Updated: February 12, 2020
As you well know, normally I'm against the whole DLC thing. But, I've also come to realize that many companies are doing DLC because otherwise, effectively, they can't really stay afloat and compete in today's gaming market. This is no excuse for the whole peddle-cum-beg fest of locked content and such, but I did ever so slightly mellow my stance. Case in point, ArmA 3. A brilliant game by all (my) standards. Looking back, the entire Operation Flashpoint franchise is the only set of game titles I've played consistently for the last twenty years. Blimey.
Therefore, I decided to spend some dough and buy a couple of game DLC, because I like sitting down with a bunch of friends for a good, hearty shootout. One of these bundles is the Contact campaign slash expansion, which brings in aliens to the ArmA 3 world. For me, more importantly, it offers a new set of weapons and uniforms, plus a new map called Livonia. Very foresty, very Chernarus, very nostalgia. I review.
Livonia & Dynamic Recon Ops
The best way to explore the new terrain is through a human-led DRO mission. Get a random set of tasks, grab your gear, and off you go. I have to say, I was instantly impressed by Livonia's ambiance. No matter how you look it, Bohemia Interactive is inherently Czech, and that means thick forests and low-tech villages with a quintessential Eastern European Cold War vibe are a natural part of the game's DNA. Which is why the original Operation Flashpoint and ArmA 2 Chernarus feel so much more authentic and realistic than say Takistan or Altis.
All units, be advised ...
Livonia also brings Russian Spetsnaz weapons to the party, and you get a splendid arsenal of modern uniforms, guns and accessories, plus authentic foreignese, which adds to the overall atmosphere. Now, there's far more to the map than just DRO. You could try your luck in one of the preset CO-OP missions. You get to sabotage comms or vehicles or eliminate an HVT. It's a good way to explore the map and get used to it before you embark on something more audacious.
Livonia is spooky, claustrophobic. The fighting is very intimate, intense. You wear green camo that makes you invisible, but guess what, so does the enemy! If I'm not mistaken, Livonia seems to have been inspired by the events in Ukraine in recent years, and the adversaries speak Polish or Ukrainian, plus they wear uniforms very much like yours, and use weapons very much like yours. I found the whole IFF thing quite unnerving, and there were a few friendly fire accidents, I must admit.
The DRO mission turned out to be amazing, splendid fun. Here at least we could choose the foe, so we went for CSAT, which makes them slightly more recognizable. The battle was pretty much nonstop, and most of it took place along a single forest road, barricaded by a civilian truck. For some reason, all of the action occurred around it, including an enemy helicopter crash. As you can see in the screenshot below, I had managed to get my hands on an AA launcher, and I was just about to fire. But before I could acquire a lock, the Mi-24 helicopter hit a tree with its hind rotor (Hind rotor, get it), and crashed. The game is wise enough to make the AI pilots lose their cool under small arms fire, and we had one less squad of enemy troops to fight.
We also had artillery support, but the enemy was everywhere around us, sneaking through the forest, so often as not, I called in the shell just meters from our position. Makes for a rather nerveracking experience, even though it's just a game. Or is it!
My mod collection in ArmA 3 weighs about 26 GB, and it includes pretty much of all of the ArmA 2 content, including the fabulous Chernarus Winter landscape. Because it's simply more fun playing there, and more in line with the game's spirit. The Livonia map takes that old goodness and refurnishes it with new, slick textures. In essence, this is what's been missing from ArmA 3 really. The sense of the Cold War largesse that simply isn't there in the other, low-intensity warfare scenarios. Now, if there happens to be Livonia Winter, well.
I do have to say I'm quite pleased with the Contact DLC - although I've not played the campaign. In fact, the campaign element has largely been off since ArmA 2. Mostly because it tries to capture the magic of the original, that glorious Operation Flashpoint despair, but sequels rarely manage that. Aliens aside, the beautiful terrain, the fancy weapons and the sense of "big war" make Livonia a delight, and also infuse me with hope that ArmA 3, and whatever comes after that, has not lost its origins. It's like jumping good two decades back in time, and it's a good feeling. Take care, fellow Armatians.