Tag Archives: military simulation

Dynamic Recon Ops: Big Expansion And Big “Sequel” Mod

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I let Arma 3 back into my life despite knowing how much time it would suck away from other games like Zelda Breath of the Wild. I figured I’d almost never get the chance to go back to it if I always put newer games in front of it. Bohemia Interactive also just added a new map — “Malden 2035” that’s apparently a remake of a map from the original Operation Flashpoint. Then you’ve got that new free game Argo that’s based on the systems of Arma.

My current favorite mod, “Dynamic Recon Ops,” from modder Mark “mbrdmn” Boardman has been getting significant updates in the months since I took a break from it, and I guess it’s time to talk a little bit about them. Continue reading

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The Road Of ArmA 3: Part Two

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Everybody’s playing Dark Souls III but somehow I booted ArmA 3 up again and, well, yeah. Remember that “BECTI” mode I talked about in my last ArmA 3 post… a year ago to the day? I started up what I believe will be my final  attempt at this version of the mod on this map. So far I think I’ve gotten just about as far as I’ve ever gotten.

I think a somewhat succinct description of BECTI, as a game mode, would be somewhere between a real-time strategy skirmish match and a Battlefield 4 conquest match played from the perspective of one soldier on a map probably over twice the size of Grand Theft Auto V’s San Andreas. There are 50 settlements that must be captured. As of this writing my current match has been going on for around five hours and we’ve taken something like 14 of them. After the most intense battle yet (after finally gaining command of a tank) I’ve decided to retreat and rejoin the other squads in the northern flank, in effect probably giving up the five towns I just got done fighting for. Continue reading

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What Playing ArmA Is Really About

My squad’s latest objective is to confirm an enemy helicopter wreckage deep in the forested mountains in the north. The suspected range of its location is something like a square kilometer, and the edge of that range is at least that far away from home base. It’s night time with no moon, so it’s pretty much pitch black, and there are undoubtedly already enemy squads sweeping the forests for the wreckage.

After a short drive with only a truck’s headlights to illuminate the trees and country highway, I manage to find the top of a ridge overlooking the entire suspected area and park our truck there. The hills and trees below form a mass of blackness against the blue night sky, but in that blackness I can immediately spot a glimmer in the woods about 700 meters in the distance which is almost certainly the burning wreckage. Before we even move we spot enemies around there running through the woods. I never see the actual enemies themselves but all I have to do is aim towards their flashlights — dancing in the darkness like fireflies.

I imagine one way developer Bohemia Interactive intended for this ArmA III side quest to go down was for me to have a firefight deep in the valleys below the ridge in the middle of a pitch black forest. I just happened to pick an advantageous spot which completely turned the battle around. That mixture of open-ended mission design and atmospheric scenery is why I play ArmA.

The intimidating thing about ArmA is the fact that it’s a realistic military simulator, and many of the game’s fans probably do play it for that hardcore simulation. This gives everyone else the impression that the series is just a sterile workbench that takes away what makes Battlefield or Call of Duty fun.

I’ll admit ArmA’s gameplay is probably everything console gamers hate and fear about PC gaming. The moment-to-moment fighting is a very 90’s Microsoft Flight Simulator mentality where you have to know which sub menu is where just to be able to restock ammo. To ask your squad’s medic to heal someone you have to press F3 (or whatever corresponding F key) to select him, press 6 to go into the command action menu, then press 1 or 2 to select injured team mates within that menu. When you’ve killed an enemy you’re expected to press 5 to reach the status communication menu, then 7 to manually make your character say “tango down” so the rest of the squad no longer has to factor that enemy into their behavior.

I’ve already gone at length about how a main reason I play these games despite their difficult, complex gameplay is because they’re some of the only shooters that let me decide how to conduct missions. I’ve also talked about the scale and beauty of this franchise’s open worlds. Where it all comes together is how successfully Bohemia has managed to utilize these things together.

Actually, a major element I haven’t talked about is the pacing of ArmA. Being a tactical shooter should make it obvious things are going to be much slower than a Call of Duty game, but ArmA’s pacing extensively leverages its scenery and terrain. Honestly, the game moves along more similarly to an RPG than any military shooter.

Bringing my squad all over the countryside feels like bringing an RPG party through trails or across the world map, only instead of swords and spells we’re decked out in military gear. The subtlety of that scenery, in turn, creates a contrast that makes every shootout feel more intense. It’s kind of like Shadow of the Colossus really.

