Arma 3

Malden, the original map from Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, has been reimagined in Arma 3 as part of a wave of new, free content released today. Off the back of the $10 Arma 3 Jets DLC last month, this is the biggest update to the military sim since last year's Apex expansion.

Available as DLC on Steam (if you own Arma 3, it's already been automatically added to your library), the 62 km2 map "re-uses many vanilla Arma 3 structures, vegetation, and similar assets," but "also includes additions such as colored buildings, vineyards, and barns." 

Indeed, as you can tell from old footage, Arma 3's "Malden 2035" isn't a 1:1 recreation that puts each tree and shrub in the same spot. It's more like Arma 3's skin, and the assets of its existing islands, superimposed onto the bones and geometry of the old slab of land. "In comparison to the original Malden, the number and names of the towns and villages, and all locations of hills, crossroads, gas stations, have remained the same," says Bohemia. Malden, like other Arma locations, is based on Lefkada, a Greek island.

Malden is bundled with a new, 10-player multiplayer mode called Combat Patrol that emphasizes "heavily randomized" combat against AI across different kinds of objectives. The mode is also available for all other existing Arma 3 maps.

Malden is also the play space for Argo, a standalone game that Bohemia describes as an "Arma-based hardcore tactical multiplayer first-person shooter in which players fight as mercenaries over the remnants of a crashed space station." Previously known as Project Argo, the game features three different competitive modes focused on territory control or objective capture.

Argo is "completely" free, but interestingly, a $10 "Supporter's Pack" is available for purchase on Steam, which grants the following bonuses:

  • Set of 13 exclusive animations for the MVP screen
  • Bundle of 23 unique apparel items, including facewear and headwear, and backpacks (these items are purely cosmetic and do not offer any gameplay benefits)
  • Highlighted name in the leaderboards
  • Access to premium servers that will be exclusively available for Argo Supporters
  • Controllable vehicles in Argo's Scenario Editor

The new stuff coincides with Operation Flashpoint's 16-year anniversary. Though Codemasters retains the rights to Operation Flashpoint, Bohemia carried its spirit forward with Arma: Armed Assault in 2007. 

Arma 3

Bohemia Interactive revealed today that the Arma 3: Jets DLC, which "will enhance the combined arms experience by adding three new air-superiority jets, an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), a new Showcase scenario, and more," will be released on May 16. And since jets aren't much good without someplace to park them, Bohemia is also going to throw in an aircraft carrier, absolutely free. 

The carrier—designation CVN-83, USS Freedom—will be given to everyone who owns Arma 3 as part of the platform update that will accompany the release of Jets. It can carry various sorts of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, supports catapult takeoffs and tailhook landings, and packs "functional autonomous defensive weapon systems." The only thing it can't do is actually cruise around on the water: "The ship is a static object that can be positioned across the map via the 3D Scenario Editor, but cannot be 'driven'," the studio said. 

The Jets premium DLC, which Bohemia showcased last month as part of its "Scanning the Horizon" year-ahead preview, will go for $12/£9/€10, although it's currently available for pre-purchase now on Steam or the Bohemia Store at a 10 percent discount. For that, you get the F/A-181 Black Wasp 2, To-201 Shikra, and A-149 Gryphon tactical fighters, the fifth-gen, all-weather Sentinel drone, and a new Showcase scenario that will enable air-to-air and air-to-ground combat with an "extended damage model," dynamic vehicle loadouts, and targeting enhancement. Jets is also available as part of the Arma 3 DLC Bundle 2, along with Tac-Ops, Tanks, and the mysterious "Orange." 

Arma 3

This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 303. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US. 

Set on the jungle islands of Tanoa, our first ever Arma 3 Sports Day will put the team through five brutal trials of skill and fortitude. These challenges, orchestrated by the almighty deity Zeus (well, Andy), will test essential skills such as marksmanship, driving, avoiding lightning bolts, and hiding from a helicopter in a bush. The challengers won’t know what each event involves until the chaos begins, and the mischievous Zeus will keep things interesting by throwing a few surprises into the mix, usually involving sheep. Who will be the champion?

Meet the team

Andy Kelly (Zeus) I’ve played a lot of Arma 3 and am well-versed in Zeus mode, particularly spawning sheep.

