As we made our rounds at E3 2012, we made an unscheduled stop at the Bohemia Interactive booth to check out their progress on the upcoming ArmA III. The series has always has its roots in tactical infantry simulation, and the upcoming game only continues to polish and strengthen that aspect. With a largely revamped engine and UI, ArmA III also seems to address many issues found with the earlier entries in the series.
One of the most noticeable changes is in how the soldier animations seem more realistic, and there are now more stances. For example, there is a combat stance that keeps your gun at the ready as you move, and it's faster than walking but not as fast as running. Another new stance is a sort of reverse prone in which your soldier is essentially seated and slightly leaning back; he is able to aim his weapon forward and thus maintain a smaller profile than crouching. There are also two different levels of leaning now, allowing you to take cover in the best way that presents itself.
A new physics engine is also at play, primarily apparent in the operation of the ground vehicles. The vehicles now feel like they have proper suspension and mass, and you'll notice as they crest hills and traverse more difficult terrain. Soldiers are also affected by physics when they are killed, so explosions may send soldiers into a realistic ragdoll away from the source of the blast. Soldiers who have been felled by fire also realistically slump to the ground, generally avoiding the overdone Hollywood-style effect of some physics engines.
We also took the submersible for a spin, swimming up to it and closing the hatch before using the onboard live feed displays to navigate the underwater expanse. Once at our destination, a shipwreck protected by divers and mines, we left the safety of our sub to engage the enemy underwater. Above us, we saw the blurry and refracted image of a helicopter flying above the water's surface. Other vehicles have in-unit displays, such as an armored personnel carrier that let the gunner man the turret by using the display rather than switching his entire vision mode to the turret. The displays have a slower frame rate than the game, looking somewhere in the realm of 10-15 fps, but that is a configurable option, and they certainly worked quite well. The feature is still under development, so such performance could change prior to release.
We also got the chance to participate in a night patrol, which looked much better than in previous games thanks to the new lighting engine and effects. Chem lights lit the way as we met up with our squad and turned on our weapon-mounted flashlights. We were able to spot an enemy by looking at their muzzle flashes and how they lit up the nearby environments, and the developers stated that while it wasn't in the game now, the idea was to make it so the AI could similarly find your position based on your muzzle flash and if you're using a flashlight at night.
The gear menu has seen a near complete rewrite, and you now have the ability to drag and drop equipment. Your weapon system now supports the addition and removal of attachments rather than having them simply "baked into" a particular firearm, allowing you to swap out barrel, optics and rail attachments. These run the standard gamut of scopes as well as items such as flash suppressors. Your gear also factors into an overall encumbrance system that is based on the total weight of all items and attachments you are carrying, including those found in your pack. The encumbrance system, in turn, has an adverse effect on your soldier's fatigue.
The popularity of the DayZ mod is not lost on the developers at Bohemia Interactive, and much of the work on the multiplayer experience is something that the developers want to incorporate into the new game. While one shouldn't expect zombies, the ideas that the mod put into action in terms of the multiplayer experience are certainly things that have inspired the team to implement into the game proper.
While we didn't get a massive look at the game, ArmA III seems to be coming along nicely. The combat, new stances, and underwater environments are certainly appreciated, and the new UI and physics polish up areas that have really needed some love. Look for the game to be released sometime in 2013, with a community alpha set to be released this August.
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