly improved from the previous game with new additions to the game's engine. Most noteworthy additions include volumetric clouds, improved lighting system, animated hands within vehicles, use of PhysX 3 for vehicles and other game elements, 20km viewing distance, and underwater environments. Just with the underwater element alone, an immense amount of development time was required for the new animations, character models, environments, unit AI, and sound filter. The underwater element is another logical extension for the freedom offered in the Arma series. The new addition allows modders to create projects based around underwater content. As well, the improved lighting system opens another realm of possibility for both players and modders with Arma 3. The eight hours of night now offer a more enjoyable and richer experience, which before was usually avoided for the drab presentation. I was thoroughly impressed by each of the engine improvements showcased during my hands-on time with the game at E3.

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Two new islands are included in the game consisting of Limnos and Stratis, which are part of the Aegean Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The combined size of both islands total over 320km of terrain that's completely open to gamers and modders. The possibilities for the types of projects by modders are even greater with the additional terrain. I was able to explore some areas of the Stratis island during the showcase at E3, which contained a wealth of stunning locales and vistas. I'm especially interested in seeing some future gameplay video of the much larger and massive island of Limnos. Even more impressive is that each island doesn't only feature exploration above ground, but now as well as under the lakes and oceans.

DayZ fans, myself included, will be happy to hear that improvements are being implemented to the game's multiplayer, which allows the engine to be far more stable with excess amounts of players. On a related note, it was jokingly confirmed that zombies will be able to walk underwater if the creator of DayZ, Dean Hall, is interested in adding that feature.

Modding within Arma 3 is simpler with improvements to the editor's interface and addition of functions for applying simple actions to units. The editor's planned 3D view was pushed back until after the game's release to avoid further delays in the development process. However, eager gamers and modders will be given a chance to experience Arma 3 before its retail release with a community alpha later this year. The alpha will feature the island of Stratis and the game's various improvements.

It was evident from the Arma 3 showcase at E3 that Bohemia Interactive is significantly improving nearly every aspect of the game. Numerous improvements to the game's engine combine for a solid gameplay experience that was often lacking with past releases in the Arma series. Bohemia Interactive confirmed that the retail release of Arma 3 has been pushed back to 2013, which for now provides me with more time to spend hunting zombies in DayZ.