Samuel Roberts I’ve only played Arma 3 once, for a feature, and had to be taught how to climb over things again.

Chris Thursten I’ve played a bit of Arma 3, but needed to replay some of the campaign to get up to speed.

Phil Savage What’s the crouch button? What’s the get in car button? It’s been a while since I last Arma’d.

Tom Senior I’ve never really played Arma either. This hardcore war sim can’t be that hard, right?

Death Karts

Andy: I don’t know why Arma 3 has go-kart DLC. There’s something absurd about a soldier decked out in full military gear skidding around in a tiny car. Which was the inspiration for my first event, Death Karts. The guys have to make three laps of the runway, which I’ve littered with wrecked vehicles and sheep. I’ll also be flinging lightning bolts and maybe the occasional mortar strike, just to spice things up. 

Phil: We set off. I dodge tanks, rusted boats and other detritus (is that a sheep?), and, as I approach the halfway point of the first lap, I’m in the lead. The shouting from nearby desks suggests that I might be the only one left moving. Then I explode. Er, Andy, what was that? 

Andy: Yeah. Death Karts was maybe a little too deadly. Rather than exciting obstacles to avoid, the mortar strikes were just annoyingly powerful. Halfway through the first lap, everyone’s either dead or their karts are broken. So I decide to start again minus the artillery. And because it’s taken us 40 minutes to get to this point, I decide that one lap is enough. Now it’s time for Slightly Less Deadly Karts. Go! 

Chris: I’m lagging behind Sam as we reach the end of the runway for the first time, but then he clips the side of one of our own ruined karts, does a forward flip, and dies. I thread a safer course, by which I mean I run over his head. I’m clear in the lead: Phil’s lost his kart by this point, and Tom died early. But then I hear gunfire: Tom sprints back onto the track from the respawn point, takes aim, and kills me. Nobody wins. 

Tom: Welcome to the senseless horror of Death Karts, Chris. If I can’t win, everybody dies. 

Samuel: My death was sudden and embarrassing. 

Phil: Technically I’m alive, but I have no wheels. I can move, but slowly, and always to the right. If we had a few hours, I might make it a few metres down the road. We don’t, though, so instead we persuade Andy to give us another go. 

Tom: I am officially disqualified from earning any points because of my previous unsportsmanlike behaviour. In my despair I crash into a downed helicopter and explode.

Chris: I manage a pretty clean run on our final attempt at this, pulling ahead and staying there because I know that you can hold down Shift to make cars go faster. Nobody else knows this, and I do not tell them until after I’ve crossed the finish line. I savour my gold medal, even though it comes with the silvery tang of betrayal. Mmmm. 

Phil: What! I press Shift and, sure enough, I get a burst of speed. I would be annoyed, but the revelation allows me to overtake Samuel for second place. 

Samuel: I’m just grateful to make it round the track, which I do. I’m furious that Chris didn’t share this detail, but hopefully karma will get him back in a coming event.

Winner: Chris2nd: Phil3rd: Samuel

Bird of Prey

Andy: Comms Alpha is a military outpost on the precarious edge of a dormant volcano. I’ll be assaulting it in an Mi-48 Kajman attack chopper. There are a few buildings for the guys to hide in, but I’ll be able to flatten them with my missiles. I spawn the Kajman a few miles away then slowly make my way towards the base. I wish there was an option to play ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. 

Tom: Ah, the cowardice challenge—I’ve got this. At one end of the base there’s a huge building shaped like a golf ball. I’m certain Andy won’t be able to resist destroying that first. In fact, I think buildings are generally a death sentence here so I pick a largeish bush on the outskirts of the base, lie on my stomach and unceremoniously roll into the roots as far as I can. In first-person view I can see a wall. From third-person I can only see leaves. I’m not moving. 

Andy: I realise how bad I am at flying helicopters. Precise Gatling gun fire is out of the equation, so I just pummel the base with rockets and hope for the best. Of course I destroy the giant golf ball first.

Phil: Unbeknownst to me, I’ve hidden in the same bush as Tom. As Andy rains hellfire down upon the buildings, I wedge myself further into my leafy sanctuary. This is a good plan! Suddenly, unexpectedly, I’m dead. I ask Andy if my movement had tipped him off. It turns out no. The downside to lying in the grass as an attack helicopter flies overhead is that there’s nothing to protect you from a stray rocket. Writing that sentence down after the fact, it sounds really obvious. 

