May 1, 2011

Weekend Warriors - "Hills Have Eyes"

And so, another ArmA2 session has taken place, this time with a new arrival - Manny, of the League fame. Unfortunately, I'm a very lazy busy man, and thus will not describe some 3 hours of gameplay that took place before the events I'm about to unravel. Thus, you - the audience - will have to live without knowing what Birdscouting is, how to bait tanks and how I got a totally sweet doublekill by taking out an APC's forward gunners through the glass of their viewing hatches. 

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you're better off not knowing these facts.

This screenshot might inform the decision.

This time we went with Hills Have Eyes user made scenario, which takes place in and around a castle. 

The Task: a multinational team of US Marines has left their camp to carry out an important mission: assault an enemy base located in a historical Chernarussian castle, and blow up a nearby radio tower if they have time to spare.

The Team:

               Capt. Sekundaari (callsign: Sniperman): "These nuts are great"
                 Sgt. bucaneer (callsign: bucaneer): "ALL, HETERO!"
                 Pvt. Someone (callsign: GAME): "Crap, I missed that priest"
                 Pvt. Manny (callsign: total expert): "this isn't Portal apparently"

The Execution:
Sniperman fighting the widespread problem of unsanctioned bike usage

We start out in a comfy base, equipped with a weapon stockpile, a couple of hummvees, an ambulance, a bike, a repair truck and even a transport chopper. We fuck around with a bike and kill eachother for 10 minutes gear up and discuss the battle plan. 

The plan is simple: get into a hummvee, get close to the castle, take out the nearby checkpoint and ambush a patrolling APC with a few mines, then wing it. My request to assault the checkpoint with the car-mounted weaponry is denied, because Sniperman is allergic to fun has a different assessment of the situation, so we dismount near a hill overlooking the checkpoint, snipe the soldiers manning it and close in on foot through the forest to finish the job. Soon, the remaining checkpoint garrison is dead, the APC successfully damaged by the mines and the crew - neutralized after a brief scuffle.

We take turns hopping into the driver's seat and determine that, while the tracks have taken near-critical damage, they are still capable of movement, albeit very slowly. Unfortunately this is not to last, as bucaneer tries to excercise his incredible driving skills and backs up onto one of two mines he himself put on the road for the ambush, one which hasn't been detonated - up until now. The explosion propells my lifeless carcass onto a crude fence surrounding the checkpoint seconds before I finish typing "DONT" into the chat (having noticed the idle mine during my turn at the wheel), total expert also dies, as well as the APC's prospects of movement. After Sniperguy finishes ressurecting us unfortunate minenauts, we determine that the turret is too damaged to use as a stationary firing position, and therefore abandon the war machine and continue our assault on foot.

This is, literally, 90% of the game.
After a trek through some nearby foilage, we find a comfy spot with a decent view on the enemy positions, go prone and proceed to execute the final, pivotal part of our master plan - "wing it". Bullets go flying and soldiers go dying as we take out the enemy infantrymen brave enough to poke their heads out of cover and go looking for us. We slowly creep towards the enemy base until finally coming to a standstill once the only things separating us from the stationary machinegun positions by the castle walls are a tiny slope of the ground and a couple of pine trees. Things start to get hectic, enemies pop up from more and more different directions and each of us goes down several times, only to be dragged away into the cover of trees and put back to life by comrades and their wondrous battlefield medicine. The reflex sight on my light machinegun doesn't have magnification so I am limited to close to medium range targets, but I try to make myself useful by taking out soldiers attempting to flank us. We hold our own against infantry until the enemy runs out of idle grunts, leaving us against snipers and entrenched machinegunners, which prove too much for us to handle.

Sniperman sort of forgets about this whole "squad" thing and crawls away to the castle walls while we try to poke out of cover and take down the MG, get pulverized and nursed back to health. Then, bucaneer tries to get closer and gets killed halfway across the field. total expert crawls to him, and I do my best to cover him, but we are attacked out in the open from several directions and killed before we can save bucaneer, followed shortly by Sniperman.

bucaneer is 2cool4steeringwheel
We use up some of our respawns, reappear back at the base, gear up (I pick up an Anti-Materiel Rifle) and move out.

