Assault On Saint-George Airstrip: An ArmA 3 Story

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The mission I just completed in ArmA 3’s Dynamic Recon Ops mod should make a nice send-off as I put the game down for a while. I haven’t gotten bored with ArmA 3. Far from it — it’s starting to suck my time away from other games. After probably more than 250 hours I need to rip myself away from it.

My last mission is a perfect case of how this game’s emergent nature can turn a player’s expectations for what’s about to come into something resembling what a lot of designers want you to feel with their pre-scripted encounters. It’s the kind of thing where you go in with complacency expecting an in-and-out smash before you’re met with complete disaster. An Uncharted or Gears of War might have you walk up to or past a field of chest-high walls and no matter what the average player will know a big battle is about to commence, because one always does, which sucks some of the intensity out of said encounter. It’s only in more systemic games where some missions are nominally exciting, some mellow, and some outright boring that the real meat grinders catch you off guard.

The mission this time was to clear an area of enemies and blow up and artillery cannon at the southern tip of Saint-George Airstrip. Like usual I had a team of eight, but this time the RNG of Dynamic Recon Ops gave the team a couple jeeps that were designed so every single passenger could fire their weapon while aboard. Expecting just a bunch of infantry, my plan was to drive right in shooting, hop out just long enough to plant the explosives on the artillery, drive around until my men had shot all targets from within the jeeps, and speed right back out. Missions like this have occurred before.

As soon as the team got there the very first thing we encountered was an enemy APC with a machine gun and a cannon.

I immediately parked the jeeps behind a stone wall lining the side of the airstrip and had everybody jump out, but the APC quickly circled around us, blew up both jeeps, and cut down three of my men. Luckily I always bring at least one anti-tank guy with a rocket launcher just in case, and he was able to stick out of cover long enough to blow up the APC with one shot at something like 500 meters before it could do any more damage.

With my transport gone, after healing the injured men what was going to be a quick slam dunk was now going to be a hard slog fight through the town next to the airstrip. Fighting was closer than usual — more enemies packed into a smaller space. I had a grenade thrown at me, which doesn’t happen often in ArmA 3. More importantly you don’t get any grenade indicator like in Call of Duty. All you get is the clink of the grenade hitting the ground next to you, which might be easy to miss under the gunfire.

As if on-beat, the last enemy my team eliminated right as we reached the artillery signaled the completion of the “clear area” objective. I blew the artillery and called a chopper down to the airstrip to get us. The gunner on the chopper started firing at another group of enemies that had probably been drawn by the explosion that took out the artillery just as it lifted us out of there.

Oh, and Dynamic Recon Ops last week added another five maps, most of them based on real places including Kunduz in Afghanistan, Fallujah and Diyala in Iraq, and a region of Russia called Beketov.

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