Samuel: I get in the nearest building, because it’s so obvious I don’t think Andy will search there first. I see the smoke as Andy destroys the building next to me—this is like a survival horror game where the monster is a chopper. It’s genuinely tense. Andy clips me with ricocheting bullets but I heal myself as he restocks. 

Chris: I’ve got a plan. We can’t shoot each other, or Andy, but there’s more to a Arma character than guns. I hide in a building with a window overlooking Tom’s bush. I suspect he’s safe down there, so as Andy passes over I ready a red smoke grenade and attempt to throw it down at him. It bounces off the inside of the window and goes off at my feet. Shit. Red smoke billowing from the window I’m at, I flee and enact plan B: hide from Andy by running directly beneath him. This does not work because helicopters are faster than people. As he fires aimlessly at the containers I’m hiding behind, I take a hit. I just about manage to heal and sprint away. 

Tom: There is a lot of scary noise, but all I can see is the bush I’m in. Save me, sweet bush.

Chris: I hide in one of the perimeter huts for a while but Andy gets dangerously close, so I move to one of the bushes on the far side of the base from Tom. It’s there that I get clipped by a stray round, crippling my ability to sprint. I’m not going to last long like this. I’ve got one last shot at revealing Tom: I’ve got to find Phil’s body. I walk-crawl across the base, hiding in the ruins Andy has left in his wake. Miraculously, I make it from one side to the other in the gaps between several passes. There, in the bushes, I find Phil’s bloody corpse. I loot it for grenades and turn, locating Tom by the faint squadmate indicator on my HUD. I throw first the red smoke and then the white smoke towards him. All I need to do now is wait. I take cover next to Phil... and am promptly shot to death as Andy strafes towards Tom’s position. 

Tom: I had no idea that Chris did this until I saw the replay later. It’s a fitting act of revenge. We’re all square, so I’m sure this will be the end of it. Yes, very sure. 

Samuel: It turns out the building I hid in was impossible to destroy, which is Andy’s fault. So I win.

Winner: Samuel2nd: Tom3rd: Chris

Deep trouble

Andy: A simple race next. The guys have to drive a pair of ‘water scooters’ (basically non-copyright-infringing Jet Skis) from the tip of one landmass to another. I can’t place obstacles on the water, so this’ll be a lot less nerve-racking than Death Karts. Although I will be spicing things up with the occasional lightning bolt. And I also set the weather to stormy to make it too easy for them. 

Challengers are trapped in a mountain base while Zeus attacks in a helicopter. Last man standing wins.

Phil: We point ourselves at the target and go! And keep going. I don’t mean to criticise—you’re doing great work here, Andy—but where exactly is the trouble in this event?

Turns out Deep Trouble is light on actual trouble, but it is deep.

Andy: Yeah, turns out Deep Trouble is very light on actual trouble. Although it is deep! It’s basically very difficult to make a straight race across some water exciting, even when chucking lightning bolts around. So consider this a nice break before the drama ramps up again. It might have been more fun if the water scooter controls weren’t terrible. There’s a lot of things Arma does badly, including the handling of various non-military vehicles, but I won’t hold that against Bohemia. They probably didn’t expect some idiots to use their game to stage a Jet Ski race. 

Chris: I should not have gloated about the power of the Shift button. Use of the Shift button is all that separates winners from losers in this game of riding a Jet Ski in a straight line, and I do not win.

Samuel: I win! Probably because I had slightly more luck with the waves than the others did, or I guess I cheated and left the starting line half a second early. That event was... uneventful. 

Andy: Zeus screwed this one up, but you try using an engine designed for military simulation to create a comedy sports day. I should have called in a few mortar strikes.

Winner: Samuel2nd: Chris3rd:  Tom

Shoot to kill

Andy: And now for a test of marksmanship. I ask the guys to climb to the top of an enormous cargo crane at the Blue Pearl docks. It looks out over a long row of shipping containers, which I’ll be zigzagging through. Each challenger will take it in turns to kill me. I was originally going to have them all firing simultaneously, but it was too difficult to determine who killed me. So this way works a lot better. 