The new plan is to try and bring the repair truck - guarded by a hummvee - to the critically damaged APC we left near the castle checkpoint, and see if we can restore it and raise some hell. We probably should have done it before we attacked on foot, but the last time we attempted the scenario we ended up in the same situation and the repair truck failed to reanimate the damaged vehicle, and this time we couldn't be bothered to trek all the way back to the base to get the truck and have another go at it. Now, however, we needed a ride to get back into action anyway, and killed two birds with one stone by riding the Repair truck. The hummvee, with Sniperman and total expert, utilizes an original escorting tactic by driving away from us as fast as possible, while bucaneer uses his superior trucking skills and knowledge of the terrain to take a shortcut through the woods, but something goes wrong and the car gets stuck in trees and mud for a few minutes, before the ace driver finally manages to return it to the village road, and narrowly dodge getting it stuck again - this time for good - between a concrete barn and some stacks of hay. We get shot by a mystery sniper a few times, but escape unscathed and arrive to the checkpoint. The repair truck gets parked near the wayward Russian APC and - oh wonder of wonders! - gets repaired fully. We hop into the armored carrier, total expert takes the steering wheel, and off we go.

Which side is forward again?

There were two gunners here. They're gone now.
This is where things start to get a bit hazy. While Sniperman is having a ball blowing up soldiers and priceless historical artifacts with the turret, bucaneer and I take the honorary position of left and right machinegunners (which, as we later find out, are actually forward-left and forward-right machinegunners), and try to find something to shoot through the tiny peepholes in the forward armor, as things scream, fire, get ran over and explode around us. The APC goes through the inner castle defences like a knife through butter: we run over a howitzer, take out soldiers, snipers, lighter APC's and even a Tunguska AA vehicle (armed with missiles, by the way) and otherwise wreak havoc, until incessant abuse of the tracks renders our ride near-immobile again, right by the castle entrance, close to the place we all got killed the last time. Sniperman tries to use the damaged main caliber, while armor gives way and our squishy mortal coils start to take damage inside the vehicle, forcing us to get out and take cover by it while the machinegunners in an enemy Vodnik try to turn us into fine swiss cheese. I get out my AMR, request targetting orientation from Sniperman (in ArmA 2, when the commander orders you to attack a specific enemy or a vehicle, it gets put into red brackets making shooting it much easier), lean and poke out to the right of our APC and take out both gunners in two shots.

What a rotten way to die
We heal up, ditch our immobilized ride (again), and do a final sweep of the castle on foot. It takes a while for the main objective to switch to "completed", we even finish the side objective and blow up a radio tower, guarded by several soldiers and a machinegunner whom I take out with my rifle, leaving one alive for Sniperman and bucaneer to dispose of. I even kill myself with a grenade to respawn back at the base and fetch the transport chopper for an air sweep, when my compatriots find and finish off the remaining snipers camping in the big central towers with an AA cannon, clearing the hill of enemy presence. Mission accomplished!


bucaneer said...

In my defense, the fear of roads is Sekundaari's. I was just following the humvee thinking that he knew a better way (too lazy to check the map myself), although in all fairness "road" is a less strict concept for humvees.

Sekundaari said...

I have some notes on this.

1. I agreed to finish up the camp with the car; this plan was abandoned in 2.6 seconds when something (BMP, most likely) started spraying bullets in our humvee's direction. Hilarious!

2. You didn't mention the tree-bouncing mystery grenade that killed some of us and was most definitely not thrown by you.

3. Yeah, your troubles with the repair truck were partly my fault, I'm afraid. I took a wrong turn with the humvee, to a dead end, and decided to return to the correct road with a shortcut through the forest. You followed me blindly (as you should), and ended up stuck.

4. I'm too cool for those helpful red brackets (because I can't use them myself). I've got the tactical command view though, which probably helped to raise my kill count.

5. You always tell us to pose for screenshots and then don't post them. What gives? ;)

6. I wish you had said something about the Cipher run. May I tell my side of that story in a later comment? Thanks. I won't reveal Clear the way, so as not to tarnish the beginning of this post.

Someone said...


1. Abandoning the plan is equivalent to denying it all together, cause we would have totally taken those chumps.

2. I didn't? Oh, silly me, I must have completely forgotten not throwing it. Oh well, too late to make changes now.

3. Did you happen to try and pass between a concrete barn and (as far as the game engine is concerned - equally concrete) stacks of hay on your way to the checkpoint? Cause I recall bucaneer doing something like that.

