ArmA 3 Apex Impressions Part Two

arma3_2016_07_22_19_44_29_687So I’ve finished the main campaign that came with the ArmA 3 expansion, Apex, after putting down some quick words about it. Other than a pretty good write-up from Kotaku, I don’t see much critique of the expansion coming from major websites.

I think this mini-campaign  was actually a pretty good return to the feeling of early 2000’s military shooters, and probably a more even experience than ArmA 3’s main story. The problems I mentioned before are obviously still problems, but I’m not gonna throw the whole thing under the bus.

The last two missions in particular are indicative of the potential for mission design ArmA presents. The penultimate mission just puts you on an island and gives you a bunch of objectives that basically amount to “kill all the bad guys.” You can decide what bases you want to clear out first, and you’re given the location of some cool drones you can use to make your job easier, both land-based and aerial. It felt like a whole tactical operation was being put into my hands. The enemies were also spread throughout some interesting environments including a dense jungle, a village, and the ruins of World War 2 forts which made for a lot of variety for one mission.

The final mission is a pretty standard search for objectives at a harbor, but Bohemia’s Interactive’s environment design here turns what would have been standard military shooter fare into a more interesting  series of tactical situations. It feels kind of like the really good levels in the original Crysis where you’re looking over a big enemy base with a bunch of options for attack and infiltration. The earlier missions are effectively more linear because the objective locations give you a pretty clear path, but they don’t actually restrict you from choosing your own path.

I think the reason some are lukewarm on the Apex campaign is because it doesn’t go for pure and immediate excitement the way COD or Battlefield might. Most of the time the missions feel somewhat cold and surgical. Maybe it’s because there are never as many explosions going off or bullets flying as in mainstream shooter campaigns, but I think it’s because Bohemia simply doesn’t go for the movie feel. There are some moments in the Apex campaign where scripted events happen, but they don’t carry nearly the same kind of hype as a similar event in COD even though some are pretty well-designed. Games like this in general don’t deliberately try to grab players’ attention because as simulators they expect players to already be paying close attention.

Aside from all that, the new terrain in Apex — Tanoa, looks simply stunning. Its tropical vistas have a completely different feel compared to the European hills and forests Bohemia is used to, and fighting in dense jungles presents completely new challenges and opportunities. If nothing else I think it’s going to be a new experience for modders too.

BULLETS:

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