Tom: I’m up first. I make sure I’m crouched, because that improves the stability of your aim in Arma. Then I make sure I’m shuffled up close enough to the safety rail for my weapon’s bipod to deploy. That should make aiming even easier. There are tense moments as I look down the range, then I spot a tiny figure booking it across open ground. I fire wildly. Dust kicks up behind the tiny dude as my bullets hit the dirt. This must be terrifying for Andy. 

Andy: Being under fire in Arma 3 is genuinely scary. I hear the whistle and crack of Tom’s bullets around me, but I manage a few laps of the containers without getting hit. My guy keeps running out of breath and slowing down, because this is Arma and simulation governs everything. Eventually I keel over and die.

Tom: Andy’s simulated asthma attack is the only reason I’m accidentally able to eventually take him down. Turns out a bipod and good combat posture are useless if you get a massive giggling fit halfway through the challenge. 

Phil: My turn. I’m initially thrown when Andy adds a slight variation on his route, and later when Tom crawls onto the edge of the crane in an attempt to put me off. Soon, though, Andy is back on course and Tom is plummeting off the crane to his death. It takes a couple of loops, but I bring Andy down in what I hope was a respectable time. 

Andy: I was sticking roughly to the same route, but throwing in a few curveballs to keep things exciting. Fair? Not entirely, but this ain’t the Olympics. If I was in charge of that it’d be a nightmare, and absolutely covered in sheep.

Chris: I feel pretty confident about this: I know the ‘hold breath’ key. As the others take their turns I daydream about lining up the perfect shot and dropping Andy with a single round, but I’ll settle for a nice clean kill. It starts well: I tag Andy on his first pass, but the next two are a wash. I finally down him shortly after, about ten seconds faster than Phil and Tom. But I’m no Deadshot: that honour goes to the biggest fan of C-list Batman villains in the office. 

Samuel: It feels like it takes me forever to even hit Andy, but when I finally connect he’s down in seconds. It doesn’t feel like I’ve won... but somehow I have, by just a few seconds. Now who’s Deadshot, Chris?

Winner: Samuel (00:48:6602nd: Chris (00:50:70)3rd: Phil (01:09:81)

Battle Royale

Andy: And now for the grand finale. Ile Sainte-Marie is one of the smallest islands in Tanoa. The perfect arena for a fight to the death. There’s a large rocky outcrop in the middle surrounded by thick jungle, which should give the team plenty of hiding spots. I give them a minute before the round starts to choose a starting position, then the chaos begins. The last man standing wins, and there are no rules. I’ll also be randomly spawning civilians and animals, just so I have something to do. 

Tom: The island is heavily forested, and foliage has betrayed me once already in this challenge. If I wander into the trees, spotting other players will be a matter of luck, so I come up with a different plan. I run until I’m out of sight of the others, then I wade into the sea and start to circle the island. I keep my head just above the water so I can see. 

Chris: Tom and I had the same plan, it seems. I know this because I can see him poking out of the sea, just down the shoreline from me. We look at each other awkwardly as Andy gives the ‘go’ command, but I’ve got time to bring up my sights and drop him with a single shot. It turns out there was a crucial difference in our positions: his gun was under the water, but mine wasn’t.

Tom: Idea good; execution bad. I’m rubbish at soldiering. 

Phil: I, like Iron Maiden before me, run to the hills. This may be a mistake. For some reason, I’m running out of stamina really quickly, even when walking at a normal pace. I think I may be over-encumbered. That’ll teach me for stealing some of Chris’s rockets out of his backpack. 

Chris: I stalk away from the shore towards the undergrowth and soon spot Phil coming down the slope towards me, facing away. I manage to land a hit, at which point he scurries behind a tree. We trade shots for a while and then… an old man in a blue T-shirt runs past my gunsights. He runs around me in a circle, then stops in front of me. “Andy?” I say, stupidly. Of course it’s Andy. I hear the sound of an RPG and Andy explodes. 

Phil: Wait, that was Andy? In my panic, I fired on the first thing I saw moving, not stopping to wonder why it was dressed in a plain shirt and denim. I switch back to my rifle, but I’m exposed—I left the safety of the tree to get a clean rocket shot. I fire off a few bullets, but I’m an easy target, and quickly taken down. 

