ARMA 3 released way back in 2013 and it described itself as a game where you can experience true combat gameplay in a massive military sandbox. Today, 4 years later, it remains the best we got when talking about military simulators. As such, ARMA is notoriously hard to get into. I, personally had many attempts at trying to devote my time to it but never quite managed to do so, until having to review it, that is.
A small warning to players who are just thinking about diving into ARMA – if you are used to and enjoy the fast-paced, hand holding FPS experiences that mostly populate the market – you're probably going to be like me and have a very hard time learning to play. ARMA is special in a sense that it's not about the instant gratification of mowing down enemy after enemy with little to no danger posed to the player. Instead, it requires a slow, deliberate and methodical approach to everything you do. It's a system that if mastered feels immensely rewarding and turns the game into a military shooter experience that is second to none.
Although the game is going strong on the front of player created content and scenarios, that doesn't stop Bohemia Interactive from consistently releasing new DLC to add something fresh to the mix. The latest in line is the Tac-Ops Mission Pack focused on single-player. So let's dive into it.
ARMA 3 Tac-Ops Mission Pack is available for purchase on Steam.
The Tac-Ops mission pack is comprised of three mini-campaigns or scenarios. These scenarios are Beyond Hope, Stepping Stone, and Steel Pegasus. All three tie into the main storyline of the East Wind campaign with Beyond Hope taking place well beyond the operation itself, serving to show the bigger picture of how the conflict itself actually began and the reasons behind the formation of Freedom and Independence Army.
The Stepping Stone and Steel Pegasus take place during the East Wind campaign in the year 2035 with the invasion of a based-in-reality but fictional island of Altis. I must say that I would probably enjoy some scenarios unrelated to the already existing ones as Tac-Ops feel disjointed and add little to the overall lore and story of East Wind except perhaps the Beyond Hope scenario.
If you are new to ARMA, the game is usually not heavy on the story in the way you expect it to be. Sure, there are briefings that give you the rundown as well as some written info about the operation itself. This is not a cinematic blockbuster experience as the story of the operation itself is not in your face nor are you the center of it. The game stays true to the realism and treats you like a soldier. You know only what you need to in order to finish the task at hand. No more, no less. Merely a cog in a machine. As a real-life conflict really should be.
The gameplay of Tac-Ops doesn't differ much from the base game. You go from mission objective to mission objective across a huge landmass with no directions except your trusty map that you have to figure out for yourself. The three scenarios don't offer much new in terms of how you approach any task in ARMA. Carefully and methodically. My personal ARMA experience was never much about the singleplayer. This comes down to one simple reason – the challenging level of realism demands utmost care and often, a whole lot of luck to finish most scenarios. This doesn't mix well with teammates with which you can't communicate adequately well. Even if the AI teammates hold up fairly good sometimes, "good", just doesn't cut it most of the time. Hence, real-life people with headphones and mics controlling your teammates is the way to go. Since Tac-Ops is single player only – you get the point across.
That's not to say the Tac-Ops missions can't be enjoyed at all. They can, but only when you are not babysitting the frustrating AI. At least there is some variety as most scenarios can be replayed in different roles (infantry, spec-ops, armored) which do spice things up a bit but the uninteresting story will make you think twice if you should. It would be a treat if these scenarios could be done with real teammates as the multiplayer is where ARMA shines.
VISUAlS AND AUDIO
Upon release, back in 2013, ARMA would have probably scored much higher in terms of visuals. Although there were graphical improvements with plenty of updates since then, the engine running ARMA is clearly showing its age. I can't even make a big deal out of the sheer scope and size of its maps as I once would since plenty of open world games of today have huge maps with much better visuals. Still, it's a testament to the quality of the game that I can even compare a four years old game to the games released today.
Tac-Ops does nothing to improve much on the solid foundation of ARMA in terms of visuals and is even light on new assets, focusing on refining the existing ones thus improving the gameplay and the quality of the scenario itself.
Tac-Ops doesn't add much in terms of sound. The base game already had this one in the bag. Best way to put it is like this – every game with firearms will sound like you are shooting paintball pellets after playing ARMA. I genuinely had to turn down the volume of my headphones when firing my rifle as the sound was thundering and impactful. In short, the sound effects are amazing. There are animated briefings that have some good voice acting spouting the usual military jargon you are probably already used to.
If I had to grade ARMA 3 as a whole, it would score pretty high for what it is, an amazing military simulator that is second to none in terms of realism and scope. I find it very niche with a steep learning curve but well worth the investment and oh-so satisfying once you get the hang of it all.
Tac-Ops DLC, on the other hand, is only a mediocre addition to the main game. Although it offers plenty of replayability and it's high quality in terms of scripting and polish, the often bad AI and no real additions in terms of assets is what holds it back. It's also pretty bare bones when compared to other ARMA DLC. There are plenty of player created content of similar or higher quality that's completely free so it's probably better to find something there.
+ Scenario replayability
– Bad AI
+ Mechanics remain challenging and deep
– Uninteresting story
+ OK voice acting
– No new assets