Updated: October 13, 2021
Now and then, I hop into the ArmA 3 workshop on Steam, and go about hunting for new fun content. The search is harder than it looks. Finding missions is easy, but finding superb, bug-free ones is hard. On top of that, over the years, I've kind of zeroed in on my collection of extras, including some 25 GB worth of mods, and some 50-odd multiplayer missions. With DRO thrown in the lot, you have infinite replayability.
Now and then, I do discover cool stuff. Most recently, a hostage rescue mission called USS Liberty that feels very much like Steven Seagal's Under Siege, except you're Rybacking into action from a beach half a kilometer away from the ship. The premise is quite simple: a ship has been taken over by terrorists, some 35 or so, and there is about a dozen hostages on board, waiting for the cavalry to swoop in and save them. Commence to fun.
Just a lowly, lowly cook
As soon as you launch off the pier, you know you're in for some serious fun. The whole thing has a movie-like quality. You can choose the smaller jetskis or the much bigger patrol boats to get to the ship. At this point, it doesn't make much difference. Once you get close, you will need to climb onto the rear deck, and this is where the action begins.
You have many ways of going about your task. You can use either the port or the starboard ladder. You can go fast, hoping to save more hostages and maintain the element of surprise, or you can go slow, always checking your six, but then, there's more chance for the enemy to retaliate. Nevertheless, you have to be careful, because the ship is full of nooks and crannies. The terrorists will be hiding behind doors and crates, and they will use every opportunity to jump you. They are fast and aggressive.
I played the mission with several friends, and we tried different approaches each time. Rushing fast didn't seem to work that well. The specific scenario does allow you to respawn, so if you die, you can always come back to the last spawn point. Even so, you can't just relax and go about carelessly. Without respawn, it would be near impossible to complete.
Slow 'n' Curious
We tried the slow approach next. We cut down on our own casualties, but then we also lost a bunch of hostages. The enemy will start shooting them once they realize they're under attack. The mission has been designed quite cleverly, and the creator did a great job of forcing you to bitterly compromise between two uncomfortable choices. Another thing to consider is the sheer volume of firepower you can use. With three or four players, you have just enough flexibility to move at a decent pace, but even so, you probably won't clear any room without some casualties.
All along, you'll be seeing scenes from Under Siege in front of your mind's eye. Bulkheads, piping, narrow corridors, stairwells. So beautifully done. Discovering the ship's internals is as fun as the rest of it. Soon, we realized we had a secondary mission, too. And that was blowing up the weapons turrets on the fore deck of the ship. Once there, we could see the bridge, and we could see the hostages standing next to the windows, with their hands raised up. We thought there might be a way for us to get there from the outside, but it didn't seem possible.
Eventually, we made it to the bridge. This is a tough situation. Inside, there are two hostages and three baddies. You can't use hand grenades. The ingress is difficult, because you need to go in and then turn right, and make sure you don't hit any civilians. We tried this several times, and on every single occasion, the terrorists had enough time to kill the hostages. We never managed to save them - or not lose one or two of our own men in the process. This became almost an obsession. Was there a way to make it work?
Yes, there was
Remember the helicopters on the rear deck? Aha. We figured, maybe we can clear the first two levels in the ship, destroy the weapons on the fore deck, and then, go back to the rear deck and use the little AH-6 parked there. Our idea was bold. Get into the choppa - notice the reference here, yes yes - fly around, hover in front of the bridge and then try to hit the bad guys with the Miniguns but without hitting the civilians. Crazy? Yes. Movie style? Hell yeah.
Now, an even better twist would be an unarmed MH-6, whereby one or two of our operatives would sit on the sides and try to snipe the bad guys mid-hover. Perhaps that's an addition the scenario creator could add. For now, we had a heavily armed helicopter at our disposal, and we decided to give it a go.
I clambered into the cockpits while my two co-players went to the bridge, waiting just outside the door. I carefully maneuvered the heli to the front of the ship, set auto-hover, and then gently positioned my gun sights on the terrorists. As I started firing, oh so close to the civilians, the other two guys stormed in, shooting. I managed to clip the two baddies on the right side, close to the entrance, while my buddies finished off the third one. Best of all, both hostages were alive and well. The bridge was all shot up, and there was broken glass everywhere, but we had managed to pull off an amazing little stunt.
This hostage rescue mission is a great addition to the repertoire of fun, cool multiplayer scenarios in the workshop. It's well designed, it's balanced, it's paced just right, the scenery is amazing, and then, if you want to save the folks on the bridge, you have the helicopter at your disposal. Not an easy thing, but hey. That's what makes all this so great.
Now, if I can think of possible variations to this scenario, then it would be the use of an unarmed helicopter, and perhaps fewer respawns, so the players really have to take care going about the ship. That might make success impossible, but then, ArmA 3 players are a tenacious lot. No pain, no gain and all that. Therefore, if you happen to be one of these tenacious grunts, and you're looking for a challenging, action-packed scenario with decent replayability, USS Liberty is just what you need. Good stuff. And I'm off.