Samuel: With just me and Chris left, I suppose I’d better leave the outcrop of rocks I’ve been perched on while the others sorted each other out. I head towards Chris, who hasn’t spotted me yet—past the civilian’s dead body, which is unnerving. 

Chris: I loop around the hilltop. Sheep and chickens are spawning all around me and Andy makes a flock of birds erupt from the bushes at my position. It’s not subtle. I spot Sam in the distance, and fire. I miss and hide behind a tree. Time to take some notes out of Phil’s playbook. 

Samuel: I fire at Chris and miss. He turns toward me, there’s an explosion and Chris is dead! What happened? 

Chris: I ready my RPG and lean around the tree just a few inches. There is a sheep looking at me. I place Sam in my sights and pull the trigger before he can respond. 

...but here’s the thing. RPGs, right? They’ve got a big scope, and it sticks out substantially from the actual rocket-propelled-grenade part of the apparatus. The big tube that blows things up. What I am saying is that while I am pointing the scope out from behind the tree, I am in fact pointing my RPG at solid bark. I fire. I blow up. 

Samuel: In retrospect, I could have won this round without firing a bullet. Amazing scenes. I feel like luck has played a part in at least two of my victories, especially as someone who hasn’t even finished the tutorial. But the important thing is, I won.

Winner: Samuel2nd: Chris3rd: Phil

The final results

Arma 3

Arma has quietly become a very influential game.

Bohemia Interactive's military sim series has been around for 15 years (including its early life as Operation Flashpoint), but its best ideas are only now being borrowed by some of today's most popular multiplayer games: Ark: Survival Evolved, H1Z1: King of the Kill, Rust, or even low-key open-world co-op romp Ghost Recon Wildlands. Directly and indirectly, these massive-scale shooters build on Arma's legacy of fidelity, big maps, and its make-your-own-fun mentality.

Add PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds to that list. Born from the Arma mod Battle Royale (which became the basis for H1Z1: King of the Kill), Battlegrounds is the latest mutation of the emerging subgenre of the same name. Despite that relatively long period of gestation, Battlegrounds' launch last week wasn't without the expected Early Access bruises. Developer Bluehole seems to be on top of it, issuing its first patch yesterday, but the reward system has been having issues. Server performance has struggled here and there. And even on lower settings, my framerate plunges when I look at the biggest cities on the map. 

Still, Battlegrounds is the best game of its kind available, thanks in large part to its considerable Arma DNA.

Concentrated

Using your eyes to spot and track enemies is an essential skill.

If Arma's tea, Battlegrounds is espresso. Its format compresses the time and space you're accustomed to in sandbox FPSes, dropping you into a 64 km² map (much smaller than Arma 3's 270 km²) that perpetually shrinks in diameter. King of the Kill players know how this system works: a 'safe zone' is marked on the map a few minutes into the match, and all players have to scramble to get inside. Anyone caught outside takes damage over time. Every few minutes, a smaller zone within the previous zone appears, forcing anyone left alive closer together. A match takes 20 minutes at most.

Some core Arma mechanics are purposefully shrunk down, too. Your compass is a fixed part of the UI, not something you have to find, equip, then 'pull out' by hitting a key. Body positioning matters, but you don't have nine different infantry stances to fiddle with. Each gun shoots a different caliber of ammo, but it's an easy system to grasp.

In short: Battlegrounds isn't a simulation, but it retains plenty of Arma's spirit. Using your eyes to spot and track enemies is an essential skill, for example. When you see someone running across a field, there's this 'I know something you don't know' sensation—I can totally shoot this guy, he doesn't see me, you'll think. But like Arma and DayZ, it's usually not a matter of putting them under your crosshairs and jabbing the left mouse button. You want to wait until they're out in the open, when they're checking their inventory, when they're preoccupied and aloof. In these moments, I love the way Battlegrounds asks me to think critically and examine an enemy's body language, check which towns are nearby, or guess based on the state of the ever-changing safe zone what that enemy might do next.

