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Arma 3 is getting extraterrestrials with Contact, its most interesting update in years

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The add-on module includes a single-player campaign

Bohemia Interactive has announced a weird new spin-off for Arma 3, the hardcore infantry combat simulation it launched way back in 2013. Called Arma 3: Contact, the expansion will introduce spaceships and aliens to the franchise for the first time. It’s a bold move for a game known for its hyper realistic interpretations of modern and near-future military combat. Contact will launch on July 25.

Contact will offer a single-player campaign set on a brand new, 163-square-kilometer map. Extraterrestrials have landed, and it’s up to players to sort things out on the ground.

“When a massive alien vessel suddenly enters the atmosphere, you are sent to investigate the extraterrestrial visitors and determine their intentions,” Bohemia says in a press release. “However, amid the tension and chaos, armed conflict inevitably unfolds. Over the course of the campaign, players will engage in field science, electronic warfare, and combat reconnaissance, in an experience delivered in authentic Arma style.”

Pilots observe an alien anomaly in Arma 3: Contact. Bohemia Interactive
An unmanned ground vehicle samples an alien anomaly in Arma 3: Contact. Bohemia Interactive
An alien spacecraft as shown in Arma 3: Contact. Bohemia Interactive

Contact will add two new factions, including a Polish-speaking NATO ally and the Russian Spetsnaz. New weapons are assured, but also chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) protective clothing. Players will get access to new weapons, including throwbacks like the RPK and the Mk 14 — both popular weapons from previous iterations of the franchise. There will also be new multiplayer scenarios, along with new assets for modders and mission designers.

But is this a good idea? Or has Arma jumped the shark? Probably a little bit of both.

Arma 3 succeeded in propelling the near 20-year-old franchise into the modern age of gaming. The base product includes all manner of small arms, but also armored vehicles, fixed wing, and rotorwing aircraft. It allows for multiplayer combined arms combat across massive landmasses, each with hundreds of square kilometers to explore. It successfully melds first-person shooter gameplay with tank simulation and flight simulation in ways that no other game does.

But it was launched nearly six years ago, which is a long time when it comes to video games. And it’s starting to show its age.

So Arma is big. But Arma is also old. It’s also cumbersome, requiring that players relearn simple things like how to move and shoot from cover. What Arma 3 does is unique, but also very niche. That doesn’t always translate into continued sales six years after launch.

That’s why Contact has me so curious. It’s evidence that Bohemia is interested in trying new things.

Soldiers wearing CBRN protective equipment in Arma 3: Contact Bohemia Interactive
Players move into combat with air support in Arma 3: Contact. Bohemia Interactive
Players use an UGV to peer into a building in Arma 3: Contact Bohemia Interactive

“Although conventional infantry engagements can be expected, a significant portion of the campaign will focus on non-shooting gameplay,” Bohemia says in that same press release. “This involves operating a mini [unmanned ground vehicle], sampling laser, and CBRN defense equipment to study strange alien anomalies, as well as controlling the electromagnetic spectrum with the aptly named Spectrum Device. This advanced modern tool — depending on what antenna is fitted — can be used for navigation, intelligence gathering, and deception.”

The Arma series has always been a platform for experimentation, but rarely has that experimentation come from the developer itself. Arma 2 gave birth to not only DayZ but also PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, two experiences that changed the landscape of modern gaming. Nearly all of Bohemia’s DLC for Arma 3 have been very by-the-book.

This “non-shooting gameplay” and the spectrum device thing is content that is absolutely not by the book. Contact is a departure, and I’m excited to see how it turns out.

You can watch the trailer, which we’ve embedded above, on YouTube. But anything that gets me out into the wilderness, in the dark, with dangerous enemies lurking around every corner absolutely has my attention.

You can view the entire list of additions at Bohemia’s dedicated website.