Most fans of the military-simulation series ARMA will admit that its third coming was a woeful disappointment. ARMA III released with no campaign to speak of, a horribly optimized multiplayer component, a few “showcase” missions, and a handful of decent user-made missions. Even with hardly any content to play, though, the makings of a good ARMA game were present. Then the day came where the game would get its first batch of campaign missions in the form of “Survive”, the first episode in a planned season of campaign chapters; but it also inspired a fair amount of disappointment, largely thanks to linear, and and rote mission design. Where fans of the series hoped for this new installment to be a bang, ARMA III produced something that more resembled a small pop. All that said, though, its beginning to redeem itself.
Following directly after the events of Survive, the appropriately names Adapt campaign episode begins with Ben Kerry lying on the shore of the island Altis, a place much bigger than the islet featured in Survive. Kerry then manages to contact nearby friendly infantry but players will need to walk him through enemy territory. For the first time in this campaign, ARMA III grants players morsel or freedom, allowing them to move to the objective marker by any means they please. I opted to flank around the left side, side-stepping most enemy patrols, only needing to fire my lone pistol on an occasion or two. As I neared my comrades, though, I was spotted. Alarms were set, and the enemy sick their hypothetical dogs on me. Luckily, thanks to the route I took, I was somewhat far away from the pursuers, and managed to get to my new company.
Freedom of play-style proved to be a welcome trend in Adapt. Rather than in Survive, where following directly behind a leader was the only practice allowed, men are now following you. While you’re still given missions to complete, you give the orders, and decide what actions to take in completing those objectives. Missions where you’re tasked with infiltrating and eradicating enemy presence at a particular installation is where the game really shines. And although it was still inconsistent at points, performance seems to have improved a somewhat small, but noticeable amount on my system.
Unfortunately, though, while last episode’s game-breaking bugs made no appearance, there are still issues aplenty with the game’s AI. On more than a few occasions, squad-mates would find themselves stuck on waist-high fences, and in one missions, my men quit following me — and my orders — altogether. There were also moments where enemies would become aware of my presence by seemingly looking through walls — and my men would also see them, and inexplicably start shooting at the wall. Nothing really halted my progress, but the AI certainly did slow it.
On the multiplayer front, things remain imperfect but have improved a bit. While there are still more servers that run at unplayable frame-rates than not, there were a few servers that I could see myself returning to for future engagements.
It’s creeping closer to where it should be, but make no mistake, ARMA III still has a ways to go before it can fully redeem itself. This collection of missions managed to inspire exciting moments, and allowed for tactical thinking that we’ve come to expect, but performance and AI issues continue to hold it back. Let alone its still troubled multiplayer component. For those interested in ARMA, its not quite as hard to recommend this third installment as it was before, but I don’t really see myself putting too much time into it until performance and AI improve a bit more. That said, a remain optimistic for the game’s future, and maintain that I find enjoyment in it, but it’s still a shame that it released in the state it did. Hopefully it continues to recover from its battle, and heals-up to be the game both the fans, and the developers were hoping for.