Like Arma, too, you should play it with friends. Scrounging for loot is more satisfying when you're filling in each other's equipment gaps ("Anyone got any 7.62mm?") and announcing big finds over voice chat. Moments of leadership emerge: deciding when to jump out of the plane at the start, deciding which group of buildings to raid next, figuring out the right time to ditch a vehicle. Someone's got to make those calls, and I like that Battlegrounds makes me feel the disappointment when they go wrong alongside doses of GTA Online-style calamity.

Other than the performance imperfections and untenable gunshot sounds, I'm only curious, and slightly concerned, about how quickly Battlegrounds might age. Although it's a prettier, grittier, and more deliberate game than King of the Kill, those who've already put a ton of time into battle royale might eventually feel like Battlegrounds is a better-fitting set of pants. The Early Access offering is shallow: a map, essentially one mode, and the mildly satisfying lure of sick trenchcoats awaiting you in the loot system. It'll be interesting to see if the devs can keep pace with the game's burgeoning community.

Overall, Battlegrounds' approach to simplifying simulation-style systems and mechanics is successful. Many of my gaming friends who bounced off of Arma because they perceived it as too unwieldy are diving in, and those who haven't yet have been asking me enthusiastically about whether they should. I'm glad to have a short-form gateway game to sell them on the fun of FPS fidelity.

Arma 3

Bohemia Interactive's "Scanning the Horizon 2017" video offers a look at the studio's plans for the realistic military FPS Arma 3, including the upcoming Jets DLC, the Malden DLC that was announced last year, another one for Tanks, and something called Orange—named not for the infamous defoliant, but because it's being developed at Bohemia's new studio in Amsterdam.   

Orange is a "small development" that's "somewhere between Arma 3 Karts and Arma 3 Helicopters in size," Creative Director Jay Crowe said in the video. It will be properly announced later this year, but Crowe said it "explores a unique aspect of today's battlefield, a theme not often covered by other games," and will include "a couple of new vehicles, character clothing and gear, decorative objects, a mini-campaign, and more besides." 

The Jets DLC, being developed in partnership with Bravo Zero One Studios, will include three air superiority fighters, a drone, and some bonus content that Bohemia is keeping quiet about for now. It will support the new "extended damage model" and dynamic vehicle loadouts, but the "standout new feature," Crowe said, is the targeting enhancement, which is "built around adding greater depth to the simulation of radar and detection in Arma 3."   

Active radars give pilots the ability to detect multiple targets beyond the visual range, for instance, but the signals they send out also expose their position. Infrared sensors are passive but have a much more limited range, and are more susceptible to countermeasures. "Naturally, there's a lot more depth to this feature, and we plan to publish an op-rep soon to really dig into the details," Crowe said. "Overall, we see Jets DLC as really meaningful new gameplay [with] new choices that help balance the lethality of our advanced weapon systems in an authentic way." 

Jets will be premium DLC, but Malden, a "reimagining" of the Operation Flashpoint map of the same name, will be free for all plyaers. It will also include a new co-op multiplayer mode called Combat Patrol, which puts players together in infantry teams and confronts them with "heavily randomized" gameplay in selectable locales. More distantly, the Tanks DLC will add an "asymmetric package of armored vehicles" that will bring "new and improved gameplay to tracked and armored warfare." 

Arma 3 Jets is expected to be ready for release in May, and is available for preorder now at store.bistudio.com. Arma 3 Malden will be out on June 22, "Orange" is expected in the third quarter of 2017, Tac-Ops in the fourth quarter, and Tanks in the opening months of 2018.   

And now, because I like jets, more jets.

Arma 3

Bohemia Interactive's long-runnning Arma series stands out from the modern military shooter crowd through its dedication to authenticity. In fact, in 2013 we named Arma 3 our Simulation of the Year, quite a feat for an FPS. If that sounds like your bag, the Humble Arma Bundle offers one of the best prices ever for Arma 3 ($15), nevermind the fact that you're getting much more at that price.

For $1, you get Arma: Cold War Assault, a re-release of the 2001 shooter Operation Flashpoint, plus Arma Gold Edition and the turn-based strategy spinoff Arma Tactics. Beating the average price adds Arma 2, the British Armed Forces, Private Military Company, and Army of the Czech Republic add-ons, and the standalone expansion Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead.

