Impressions / Arma 3, Carrier Command, Take on Helicopters

Bohemia Interactive is one of those companies that you probably aren’t all that familiar with, but they have seen respectable success with their military sim: Arma II. At E3, they had a brief demonstration of its sequel: Arma 3, and of two new games: Take on Helicopters and Carrier Command. Being very unfamiliar with the series they’re known for, and even less familiar with their new titles, I was intrigued to look at some new games with no preceding expectations.

Arma 3

Arma 3 is shaping up to be the sequel that fans are expecting. My time with the game was pretty brief, and what they really focused on showing off was the game’s graphical improvements. The most attractive of these was the underwater segment. Showing a team of special force soldiers take an underwater route, all decked out in their scuba gear, to their objective not only looked cool, but opens the door to new tactical possibilities for fans. Expect a fairly standard single-player campaign filled with world threats, up-to-you’s, and unacknowledged acts of courage. The difference here is that there will be more emphasis on your player character: Scott Miller, and have a bit more of a “lone wolf” focus.

A big draw for this game will be its multiplayer component, as Arma II still has a fairly loyal following online. Unfortunately, details on this component were sparse, but more will likely be revealed in good time.

I wish I could give an impression of gameplay, but the technical revisions really took center stage with my brief demonstration, and to that end, they certainly have an engine to be proud of. The game will also come with its own mission creation tools, so the community will be able to keep the title alive, along with Bohemia’s own continued support. This one is a ways out, coming Summer 2012. There’s a good chance we’ll be seeing a lot more on this one as that time draws near.

Take on Helicopters

This one was odd in a good way. It’s a helicopter sim, and it looks familiar on its surface. Fly different classes, each with realistically modeled control panels, and offers a few simple objectives. Where it gets a little different is that it has a story-driven campaign. You play as the son of an owner of a dying helicopter business, and you’ve taken it upon yourself to save the company. You do this by taking on various types of jobs. Some are as simple as transporting people, others may have you supporting the military. One teaser video shows a helicopter going to assist with a burning ship out at sea.

Running on the Arma II engine, the huge vistas work well for a helicopter sim, and the experience looks to give as authentic a flight experience as they can muster. Coupled with a level builder of its own, this looks set to be a unique take on the helicopter sim. Expect this one later this year.

Carrier Command: Gaea Mission

Probably the most ambitious project that Bohemia had on display was Carrier Command. The game is aiming to be both a strategy and action game, depending how you want to play it. Set in an archipelago of 33 islands, you are the commander of a carrier ship. With it, your objective is to basically conquer all the islands. You use this with a balance of military might, industrial savvy, and/or some old fashioned combat skills.

The best way to explain this is with an example. So you have some opposing forces on an island rich with a resource you want for yourself. You move your carrier within range, then deploy some aerial attackers, and then transport in some ground troops by sea. You can now manage these platoons and manage them like a battle in StarCraft, or if you get the itch to get in on the fighting yourself, you can hop into one of those flying vehicles and do the fighting yourself. Or be a ground troop, or drive a tank on the ground, or just about any unit on the screen. They’re all fair game… if you prefer. You can always just be the overlooking commander and just call all the shots.

The industrial savvy comes in when you consider that your ammo is limited, and that you’ll want to be able to produce new and better units as you progress. As a result you’ll want to cultivate resources as you find them so that you never find yourself stranded.

On some level, it seems like there is some strategy gaming, but that the real crux of the gameplay is so open to preference is really interesting. My first and only question was whether or not we’d see multiplayer. We will, but not until after release. As of now, the focus is on the single-player campaign. It will be interesting to see more on this game when it releases early next year.

Bohemia had an interesting set of games on display. A continuation in their tactical military sim series they’re known for, a story-driven commercial helicopter sim, and a genre-flexible war “sim.” You almost can’t say the games have stiff competition, because they are each very niche titles in their fields. That can work to Bohemia’s advantage if players give these odd approaches to familiar genres a shot. From here it’s just a matter of seeing whether or not they deliver.