I play plenty of games of a lot of different genres. Most folks will know, of course, that there’s a relatively standardized set of controls that gets applied by the genre. It’s somewhat uncommon to find one that breaks that mold, and typically they don’t do so without need.
One of those that I’ve played a great deal of is the Arma series. This was, as gaming goes, a little-known series of games that didn’t hit mainstream awareness until it was used as the base for the hyper-popular DayZ mod (Arma 2 and it’s expansion, specifically). That’s how I stumbled on it, of course. And the thing about the Arma series is that it’s meant to be a serious combined arms multiplayer combat sim. As in, you start as one of like literally 60 types of infantry and can get into like literally 60 types of vehicles, excluding the stuff that gets modded in. So for instance, you could just be a foot soldier being delivered by helicopter to a dropoff point. You could be in a tank crewed with friends. Or handle beach landing craft, or deliver supplies to the front in a truck, etc. It’s an FPS, just with epic vehicular options, and no real story to it.
Because it tries to do a lot, it gets rather more real in the controls department, and that means it has to break that mold. WASD works as always of course. Q and E will now lean you left and right to shoot around a tree or something. Z, X, and C will change your stance, you use the mouse wheel and middle mouse button to get in and out of vehicles or interact with other objects in the world, and so on. One of my favorites is that holding down the Alt key lets you turn your head and look away without moving your gun. That one gets to be a habit, fast.
Arma 3 got released earlier in the year and I’ve enjoyed playing it. So has my 6 year old daughter Zoe, for whom I created a custom mission so she can throw a rainbow of smoke grenades and then go crash a helicopter. Great fun, though, once you’re used to its initially awkward control system.
Which brings me to today. With the Steam Holiday sale on I’ve made a few purchases, including Far Cry 3, an FPS that was supposed to be decent that had a pretty steep discount. I loaded it up and started playing… and had a tremendous amount of difficulty with it. Why? Arma.
Quick synopsis: You start the game as a prisoner of some jungle guerrillas, you have to escape their camp with no gear, and then after the tutorials, drive over to another compound and assault it to kill like five dudes. Here’s a mostly-ordered list of thoughts that gave me issues:
- What do you mean unarmed, there’s gear here everywhere, WHY CAN I NOT PICK UP THAT TOOLBOX (DayZ leaves you with no gear but tools of all sorts can be weapons… you desperately grab them).
- Ok I see the guy there, time to go prone and crawl up to WHY CAN I NOT GO PRONE HE’S GONNA FUCKING SEE ME OH SHIT oh he still can’t see me.
- Right, I’ll just lean out with the E key and… oh fuck I can’t lean OH FUCK HOW DO YOU SHOOT FROM COVER.
- Also numerous startled curses as I continued to struggle with the fact that the Alt key trick doesn’t work here. Seriously tried to use it like eight times in two minutes.
- I need to conserve my ammo, spraying bullets everywhere will just get me killed because… oh, no, there’s literally ammunition growing out of the ground all over this island.
Playing a tougher game for so long has fucked up my FPS mentality to take it seriously, to the degree that less demanding games are giving me trouble.