Break the magic $15 mark and you'll also get the most recent additions to the series, Arma 3 and Arma 3 Karts, which was originally an April Fools' joke but was so well-received by fans that Bohemia went ahead and made it into real DLC.

The bundle also includes a link to the free prototype for Project Argo, a 5v5 competitive tactical FPS that was announced last year. You don't actually have to buy the bundle to get access, though, you can just click here and have at it.  

Arma 3 is still $40/£30/€35 on Steam (plus another two bucks if you want Karts, and why wouldn't you?), and the earlier games in the series aren't freebies either, so this is a pretty solid deal if you're at all interested in giving the series a go. The Humble Arma Bundle is live now and runs until March 14.

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info.

PC Gamer

Arma 3 and its predecessors are model citizens for moddability. Bohemia's milsim is practically a platform more than a traditional game, a vehicle for 3D modelers and mission makers. In 2014 and 2015 the company ran Make Arma Not War, a yearlong contest meant to encourage modders to put stuff on Steam Workshop, which now contains tens of thousands of missions, tweaks, and objects for Arma 3.

Add to that pile these familiar bricks from Mondkalb, who's actually an animation lead at Bohemia Interactive Simulations, a separate group that makes VBS. Yesterday Mondkalb put "Operation Blockhead" on Steam Workshop, a mod that contains a handful of unique Lego civilians as well as some simple Lego bricks that you can insert into Arma's high-fidelity world. It's a modest mod, but the contrast between blocky men and Arma's photorealism is wonderfully weird:

Mondkalb says that his intention was "mostly to demonstrate how versatile the engine is." The mod is a fully independent character setup, including "original animations, ragdoll, weapons, clothes swapping, head and face textures, lip movement and of course hats." The plastic characters don't inherit all of Arma's mechanics—crouching and prone didn't seem to work when I tried it in the Eden Editor. I love the ragdoll effect on the characters, though.

Hopefully someone will take these assets and run with them. Lego Island fans—and I know you're out there—here's your cue to get to work on a total conversion set on Arma's 100 square-kilometer Tanoa terrain.

You can subscribe to Operation Blockhead on Steam Workshop or find it on Google Drive.

PC Gamer

Among 2016's many gifts (I couldn't even limit my favorite games of the year to 10), it was the year that the best large-scale cooperative FPS got an awesome jungle.

Call Arma 3 a 'military simulation' if you want, but to me it's a platform for saying some military words with your buds as you wander over big, cool slabs of terrain to shoot AI targets. That terrain matters a lot, though—Arma's maps are the centerpieces for each game. They're the canvases that amateur mission makers use to create the nighttime recon missions, ambushes, tank fights, assassinations, and thousands of other scenarios that populate the Steam Workshop. Their contours, towns, regions, bridges, elevations, forestry, and other details are what give Arma's scenarios character.

When Bohemia added a South Pacific archipelago to Arma 3 this year, it made the game grittier. Anyone who played DayZ knows what it's like to get lost in Chernarus' forests, but that feeling pales in comparison to Tanoa's paranoia-inducing jungles. In places, Tanoa feels like you've stepped into Predator (there's an Easter egg to this effect, too). 

Its overgrowth neutralizes some of Arma 3’s fanciest gear in a way I really like: thermal goggles and remote-controlled drones kind of suck when you’re inside a dense tropical forest with short sight lines, and helicopters have a hard time landing or spotting anyone hiding in the stuff. If Arma 3 in 2013 was about near-future tech, Tanoa nudged it closer to late-'80s warfare, where you had to wade through waist-high grass and your hands dirty rather than score kills with a recoilless prototype rifle with 10 attachments on the rail.

Tanoa has a clearer, more likable personality than Arma's other terrains, partly because it's 'just' 100km2, compared to Altis' 270km2. Arma 3's original map is massive and variegated, and it must be one of the biggest handmade environments ever released for a multiplayer FPS. But after awhile, its Mediterranean sunniness wore on me. Strafing an idyllic beach town with machinegun fire feels a little weird.

