ArmA 3 Apex Quick First Impressions


It doesn’t look like the big websites are going to review the new Apex expansion for ArmA 3— most of them except the PC-focused sites haven’t even really covered how drastically ArmA 3 has changed since its initial launch in 2013. I’m definitely not the most hardcore ArmA player despite my over 200 hours on the game, but I thought I’d at least lay down some quick impressions after a couple missions, one official and one from a mod.

If you don’t know the details of Apex at all, Eurogamer among others at least covers that thoroughly. It’s a new piece of terrain to play with — the first jungle environment Bohemia Interactive has done, a new short campaign, and a bunch of new units, weapons, vehicles, and other things to play with.

The first thing I should bring up is a word of caution to anyone interested in the campaign: Bohemia didn’t build it for singleplayer at all.

Selecting the “solo” option for the campaign missions ends up being like playing Dark Souls or Resident Evil 6 alone in online mode — you can’t pause or even save the game. The other huge swerve is that you get a 30-second respawn upon dying whether you’re in co-op or solo, with the mission state proceeding unchanged. That means you can technically respawn your way to taking down whole armies by yourself. And in solo mode you’re alone, Bohemia decided not to give you AI teammates since people criticized them so much, instead auto-balancing the missions for the number of players.

This is a huge change from Bohemia’s previous campaigns, but I can understand why it did this. In most discussions about ArmA it is overwhelmingly talked about as a multiplayer game. In its own forums Bohemia stated it changed the entire main menu for Apex to bring more attention to the campaign, which many players didn’t know was there. I’ll be one of the first to admit ArmA’s story campaigns are all over the place in the best of times and absolutely broken at the worst of times. The current is already turning against singleplayer shooters, and Bohemia is honestly nowhere near the level of polish that goes into games like Battlefield, Call of Duty, or Uncharted. So what we get with Apex is a Left 4 Dead situation.

Aside from that unfortunate development, my impressions on the content of Apex are pretty strong. If you remember Ghost Recon: Island ThunderApex feels like an heir to that game. You might as well call it ArmA 3: Island Thunder.

Even previous ArmA (and probably Operation Flashpoint) games probably felt like the only real successors to the original Ghost Recon. The terrain, atmosphere, and challenges you might face on Apex’s Tanoa islands immediately remind me of Island Thunder’s rendition of Cuba. Applying that to ArmA gameplay makes Apex feel like an Island Thunder that went through and order of magnitude of evolution. I also think it feels a lot like the original Crysis at times if you miss that game.

The biggest shock you might guess is the jungle. ArmA has always had dense forests, but rarely do you have toe deal with enemy encampments and other objectives shrouded in thick tree cover that makes spying on them from any direction more difficult than ever, even from above. Apex’s first mission has you deal with this and thick fog, constantly necessitating what I believe are new thermal vision goggles. I’m starting to think jungle environments are innately ideal for stealth and tactical games, and that’s why Crytek stuck to them for so long with Far Cry and Crysis.

Even if you don’t like how the campaign turned out, modders are already making worthwhile content for Apex. Just like with ArmA games in general, the game Bohemia made is really best enjoyed as a tool chest for players and modders to use. Apex is really just a pack of new tools, and initially the fanbase has decided those tools are good.


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