Updated: January 1, 2020
I love discovering fun, challenging scenarios in ArmA 3. This fabulous war simulation is the only shooter game really worth considering. Having played the franchise since Operation Flashpoint, I found its uncompromising realism to be an excellent form of meditation, especially after a long day of work full of IT buzzwords.
One mission that drew me in recently is Terrorist Hunt - Factory, by Fin Soldier, a remake of the Rainbow Six Vegas TH gamemode. In this mission, you and up to three other human players are pitted against 28 AI enemy soldiers at a factory plant. Sounds simple, but typically, you end up outnumbered, and a relatively simple premise becomes a very tricky, difficult objective. As I learned to perfect it, I realized something. I was mimicking the real combat tactics used by professional soldiers. Follow me.
Usually, I would play this with one other human player, and we would end up outnumbered 14 to 1, which is not a good number if you're going on an offensive (or even being on a defensive). The map is designed with multiple buildings, with enemies spawned randomly, and yet with pretty much every square centimeter of the mission area covered by several shooters at once. So if you think you can just make linear progress, you soon learn that it's not so trivial.
You also get one respawn ticket per player, but if all of you are out of action at the same time - and with only two players, it's quite easy for this to happen - then the mission ends up in a failure. When you consider you have a maze of 9m cargo containers to cover, numerous houses and garages with soldiers lurking inside, plus an odd man on patrol here and there, death is far more likely than you'd expect. So you end up playing the scenario over and over again, slowly learning from your mistakes.
Optimizing the kill
Close Quarter Battle (CQB) missions aren't that common in ArmA 3. Like all of the games in the franchise, it's designed to be played over massive, open terrain, with supporting fire, artillery and vehicles. You don't typically end up fighting in an urban setting. And since you have none of the standard arcade-mode stuff like bunnyhopping and puck physics, this becomes a hard, often frustrating exercise.
This makes the Terrorist Hunt - Factory mission such a delightful departure from the usual engagements, and in the CQB environment, you really have to be slow, careful and methodical. You also get to look and dress however you like, as the scenario comes with the Virtual Arsenal, so if you want to be a UN reporter, an orthodox priest or perhaps a Go Kart racer, you can. Kind of turns the suffering of having to repeat the scenario over and over somewhat easier.
At first, we would kit ourselves out with a light-caliber rifle, typically with a sound suppressor, lots of grenades, both RGO and little golf-ball-sized RGN, and then go about clearing the buildings. Door, open, nade, rush in, try not to get killed. As hard as we tried we would usually end up dying after a while, and sometimes with only one or two enemy soldiers left. We'd sometimes succeed too, but the going was never easy. The big problem was that you can't always scan and cover all the angles, and some of the buildings are in the center of the map, in the crosshairs from all directions. The AI in the map typically stays put, bunkered and ready, and they don't often venture out (some do, just to keep you on your toes), so you have to brave it. And then you get shot at from five different angles. And then you die, and you end up spectating your friend trying to finish the mission.
We spent a lot of time trying to beat the scenario. We added grenade launchers into the equation. Then tried Saiga. Then, machine guns. But the results were pretty much the same. However, the Virtual Arsenal does give you access to a vast array of weapons, and with about a dozen mods that I'm using, this also meant the entire inventory of the US, Russian, British, and German forces, in addition to the NATO and CSAT stuff. One of the items in this cross-OFP-ArmA arsenal is the 60mm mortar. The weapon comes in two parts, tube and plate, so with two human players, you both carry one piece in the backpack. This significantly reduces the amount of ammo and nades you can carry, but then you also have awesome firepower at your disposal.
So we started practicing. One would act as the artilleryman and the other as a spotter. The second member of the team would wander out, trying to keep as close to the fringes of the map area as possible to reduce the number of attack vectors the enemy would have, and then, if he saw the soldiers, he would guide the mortar strikes.
This turned out to be a delightful - and successful - strategy. With 40 mortar shells available, we would have a tremendous amount of firepower, and usually it would take two or three rounds to flatten a building, with everyone inside. We'd sometimes dispose of three or even five enemy AI at once. But then, some of the buildings were of the indestructible type, and we would still have to move in by foot, nade and prayer beads in hand.
Do you know our good friend Carl Gustaf?
