Sit-Reps on all things ArmA, the go-to/go-all/all-in Mil-Sim by Bohemia Interactive. No other FPS can match its scope. This is a running record of anecdotes, recaps, Workshop recommendations as well as Q&As, thoughts and musings.
Outside of military-grade simulators, there exists nothing else on the market that can offer the kind of technical smorgasbord that ArmA does. The third iteration of Bohemia Interactive's popular series, one that grew out of the wonky yet valuable Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis and the DayZ-spawning ArmA II, is a massive achievement. Vast, beautiful and complex, ArmA III is very much a thinking man's shooter; a game where traipsing over a ridge may take half an hour, and the punctuated firefights therein either drawn-out at incredible distances, or harrowing and brief. The downtime - the quiet yomp, the overwatch, the uneasy silences - is as engaging as combined arms engagements, replete with armoured columns, artillery, drones and the other systems of a modern firefight.
And yet, despite two of the biggest games in the mainstream being outlandish and overblown pyrotechnic showpieces that depict war in a grotesque souvlaki of tired Jingoistic silliness or strained, tone-deaf dial-a-horror, ArmA is primarily cool and subdued and serene, but far more tense than any other game out there when the rounds start flying.
The reason folks like myself and Dan 'RedSwirl' Sims enjoy it are numerous, but speaking for myself, it's the paradoxical subtlety of ArmA's massive scope. ArmA III is mindblowing in its scale; both in actual map size and the tools it allows a player to mess with. Not only that, but it's drop-dead gorgeous. Certainly an anomaly in the Mil-Sim sphere, where rugged utilitarianism reigns supreme more often than not.
In the same way that seeing the hazy summit of a mountain on the horizon and actually going there tickles fancy in Skyrim, ArmA III offers a player - Mil-Sim fan or otherwise - peerless beauty in a genre of games that aren't particular well-known for their ruminative pace or chance to simply enjoy the scenery. Deep valleys, open plains, vast forests, the thrum of wind turbines running the length of a plateau. Mediterranean townships meeting the deep azure of a warm, lapping bay and a sky that only amplifies the breadth of such enormity. Quiet roads that wind through the ranges, with dusty intersections in lonely places. This is why I love ArmA. It's not a game of armies as much as it's a game about roaming squads. It very well can be about massed forces, but I think the solemnity of the title perfectly matches the notion of a patrol. The notion of a radically down-sized military bolstered by technology aside, rolling with a small group of marines into uncertainty has increased experiential intimacy when the stakes begin and end with a group of five-odd troops.
Above and Beyond
In an age where games depicting warfare have treated the subject matter so poorly with so few exceptions - was Spec Ops: The Line really a game about war, or a subversion of game violence? - it seems to me military simulations, when not abstracted to chits on hexes, receive snubbing from gaming intelligentsia on account of their contemporaries, and when they are celebrated, it stems from mechanical analysis. And indeed, ArmA III especially is utterly laden with systems upon systems upon systems. Command structures, firing delegation, stances, weapons physics, combined arms utilisation and so forth; these facets are the core structure, but being more than the sum of its parts, the atmosphere evoked by the rolling terrain, the weather and simulated day/night effects is stunning. It's no wonder something like DayZ sprouted from ArmA II, but ArmA III doesn't need zombies or horrid PvP behaviour to elicit a sense of something more than 'game'. Simply seeing the remains of an amphitheater across the valley can invite the same sense of quiet wonder as seeing an OPFOR transport chopper roar overhead as you step quietly through a pine grove.
It is something rather special, and in a style of game somewhat tarnished by its bombastic fraternity of Dew-chuggers and swear-bears, I feel there's much that's being missed on account of bad behaviour elsewhere.
Go for a walk.
Last edited by Alex Connolly on Thu Jul 10, 2014 12:04 pm, edited 4 times in total.
For a side quest my squad has to confirm an enemy helicopter wreckage deep in the forested mountains in the north. The suspected range of its location is pretty wide (like a square kilometer or something), and it's night time. Pretty much pitch black. There are undoubtedly already enemy squads checking out the wreckage. The developers probably expected players to get caught up in a nighttime forest battle. What happened to me was equally cool but also a lot easier on my team.
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I manage to find the top of a ridge overlooking the entire suspected area and park the truck there. The mountains and trees form a mass of blackness against the blue night sky, but in that blackness I can immediately spot a fire in the woods about 700m in the distance which is almost certainly the burning wreckage, and I proceed to mark it on my map. Before we even move we spot enemies around there running through the woods. I have night vision but they're forced to use flashlights. They probably can't see us at all, and all we have to do is aim for the flashlights off in the distance.
