Updated: May 30, 2020
After a long day of IT stuff, one must rest. Body and mind. Mostly mind. All that passive-aggressive work needs to be turned into aggressive fun. And what better thing to de-stress than a two-hour multiplayer session in the most realistic war simulation game of all time - ArmA 3? Indeed.
Typically, I like to play Dynamic Recon Ops (DRO) missions on any one of the available maps in ArmA 3, expansions and mods inclusive, with some family and friends. You end up in a team of four to eight human/AI combatants, going on a range of objectives, including sabotage, hostage rescue, search and destroy, and more. Now and then, I like to report back on these endeavors, like say my Chernarus Winter mission. Recently, I enjoyed a really cool session playing an against-all-odds type of scenario, but without the accompanying Phil Collins musics, and so here we go again on our own.
Gendarmerie vs real army
This time around, we thought of going for goofy-silly-serious combo. One of the many available factions in the game (with mods) is the French Gendarmerie. You end up in a classic police outfit, armed with submachine guns, which aren't the ideal kind of weapon for longer-range engagements across open terrain, as it usually happens in ArmA. But it also makes for a pretty cool Robinson Crusoe challenge. You have to survive the initial contact with the foe, and then scavenge for better gear. Not easy, but makes all the more interesting.
Commence to fight
Predictably, the mission started as total mayhem. It took us quite a while to crawl up to the enemy, take out the first roving patrol, and then exchange our MP5s for AKMs and AK-74s. Some of us also traded in the soft caps, so we ended up looking like a rebel army, dressed in all sorts of colors - red, gold and green. Hi hi.
Then, with our presence known, the enemy came in anger. At this point, as the section commander, I thought it would be a good idea to call in some artillery support. When fighting as Gendarmerie, you can sometimes get mortar fire cover, in the form of eight 60mm rounds total. With other factions, you get CAS, UAV, helicopter cover, all sorts. Here, only the basic stuff.
Well, I selected a spot with a high concentration of troops, and waited. Thirty seconds later, the first round landed. And it killed the hostage we were supposed to rescue. Oops. Well, we didn't know where he was located, so perhaps my judgment was a wee rushed. Effectively, the mission had failed. We could now leave, or perhaps complete the secondary objective of collecting intel, and for the pure fun of it, mopping up the remaining enemy troops in the village. So we fought on.
But the real fun started once we've "completed" the main objective. With DRO missions, you have to extract from the combat zone, either by foot, car, boat or helicopter. Sometimes, this is the hairiest part of the whole thing, as you end up ambushed by sudden enemy reinforcement, who usually arrive in a couple of trucks just as you're about to leg it.
Somehow, we had managed to survive the first part mostly intact, but then, we found ourselves facing some thirty or forty enemy soldiers, a solid wave of gunfire. We couldn't extract. So we retreated into the village and began a slow, grueling fight for survival. The combat was so intense I didn't take too many screenshots. I normally take them often, because you never know when one of these fun missions might turn into a proper article, but here, it was so demanding, I mostly focusing on a-ah staying alive.
I came across a dead enemy, and took his Dragunov rifle. Then, I bunkered on the second floor of a building, and began sniping. Every bullet counts, right. This was a thrilling game of patience and restraint, and I couldn't just shoot wildly. Once or twice, some of the enemy soldiers managed to outflank our position and come behind us. Then, my one surviving comrade and I had to go out and fight them off with pistols and nades. But luckily, there was more SVD ammo in stock, so I could continue my stubborn action.
Shaving Ryan's Privates
After a while, it got quiet. So we thought of exfiltrating. But then, the firing resumed, mostly potshots from across the bridge, where some of the enemy troops still lurked. We couldn't leave, not just yet, because as soon as we got into our SUV, they started firing RPG rounds at us. You can hear the subsonic projectiles as they whistle toward you. Quite unnerving, that. Eventually, we abandoned our vehicle, and just at the right moment, because it was hit and destroyed only seconds later.
As we crossed to the island, and mopped up the survivors there, we discovered another surprise. A second wave of reinforcements, who flooded the little village we had just left. They completely blocked our route out, and we had to start a second battle of slow, grueling survival. We didn't have any artillery support left, so it took a long while to eventually clear the opposite bank, and cross once more. Delightfully thrilling and engaging. A perfect after-work relaxation. You know it's good when you sweat between your toes.
The really great thing about ArmA 3 DRO missions is their replayability. There's sufficient randomness in how map locations and objectives are generated to create a unique, fun scenario each time, allowing you to immerse yourself in the complex, raw, uncompromising simulation time and time again, fully knowing that no two missions will be quite the same. My self-styled Alamo is a great example of that.
In the long run, this means you'll never really be bored, or run out of things to do. I've been playing the Operation Flashpoint franchise since roughly 2000, so that would be 20 years, and even now, I'm often amazed how cool these games are. Every session exposes you to yet another element of clever design. Small things that make ArmA 3 an endless well of adult-life meditation. That would be all for today. Frag away.