I love Tanoa's identity and the atmosphere it lends Arma. Its 100 square kilometers of tropical terrain is a cover album of real-life locations like Lihir Island and Fiji: huge swathes of jungle beside a variegated mixture of plains, shoreline, and scrubland. Populating the archipelago are farms, refineries, mines, beachside villages, logging camps, ancient ruins, and a dead volcano, all ripe landmarks for Arma's scenario editor. Step into the forest in the afternoon, and you’ll hear birds and insects chattering. But at nighttime, it’s a different sound: unsettling owls and other nocturnal things punctuating a constant cricket hum. Thunderstorms drop piercing rain and sky bass, imbuing any mission with drama.

It's a setting that encourages scrappy, grounded encounters—a lot of the missions in Steam Workshop are raids on drug lord hideouts or a similar theme, taking advantage of two of the added factions, Syndikat (local drug dealers) and Gendarmarie (militarized police). Creeping around through shrubbery with guerrillas or spec ops alike feels perfectly natural.

We already have a pretty clear sense of what's coming to Arma 3 in 2017: a variety of paid and free DLC with a focus on combined arms (including a return of Malden, the original Arma's terrain), and ongoing platform improvements. Modders will continue to fill in the gaps, but as an incredible year in PC gaming comes to a close I remain excited about the simple fun and tension of crawling on my simulated stomach through tall grass in Tanoa.

PC Gamer

Our Large Pixel Collider wouldn't be much of a gaming supercomputer if we didn't throw the most demanding games at it. As we completed work on our holy artifact, we made a shortlist of games that would challenge its power. Among The Witcher 3, Elite Dangerous VR, and Total War: Warhammer we add Arma 3, a high-fidelity, sandbox military sim that's infamously CPU-demanding.

See how the LPC handles Arma 3's landscapes, firearms, and systems in the video above. Want to know what other hardware we're running on the LPC? Check our specs at pcgamer.com/LPC

PC Gamer

The company behind Arma 3 and DayZ today announced a pair of new games, and they're both playable now in an early form.

Ylands and Project Argo are products of a new part of the studio dedicated to experimental games called Bohemia Incubator. While Bohemia says that its core focus is on Arma, DayZ, and Take On, it sees Incubator as a chance to test concepts at a very early stage. "There are several reasons for wanting to release experimental games and involve players into their development process. First and foremost, it can help us test whether certain design concepts work or not (and if they're fun!). But it can also help guide the development of our technology and tools (such as our next engine, Enfusion), or supporting services, like networking solutions and online community platforms," reads an FAQ response on incubator.bistudio.com.

The new projects are very distinct. Ylands is a sandbox singleplayer and multiplayer building game built in the Unity engine that's intended for all ages. It's colorful and low-poly, but Bohemia says it's "powered by advanced simulations," in the spirit of its other, high-fidelity games. The trailer shows off a few different settings and biomes, from a Wild West town to an archaeological site, forest, farm, samurai battle arena, to a midnight castle siege. It's currently available in Bohemia's store for $10, or as a free, time-limited trial.

Project Argo.

Project Argo is an Arma 3 total conversion that transforms Bohemia's massive military sim into a five-on-five tactical game. Right now Argo has three modes: two are focused on controlling sectors or capture points, and another on attack-and-defend. "In each of the three game modes, players also have the option to capture a paradrop, which can dramatically change the tide of battle adding yet another tactical element to the confrontation," reads the Argo website. Maybe most interestingly, Argo will play out on a renovated version of Malden, the original terrain in the first Arma game. This in-development remake of Malden will be added to Arma 3 as free DLC in June 2017, per the Arma 3 roadmap. An open prototype version of Argo is available for the next three or four months.

Alongside its announcement, Bohemia disclaims that these and other Incubator projects aren't guaranteed a final release. "Bohemia Incubator might seem to be very similar to Steam Early Access, but we'd like to make clear that the Incubator games can be far more rough or experimental," CEO Marek Spanel says in the announcement video. "We may even decide to cancel or stop supporting an Incubator game. And this is also why players will often be able to test the games for free."

In my view, this is all about Bohemia setting itself up to build or discover the next DayZ. The Early Access survival game, which began as an Arma 2 mod, sold 3 million copies as of January 2015, and its success has also driven interest in Arma 3, which remains one of the most popular games on Steam. As it did with the Make Arma, Not War modding competition, Bohemia continues its search for new ideas inside and outside its milsim heritage.

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