If you were to Google Arma 3 right now, you’d find that officially, this game is titled as an “open-world, tactical shooter”. The description is so vague, it’d be surprisingly easy to completely miss the depth and realism that this war simulation delivers. Arma 3 is about teamwork. It’s about “the guy next to you”. The 3rd iteration in the Arma series from Bohemia Interactive is the probably closest thing you’re going to get to putting your boots on the ground in a hostile territory without actually going and enlisting. From the graphical beauty of everything, and I mean everything, to the wind’s effect on your bullet (size, speed and rotation all calculated), A3 delivers an immersive and life-altering war simulation experience.
In this article, I’m going to attempt to bring the totally new or prospective Arma 3 player into the loop, up to speed, and on his or her way to surviving combat. Notice I didn’t say “combat in a PC game”, because with the level of detail and realism ingrained into Arma by real active duty military service personnel, the tactics learned while playing could conceivably be applied to real life combat situations. Buckle in, reader! You’re in for some boot camp!
Before we get into the survival part, however, let’s first get a bit nerdy, and look at some tech specs and requirements to running this game. The plain, simple and unavoidable truth is that this game has some performance issues. The Virtual Battlefield Simulator engine, used by the U.S. Army for virtual training of soldiers and still the core engine behind the Arma series is about 15 years old. The game relies heavily on single core performance, which leaves my 8 core AMD Fx8350 really quite handicapped. Long-standing lore in the Arma community is that Intel processors are better than AMD for this game. Having both, I see marginal Gaines with Intel’s single core processing power over my AMD, but nothing to write home about. With all that begin said, the minimum specs to run this game are:
• Operating system: Windows Vista SP2 / Windows 7 SP1 / Windows 8 / 8.1
• Processor: Intel Dual-Core 2.4 GHz or AMD Dual-Core Athlon 2.5 GHz
• Memory: 2 GB
• Video card: NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT, ATI Radeon HD 3830, Intel HD Graphics 4000 and 512 MB or faster • DirectX: 10
• Hard disk: 15 GB free space
• Other: Internet connection and free Steam account to activate
Perhaps one of the most amazing things about the engine BIS has stood by for over a decade is it’s ability to scale with time for as long as it has. Arma 3, despite it’s performance related shortcomings, delivers gorgeously solid, smooth and responsive performance 95% of the time, which is more than a lot of game developer companies can say. In no way should these performance problems sway a potential Arma player away from the experience…it’s Well worth the extra care required to run the game efficiently.
While A3 out of the box is indeed an amazing game, the really serious arma simulation experience comes with the use of community developed modifications. The extremely active mod community in Arma is second to none, and developer support direct from Bohemia Interactive Studios goes a long way in the widely publicized and engrossing modder community. The mod user / developer community is so advanced in fact, they utilize 3rd party software known as play with six to release, download and mass update the mods after distribution. The community works at an astounding pace, bringing new clothing, vehicles, weapons, and outright modifications adding or tweaking features to the game nearly daily.
The most widely used mods as of this moment are:
Task Force Radio
Task Force Radio is the Arma 3 successor to Arma 2’s ACRE, which, if you’re not familiar, is an amazing radio mod based off of teamspeak that factors in frequency, power, distance, terrain, weather, encrypted frequencies and more into communications protocols, allowing for interference and communications difficulties to become part of the equation. This is considered to be an essential mod to have installed amongst a vast majority of the Arma community, until we get ACRE 3, that is. Get it Here: http://radio.task-force.ru/en/
The ALiVE module is too big to fully explain in detail here, but the short version is, ALiVE is a framework that allows for a persistent battlefield and virtualized AI to fight en masse all over the map, and can be used by mission editors to create sprawling, persistent battlefields where AI forces are commanded by an AI commander to protect AI identified assets. It’s huge, and creates a very immersive, very intense and realistic battlefield. Get It Here: http://www.alivemod.com
Raven Lifter Mod
Raven Lifter Mod allows for helicopters to carry cargo via a sling, and allows players to fastrope into an AO via…well…a fastrope. Again, a widely used mod, although entirely less complicated than the above two. Download these three mods, and you should be ready to play most missions. Get It Here: http://www.armaholic.com/page.php?id=24754
At the time of this article’s writing, Arma 3 has well over 500 assorted modifications, and another 1000+ custom missions, both SP and MP. Popular assorted game modes include coop CTI (Capture The Island), Coop Domination, Coop Invade and Annex, TvT Team Deathmatch and Team Domination, TvT Attack and Defend, and then there are scenario missions, such as drug trafficking interdiction missions, hostage crisis and hostage exchange missions, HVT Asset escort and assassination missions, and many many more realistic scenarios that can be PvP, CTI, TvT Etc.
Now, let’s talk about about survival and tactics in Arma 3. In order to survive in the Arma battlefield, there are some definite things to take note, before ever stepping into the multiplayer battlefield. The most important rule, and the most widely violated, is the golden rule of two is one and one is none. Stay with your team. There are a lot of games out there where single player lone-wolf achievement is rewarded, and even encouraged. Arma is not one of these games! There is no worse news in Arma than looking around and not seeing any team mates.
This leads us to the next golden rule: 360 security. Always. Arma is a game of trickery. The enemy AI will sneak and flank you. They will run around buildings and come up behind you. They will hide and shoot out of a 2nd story window at you. TvT adds human intelligence into the factor, which is even more dangerous and unpredictable. If you look at your team and notice everyone looking in the same direction, they are screwing up, and you can save them by looking behind you. Nothing gets a whole team killed faster than tunnel vision.
Tunnel Vision leads us to our next topic. Communication. Arma is a game of teamwork, and without good communication, teamwork is difficult, if not impossible. Always communicate your position and what you see, so the overall team can share awareness. There is some etiquette when it comes to Arma comms. Communication in serious arma games usually involves teamspeak, and the radio mod I mentioned above. Players in these games are very serious, and all players are required to maintain radio discipline. This means no horseplay or arbitrary conversation on the radio during a mission, and using the proper military radio terms (A good idea is to learn the NATO phonetic alphabet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO_phonetic_alphabet) What this does NOT mean is do not talk on the radio. Remember: Clear, correct information at the correct time is crucial.
Communication leads us to our final topic, and that’s the teamwork itself, the mindset of Arma, and the placement of ego in the game. Since Arma is a game of leadership and giving or following orders, it is important to play the game with the correct mindset. Untrained alpha personalities often find themselves alienated when they learn they cannot automatically assume a leadership role during a game, often going rogue or arguing with whoever is “in charge” for the current mission, and that can cost the whole team their lives, as well as drain the fun out of the mission for all players. It is very important to stay together, follow your team, follow the plan and play the role assigned for the mission. Remember it is only a game, albeit a serious minded one, and the object is still to have fun! Arma can be a game of waiting and patience. I’ve heard of Arma jokingly referred to as the “hiking simulator” for all the in-game kilometers one must often run on foot in between objectives. There are often periods of waiting that far exceed what I would wait in any other game in the world for the chance to put one bullet into one target. Arma, for this very same reason, is the game that will change the way you think about and play military war games forever. No other gaming experience comes close to that which Arma provides.