“A butterfly drifts by on a carefree wind, I watch its fluttering dance and admire my surroundings; a meadow in a foreign land, full of flowers smiling at the sun. This could almost be a perfect stroll through the countryside, but for the weight of my rifle, reminding me that’s not why I’m here. My meandering thoughts are brought crashing back to earth with a mighty explosion and the scream of wounded men. Flung to the ground I can almost feel the sharp crack and occasional whizz as bullets zoom through the air just above my head, like hundreds of angry wasps. My radio comes to life as orders are barked, return fire and flank the enemy my brain informs me, time for all that training to keep me alive.
On my stomach now, I glance to the left to see the majority of my squad. They’re firing off their weapons, fear etched on their faces, trying to suppress the enemy. To my right I try to seek out more friendlies, at least one of them stares back at me with vacant eyes. Death has claimed him in this once beautiful meadow, now his final resting place. In these moments all time stands still, has it been 5 minutes or an hour? I just don’t know. I fire my weapon as dim thuds are heard from afar and as sudden as it started the battle is over. A fire mission, artillery called, eliminating our foe in a crescendo of firepower. The dust begins to settle and the peace of this meadow is returned. Only this time there is no butterfly to dance across the sky…”
… and this is the point you’re finally able to return to reality and realize you’re sweating, even in the air conditioned room you and your computer reside in. This is the power of ArmA2, this is the realistic military simulation that has sucked me in, a podgy civilian, and spat me out as an instrument of warfare… with a keyboard and mouse. The first thing you learn about ArmA2 and its latest expansion Operation Arrowhead is that “this ain’t no CoD (Call of Duty).” This is serious military combat, if you stand in the open you’re a dead man and you won’t even know what hit you. You must work together, in fire teams if possible and in the vast open world expansion of ArmA2′s many islands, any type of cover is your best friend.
Recently I’ve joined a community of ArmA2 players all with the common purpose of playing the game with utmost realism and military tactics in mind. Game play is accompanied with radio chatter, over VOIP akin to military etiquette above that of even the movies. Everyone is split into Fire Teams, orders are placed down the chain of command coming from a Head Quarters player (a dungeon master if you will), down to the lead officer of the mission and down to the leaders of each Fire Team. No single player is always one of these rolls, the system is open to all, so if you’re feeling up to leading a group of players then you can. It is encouraged of all new players to try leading men on the virtual battlefield, it’s much harder than you think.
There are lots of communities out there, many of them getting the most out of the game with realistic modifications that enhance the combat experience even further. Just take a look on YouTube, many players post up replays of their missions that give a great demonstration of how that game can be played. So I urge the itchy-triggered soldier in you to check it out.
As for me, I’ll be cleaning my rifle, her name is Shirley by the way and checking my gear. Always ready for the next mission into the unknown combat zone.