Similar to that game, in ArmA you could spend a sizable chunk of time driving along a dirt road, trekking through a forest, climbing over a hill, flying over the mountains in a helicopter, and finally coming upon a deserted town, taking in the scenery until a bullet whizzes past your head. In an instant the tone changes as you plant your face in the grass and your buddies start screaming out enemy positions. Or rather, you’ve set up an ambush and spend several minutes waiting on a silent mountain overlooking a valley before the time comes to strike.

Among shooters this is a huge difference from how Call of Duty likes to have things turned up to 11 almost 100 percent of the time. Maybe this kind of pacing is simply inherent to open world games, which inevitably require some amount of travel, and thus time to experience the world outside combat. Then again, a lot of people who play action games are bored by that kind of stuff, hitting fast travel as soon and as often as possible.

People apparently hate traversal across Far Cry 2’s world, but driving along sun-baked landscapes or boating through rivers is one of my favorite parts about that game. These are the same people who don’t like sailing in The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker, but I love how big sailing makes that game feel.

Like I’ve said before, if I could play a shooter with ArmA’s open world, freeform gameplay, atmosphere, and sense of pacing, that wasn’t a terribly complex military simulator, I would. Far Cry is among the few action shooters that allow for that contrast between calm and explosions, but ArmA of course does this on a much larger scale. The other closest example we see on the horizon is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Its recent gameplay video gives me high hopes for what I’ll be able to see and do in the final game.

The point is, ArmA isn’t just its hardcore focus on realism. ArmA is heading out into a world that is at once massive, intricate, and beautiful, and making your own decisions about how to conduct combat missions. The reason I’m willing to accept the hardcore realism is because these games are almost the only ones in the shooter genre willing to strike out from the “corridors and explosions” formula.

BULLETS:

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Are One Era’s Complaints Worse Than Another’s?

The last major thing I picked up during the Steam sale was ArmA 3. I know I said a while back I’d stop blogging about ArmA 2, but that was ArmA 2. This new game feels like a whole other level, though I’m barely scratching its surface right now. I’ve only just finished the first section of its campaign, which I’m told changes dramatically in the following two sections. More than anything else, that first chapter reminded me of what military shooters were like before Modern Warfare took over the industry.

I’m not even talking about just tactical shooters either, but military-themed shooters in general. It feels like the thought process of a PS2-era action game brought to today’s technology. ArmA 3 is supposed to be an open-world military simulation like its predecessor, but the first third of its campaign is actually a collection of pretty linear missions. In effect, it feels like a standard military shooter from 15 years ago on today’s technology. It reminds me of all the things we complained about before Call of Duty gave us new things to complain about.

Actually, the main campaign of ArmA 2’s expansion, Operation Arrowhead, had pretty much the same feeling. Instead of endlessly moving from scene to scene we’re back to mission briefings in ArmA. Even though the paths in ArmA 3’s early campaign are relatively determined, they’re still wide paths where you have some latitude with how to fight battles. It is linear, but not scripted.

I’m not down on Call of Duty, Halo, and Gears of War at all though. I just think the majority of modern military-themed shooters have done a poor job of imitating those games, misunderstanding why they did what they did.

ArmA 3’s early campaign reminds me a lot of the early SOCOM games on the PS2. Structurally the squad tactics and objective structure remind me of Ace Combat missions. Arrowhead’s abundance of vehicle-based missions had the same effect — to the point where I found myself turning on Ace Combat briefing music during Arrowhead’s briefings. Maybe the only difference is that the older games keep the player on a slightly looser leash and don’t rely so much on elaborate scripted events or QTEs.

And I remember people used to complain about military-themed games back then too. They were just complaining about doing the same objectives (secure this point, plant this bomb, etc.) and the games having repetitive storylines. I feel slightly relieved to go back to that crap in an era where people instead complain about the abundance of QTE’s and tight corridors.

I’m not saying this as some profound reason why ArmA 3 is a great game or anything. Playing these linear missions within this open world just reminds me of an earlier era, as well as the differences between that era and this one.

I guess none of that really matters how because from what I understand ArmA 3’s campaign becomes a very open-world affair from here onwards.

BULLETS:

  • New roguelike to keep track of. http://t.co/hkI9tZfB7R
  • Like clockwork, Super Time Force get’s announced for Steam.
  • Dave Chappelle went hard on Donald Sterling youtu.be/63NwEBRaKyc
  • This “Ultima Ascension” thing from the Ultima Underworld guys sounds extremely intriguing. First we get a bunch of people resurrecting classic isometric RPGs, now somebody might be trying to resurrect classic-style immersive simulation RPGs. I just hope they can get the production capital to do it.
  • RIP Animated Series Gordon.
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