Updated: November 3, 2021
Let's start with facts. ArmA 3 is the best first person shooter out there. Fact. I like playing it. Fact. The most replayable way to enjoy multiplayer sessions with friends and family is via Dynamic Recon Ops (DRO) missions. Fact. Each time you get a random new set of objectives, and every game feels totally different. Also, I got friends, believe it or not. All facts, right there.
Sometimes, these DRO missions turn out to be so good that I feel compelled to write about them in great detail, replete with screenshots and full of Leeroy Jenkinsness. You've seen my Chernarus Winter and Alamo escapades, I wrote a super-long faux war diary about one of the DRO adventures a while back, and now, I'd like to share yet another story. A DRO mission that went bad in the very first minute, and only got worse by the end of it. So, good! Locked 'n' loaded.
Destroy a helicopter, observe an area, contact optional informant. Sounds innocent enough. Recently, my squad had a whole bunch of helicopter hunting missions, and we found them quite hard and frustrating. So this time, we armed ourselves right, with no less than three FIM-92 missiles. But what we did not count on was a sea insertion. Instead of two all-terrain vehicles, we got two zodiacs.
On its own, this wouldn't be a problem - except the random mission generator positioned us about 1.5 km off shore, in front of no less than three enemy bunkers. Oops. And just like that, we were about to storm a beach, coming in hot, not unlike a Hollywood blockbuster. Saving Private Ryanski. Or something.
We powered on our sputtery engines and began a slow, harrowing approach, trying to zigzag ever so much, hoping to avoid the incoming fire. Worse yet, we couldn't really hit anything on the shore, because the boats kept bouncing up and down in the crosswaves, making us totally ineffective until the landing. As it happens, we were four humans in boat A and four AI in boat B.
Then, we heard a whistling sound of a missile - an RPG or something a bit more sinister and guided - and then, boat B was kaput. The enemy had hit the second zodiac (luckily not ours), and within seconds, the dead-but-revivable AI members of the team soon disappeared from my command roster. We hadn't even landed, and we had 50% casualties, we lost all our AA missiles, two machines guns, and a toolkit. The mission was only starting ...
I steered the zodiac behind a line of shore rocks, which provided us some protection from the enemy fire, and we landed in the shallows, to begin a gruesome 20min battle, uphill, trying to establish a beachhead. We did have artillery support - M270 at your service - so I called in a rocket maybe 100 meters from our position. It landed on top of our target helicopter, obliterating it. Well, that's one goal done.
Then, a second helicopter showed up, a Mi-24 Hind, bringing in enemy reinforcements. We had nothing to fire at it, so we watched impotently as it unloaded fresh troops. Desperate, I called for more help. Our air support turned to be a rather modest and unarmored AH-6, which got shot just a few seconds later. We may have lost our AA, but the enemy hasn't. I called in some more rockets.
The game portrays the massive M270 blasts quite well. The noise is tremendous, the shaking movie-worthy, you get that overpressure effect, everyone gets wounded or dazed even when the rocket lands a good 100 meters from you. But on the plus side, it thins out the opposition quite well. With three or four rockets down, and half the ammunition spent, we finally managed to make it off the shore, and solidify our position next to the burning husk of the destroyed helicopter.
We only had a brief respite before a fresh wave of enemies hit us.
Cannon shells keep falling on my head
This time, there were some 20 enemy soldiers coming our way, and - best yet - a truck with a mounted twin-barrel ZU-23 cannon on its bed. Normally, when you get attacked by one of these, and you happen to have AI soldiers in your team, they will fire until the truck is completely ruined. But us being (greedy) humans, we figured we just needed to kill the gunner and the driver, and then, if luck served us, we could salvage the truck and use it to our advantage.
With the threat of sausage-shaped death averted (no pun intended), I ran toward the truck and got into the gunner position. And I started unleashing merry hell. The crunch of those 23mm shells is satisfying. So is its inaccurate wild spray, but that just adds to the gritty realism of the situation. And just like that, we completed our second main objective. Time to bail. Extraction music, na na na.
Except ... in DRO, typically, when you're about to leg it, you get a fresh surprise.
No retreat, no surrender
The surprise usually manifests itself in a horde of enemy soldiers closing on your position. The game's logic spawns the enemy AI about a kilometer away or so, and then they start advancing toward you, trying to block off your retreat. This makes the last part of the game super-intense. At this point, you've gone through most of your ammo, you're battered, the concentration starts to slip a bit, and then, you have the hardest part of the fight in front of you.
But we had the ZU-23. And like Danny DeVito's character in Always Sunny in Philadelphia says: anyway, I started blasting. Our position was pretty good. We were on a gentle hillock just off the beach, so we had a pretty decent view of terrain ahead of us on all sides. One of my team mates decided to take the gunner role and began shooting the shells at the incoming wave of soldiers. The rest of us went prone in the grass, and added our modest ballistic contribution to the gunfest. I was armed with the rather cool HK417 rifle, which is considered a designated marksman weapon, chambered in 7.62mm, giving it a superior punch at mid ranges. I find it to be one of the best tools available in ArmA 3.
As the team leader, I helped by directing artillery onto the enemy, just ahead of their advance. Boom, boom, boom, I want you in my team. Once the artillery support ran out, it was up to our ZU-23 gunner to keep us from being overwhelmed. That worked brilliantly until his truck got hit by a missile and put out of action. At this point, though, we had thinned down the enemy presence quite some, and the fighting had become bearable. We no longer had to face a withering barrage, more sort of an occasional pot shot. Then, almost too suddenly, it all went quiet.
Our informant somehow managed to stay alive throughout the fighting, and now, we were able to walk over and question him. At this point, there were no enemy left, so it was just matter of one short, pleasant stroll down a blustery beach. We regrouped, hugged - proverbially - and headed back to the cove where we left the zodiac. It, too, had survived the shrapnel and the rockets. Mandatory screenshot, and we were off. Mission accomplished, wrapped in a sense of pride and immense fun.
We all felt great after our 2-hour combat. Tired but also refreshed. The unique nature of individual DRO missions is what makes them so popular. An infinite pool of goodness, allowing you to enjoy the fantastic realism of ArmA 3 over and over again. The best part is, on top of randomness, there's also the element of uncertainty. Even if two missions have supposedly the same objective, they can take completely different turns. You can never really predict what's going to happen. Like getting half your team wiped out by a single missile hit.
I normally don't like sea insertions, but after today's mission, I am willing to change my mind. I couldn't have asked for a more dramatic, more frustrating opening sequence - except when a bug in the game detonates your vehicles right at the spawn point, and then keeps respawning and detonating them, turning the entire map into a weird display of fireworks, that is. We got hit pretty hard, and since it happened so early on, I could have just restarted the mission. But I'm happy we persisted, because it turned out to be one of our more challenging and yet enjoyable missions in the past couple of months. Job done.