Okay, I just had my first experience with this "Dynamic Universal War" thing. Let me describe what this mod is all about first: Imagine a one-on-one game of Civilization except instead of playing as the leader of a whole army or whatever, you're just one guy. There are two AI armies building bases and capturing things from each other in a dynamically played-out game, but you're seeing the whole thing from the perspective of one character under the command of one of those AI. There's absolutely zero scripting involved in what goes on. Bases and everything are placed randomly at the start of the game. Even the side missions you can select are randomly generated, right down to their names (like Operation Crimson Spear or something). That's what I decided to start out with. And man let me tell you, even in randomly-generated missions this game's general theme of "No plan survives a battle" holds true.
My first job here was to bring back an enemy supply truck that got stuck out in the middle of a small desert. I drove out there with three squad mates but decided to leg most of the trip as soon as I saw enemies surrounding the truck. This desert is basically a square kilometer of utterly flat terrain with zero cover. It's a massive plate of sand and rock basically. This allowed both us and the enemy to see and shoot each other perfectly well at 500 meters. After the initial gun fight most of the enemy (maybe a dozen) were down but I lost one as well. There was one enemy left who managed to get behind the truck for cover. The complete lack of cover out here made it impossible for me to flank because he had a perfect shot at anyone who tried. After a few minutes of crawling through the desert we managed to get a shot at him with enough supressive fire, but when we got to the truck we found it was pretty busted, probably from the fight.
It was still repairable though. I just had to walk all the way back to our original vehicle, drive back to base, and recruit an engineer. The engineer managed to get the truck working again and I split my squad between the two vehicles. Just as we roll out we were fired upon by what I think was a group of rocket soldiers.
Just as I got back to base I saw HQ had just sent out a task force to see if we could go ahead and take the enemy base to the west of us, and I decided to tag along. That's what we're in the process of doing as I write this.
I loathe Call of Duty and Battlefield, but Arma has me genuinely intrigued and fascinated. I worry that I'll be absolutely terrible at it, but it sounds like an interesting experience nonetheless. Perhaps I'll bite.
Angry Jedi wrote:I loathe Call of Duty and Battlefield, but Arma has me genuinely intrigued and fascinated. I worry that I'll be absolutely terrible at it, but it sounds like an interesting experience nonetheless. Perhaps I'll bite.
Fair warning, the controls are PC-gaming as fuck. Luckily they recently added a tutorial to the game to smooth things over, but I don't think it actually goes far enough.
But still, even though it's a military shooter, I'd say ArmA is the mirror opposite of Call of Duty and Battlefield, especially once you get to its middle section where they give you a squad. The first third of the campaign has you as a grunt taking orders a lot like in Call of Duty, but the process through which that AI works ensures even those missions never necessarily happen exactly the same way twice. A lot of that section of the game is an elongated tutorial though. Once you actually get squad though the game basically just gives you tasks and let's you figure out how to do them. Actually, the very first thing you have to do as a squad leader is set up and ambush, and that includes picking the ambush spot. Some people complain the later part of the game sort of makes you feel like a tiny cog in a massive machine, but that's mainly because at that point you're one guy fighting among dozens of unpredictable AI including tanks and helicopters. The main reason I like playing the game though is because through and through it 's general theme is "shit happens."
I have a feeling ArmA 2's main campaign might be more interesting for you though. It hands you control of a squad very early on and from there gives you extremely open-ended missions, many of which actually take on adventure game elements. You spend time hunting down clues and tracking suspects while running into an occasional enemy encampment or ambush. It's a much more colorful depiction of warfare if you ask me.
Okay, I feel I need to talk about this next thing I'm about to embark on, because I've legitimately been up all night wondering how I'm going to approach the place where the mission is. Not even doing the mission, just the initial transport to the mission -- the part that most games usually just relegate to a loading screen.
See, my latest job is to assassinate an officer who's on patrol. Problem is he's on patrol in the mountainous region of Northwestern Altis basically clear across the island from HQ. That means I gotta get past every enemy zone on the way there. That's, I don't know, 20 kilometers minimum? My main mode of transport is a helicopter. Problem is, there's basically nowhere I can land the thing within several kilometers of the target's location. The nearby airbase is enemy occupied.
I was mulling over maybe packing my seven-man squad into an APC and going on a road trip across Altis -- I'd be able to pretty easily dodge the enemy zones. The occasional enemy patrol would probably just be foot mobiles. You can't fly over enemy zones either because there are pretty much always assholes with Stingers. I'm probably just going to land the chopper in one of the western towns and have the whole team trek 5km across the mountains.
Probably gonna recruit a marksman too and try to have him be the only guy who pulls the trigger during this mission. My last assassination attempt turned into an unecessary bloodbath where two of my guys and a whole allied task force got killed.
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About The Squad
Since 2005, the Squadron of Shame has been embedded at the vanguard of underappreciated, obscure and noteworthy videogames.