As I watch two Blackhawk helicopters with a gunship escort depart into the night, I wonder…who knows what awaits them? Who knows what awaits my squad and I?
Base sirens ring and wake us up from our sleep, and our CO informs us the island of Everon has been occupied. No one knows by whom, but we’re going in. The village of Morton is our objective. We disembark our helicopters and the facts of the situation immediately become apparent. This is no ordinary military shooter of the time. I crest a hill and there lies not just Morton, but Everon herself. It’s not a backdrop, there’s no invisible walls to force you down a certain path. Just you, your gun, and your squad.
I run towards a road and without even seeing the enemy I meet my maker. I take a step back for a second and think what I could have done differently. It would set the tone for the game, and the series.
This is Operation Flashpoint, now known as Arma: Cold War Assault.
Operation Flashpoint (OFP), the first in the ARMA series, aimed for a more authentic experience of war, and it delivered. You didn’t blindly run into the middle of mindless AI gunning them all down while your own AI may as well have been static objects, they were that useless. OFP was about using your head, giving your squad orders that would win the battle. And the whole island was yours to use and play on. You weren’t kept in a small boxed off area like other games.
Each town presented its own challenge. Even in one long mission, you could move between towns and no two firefights were the same. It offered a unique challenge to Mil-Shooters that hadn’t really been seen before.
The game was a sandbox that just drew you in. It made you value every action you made, and it would never stop giving new memories for you to cherish years after. For me in particular, the mission that really roped me in is one where you are a captured pilot, and you must break out from a Russian camp. You had no map and no compass to help guide your way. You had to navigate using the stars to guide you back to the nearest NATO base. OFP remains firmly in the hearts of all who played her, and it wasn’t just because of the campaign. It was also the community, as they felt like brothers in arms. Their actions online could mean the difference between success or failure. You were all cogs in a war machine.
That was 2002. Operation Flashpoint evolved into Arma back around 2006 when developers Bohemia Interactive split with publishers Codemasters. Arma: Armed Assault wasn’t the greatest game in the world, as it had many drawbacks, but it also added new tech to the game and gave its fans something fresh. The game stayed true to the original OFP style and gave players a modern day experience and a new island, Sahrani. An island that this author knows all too well.
The Operation Flashpoint name has been ruined by original publisher Codemasters awful attempt at follow up games (no bias, they were just awful). Thus the name change by BIS from Operation Flashpoint: CWC to Arma: Cold War Assault.
The next milestone in the ARMA series was the release of Arma 2. Arma 2 brought players to the shores of Chernarus for the first time. Not as survivors, but as members of USMC Force Recon. An uprising by the communist group ChDKZ, known as the Chedakis, has pushed the USMC to assist in retaking the South Zagoria area of Chernarus from the rebels. Arma 2 brought a certain charm that you just can’t put your finger on back into the series.
Chernarus is a faithful recreation of an area of the developers native land in the Czech Republic. It brought large varying terrain to play around in, from rough hilly forests for rebels to conduct guerilla warfare, to open farm fields for tanks to show their strength.
One of the strengths of the entire ARMA series has been its loyal base of modders. Unlike most military shooters where you get what the devs give you, Arma allows you to dream up and recreate any scenario you can think off (within engine limitations of course). Bored of the overused USA Vs Russia conflicts? Why not fight as a rifleman in the Argentine army during the Falklands war, and see how it could have gone Argentina’s way?
Or how about defend your native Georgia when the Russians invaded in 2008? Whatever scenario you can think of, you can probably do it in Arma. You are only limited by your ingenuity and the limits of the game engine. The attention to detail that some teams put into their mods are amazing. From a 3D model of a weapon, to all out conversion of turning the game into a WW2 conflict, or even something simple like bringing in new features such as a medical system.
I seems strange to say this, but by learning how to make mods for Arma has set this author down a path to enter the game development industry. Previously, it was all about joining the military, until medical reasons made that dream impossible. Doing my own modding in ARMA really helped develop an interest in the game industry, motivating me to join courses in college for game design.
The ARMA series has always been more than just another mil-shooter for me. The gameplay, flexibility of the game, its open world environment, and the community that endlessly keeps providing the game with fresh ideas. A developer that has stood against some pretty tough times during its existence to deliver a game that has no direct rival, that makes you want to play it, not because it’s the only one of its kind out there. But because it is one of a kind. This is what makes this series so enthralling. I encourage anyone with a fleeting interest in mil-shooters to pick up the latest iteration, Arma 3.
Arma 3 brings players to the islands of Altis and Stratis in the Greek Aegean sea. These beautifully recreated islands give players a chance to experience the vast improvements made to the arma series in Arma 3. Features such as the new ‘stance system‘ give players much more fidelity above the simple stand, crouch and prone approach of many shooters, such as step leaning from side to side, and being able to poke your head above walls. It’s a great new feature alongside the new ‘under water combat’, which gives you the ability to put on a wetsuit and silently approach the shore either via swimming or a SDV (A miniature submarine used to transport divers). But beware of those sea mines and enemy divers who may be armed with underwater firearms.
Aside from gameplay improvements, Arma 3 is visually stunning. As mentioned above, the islands are simply beautiful. Graphical improvements to the engine lend to making Altis a stunning island to look at from any view distance. Each forest or stone wall, each small barn or abandoned house adds to the atmosphere and look of the maps, yet each can be used for cover and concealment.
Sprawling over 400KM, Altis is the largest in the series thus far. Yet every part of the island is a faithful recreation of the Greek island of Lemnos. North to south, or east to west, it gives the players something to explore, so long as they’re not being shot at.
Once you get over the initial hurdles of getting to grips with the games pace and controls, what you will get is a truly rewarding experience. Sure at times it can and probably will make you angry, but the game keeps on giving due to its thriving community. There’s something for everyone in Arma 3. Whether you pick it up at full price or on sale, it’s got plenty of bang for its buck.