We decided to optimize our strategy even further. One of the launchers available in the game is the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle, an 84mm anti-tank weapon. In the game, it carries the US Army destination MAAWS, and it comes with relatively lightweight ammunition. The standard carryall backpack can store 2-8 rounds, based on their type (the bigger tandem HEAT rounds weigh more, the lighter HE/frag ones less).
We came up with an idea of carrying these with us, in addition to M4 rifles with M203 launchers, plus hand grenades. Thus armed - rifle with 6-8 clips and a dozen 40mm HEDP grenades, half a dozen RGO and RGN frags, plus MAAWS with typically 5-6 rounds, we wandered into the factory and tried our new approach.
It worked surprisingly well.
We were quite burdened with our weapons load, so it took a while making progress at first, but we adapted a pretty standard cleanup tactic. One of us would always cover with the rifle. If he spotted an enemy, he'd try to shoot. If the enemy was hiding, he'd lob a 40mm grenade. Meanwhile, the other one would hoist the MAAWS onto their shoulder and then fire the launcher.
In the game (as in life), the Carl Gustaf has a pretty awesome kick. The rounds have a fast, almost flat trajectory, so you end with almost instantaneous hits, which makes it perfect for exactly this kind of engagements. The accuracy allowed us to target every windows or doorway, including the indestructible buildings. While previously we'd have less than perfect accuracy with other weapons, including the underslung grenade launchers, with MAAWS, we would always hit spot on, bringing much rejoicing to our mission as the count of the number of enemy AI left dropped.
Soon enough, we were even more effective than using the mortars. With the former, we were limited to the buildings that could be damaged and open spaces, but now, we could hit everywhere. As we made progress, there would always be some enemy left inside. So we perfected the cleanup routine here, too. Open, the door, toss a nade in. Step back. Fire MAAWS through the door toward a wall corner or ceiling. The blast effect would then kill the enemy inside, or at least thin them down, so we stood a much better chance of completing the mission.
We enjoyed similar success with the garages - they have vehicles parked inside, which will explode if exposed to too much damage. One or two MAAWS rockets fired through the tiny windows in the tin structures would trigger a series of explosion inside, and even though we couldn't really destroy these most of the time, everyone inside would be kaput.
Imitation of life
I was happy that we have come up with a successful and fun formula for finishing the mission - after all, that's what ArmA 3 is all about, lots of shooting and explosions and serious, responsible adult merriment. But I also realized that we had adopted tactics that aren't that different from how it's done for real.
Just recently, I've finished reading the book called 1968 Hue, by Mark Bowden, about the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, and the urban fighting in the city of Hue. Long story short, small groups of marines were sent to clear the city of the Vietnamese forces, and they would end up in difficult battles against a motivated, entrenched enemy, firing from bunkers and hardened positions. In the first days of fighting, the US forces racked a large number of casualties, and made little advance from their base in the south of the city. Several officers improvised tactics long forgotten since the Korean War and used them to slowly recapture the city.
In essence, they used tanks to screen the infantry, Ontos vehicles with 106mm recoilless rifles to blast holes through walls and buildings, had Dusters with quad 12.7mm machine gun batteries providing suppressive fire, and after a while, they also ended up with artillery support. It was the one way they found to be effective against overwhelming odds.
In the scenario, we were outnumbered and outgunned, and so we started using similar methods to bring down buildings and defeat the enemy. I won't claim a game is anything like real combat, but in the end, because ArmA 3 is a serious war simulation, the success ended up looking much like what you'd see in modern urban fighting. Well, it just shows how fun and wild ArmA 3 really is.
Much like The Last Hope mission and DRO in Chernarus Winter map, The Terrorist Hunt - Factory is a delightful, engaging, almost addictive scenario that will keep you engaged and frustrated for many long hours. Perhaps you are a better player than I am, but then ArmA 3 isn't a game designed for fast and furious nonsense. It's about discipline, patience and real combat tactics.
Now, if you're hungry for more, there's a variation of this mission available on the Malden 2035 map, too, with an open village setting and 32 enemy soldiers waiting. It makes for an even more hectic fighting, as the vegetation and the a larger area present an even bigger challenge. Anyway, for those of you looking for some mind serenity healing against all that passive aggression of open-space offices (paradox), or if you're just someone who enjoys hardcore first person shooters, then Fin Soldier's reimagined scenario offers a great deal of enjoyment.