4. You always cheat your way to the top of the killcount. Command view, vehicle commander score, not assigning proper attacking orders...

5. I usually plan to use them, but later find way more screenshots of shit blowing up or me shooting dudes in the face. Not to worry though, when I'm rich, successful and have millions of fans (which is surely going to happen any day now), I'll release the back catalog of screenshots in various "Best of" and "Collector's edition" compilations, or just sell them in an online store. Come to think of it, maybe I should do it with all screenshots. Hmmm...

6. I did say something about Cipher! About how I GOT THAT TOTALLY SWEET KILL OF TWO DUDES INSIDE AN APC WITH A SNIPER RIFLE. Nothing else needs to be said, really. If you do want to futilely add tiny minute details - knock yourself out, cause I certainly won't. Besides, all I saw you do after I'd gotten killed and possessed the sniper bot was get pounded into the dirt by tracer rounds the size of a cat.

Sekundaari said...

Well, after Manny joined us in our session we agreed to play the Cipher mission again. As the previous run had been a walk in the park (we have short memories) we decided to raise the difficulty from 25% to 50%. What could go wrong? We also picked humvees instead of bikes for transport.

This time, the AI soldiers were with us, probably because of some other changed setting. We set out to choose our gear. I went with a rifle with some longish-distance optics and a grenade launcher, and a SMAW launcher with three rockets.

Then I somehow thought my context-sensitive left click would select total expert for orders. He lived, after one of our medics treated his wound.

Next up: the tour guide. Our target was in the town of Msta (yes, Msta) in southeastern Chernarus; we were inserted a bit north of Elektrozavodsk. Check the map in this wonderful guide. Other spots of interest are our previous target, Orlovets, some ways NNE of Msta, and Devil's Castle and Gvoszdno in the north part of the map, the setting of the mission above. The entire map is a respectable ~15km x 15km.

We had two humvees at our disposal, one with a machine gun and another with a grenade launcher. They could prove useful against random patrols, but using them to assault the town itself, likely defended by a Shilka, Hind, BMP or something equally as nasty, would be a madman's deed.

I ordered the AI troops into some trees, later sending them north on foot. Meanwhile we took the cars, drove to the forests southwest of Msta and jumped out at first sight of an enemy chopper flying above.

A nerve-wrecking hike through the forest began. We got near the top of a hill overlooking Msta where GAME eyed the Hind greedily with his anti-air launcher, but didn't get a clear shot. We decided against attacking the already spotted BRDM and BMP from this open direction without cover, and to circle to a forest north of the town. We barely got into the cover of the forest again when the BMP came to patrol the hilltop we had just left.

I was at the point of our group and very tense. I even looked at a mine-resembling mushroom suspiciously, despite the vanilla game having only AT mines. I wonder if it was one of those puffballs that blow up if you step on them...

We crossed a power line and two roads without incident and made it to the northern forest. We observed the troops and APCs in the town and started the shooting - actually we did this twice, as bucaneer's game crashed soon after the first shots, taking others with it.

The second time, we were soon greeted by a stream of bullets from the vehicles of the town. I think GAME and total expert died first, while I wasted two of my rockets, destroying a Vodnik with the third. Out of the frying pan, into the fire: The BMP arrived, killed bucaneer and was very determined to do the same to me, going back and forth to get me in its sights, while I sidestepped behind a tree to stay in cover. The sides of the tree didn't quite stop all of its bullets and I found myself more and more injured by the ones that punched through. After futilely launching my eight grenades at the beast, I finally died a useless death.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team had taken over the bodies of some AI which had, somehow, assaulted the town, leaving few alive. They decided to take the humvees and go on a rampage, while I had no AI body or other respawn left and reincarnated as a bird. Yes, that really happens. The others didn't last long, however, and the mission was failed. We then decided to move on to Hills Have Eyes...

Sekundaari said...

3. No, at the time you did I was already at the checkpoint. Eating peanuts.

4. I think it's more about the fact that I usually take point in our wacky hijinks. I get no attacking orders either, and the command view is of much more use with enemy vehicles around, the angles aren't good for spotting infantry. I believe I was already at the top before the BMP ride, which certainly added to my score too. I wish everybody would still get those points.

Also I use really great guns.

6. Oh, sorry. Was that a second Vodnik? I didn't realize somebody saw my poor death, where were you?

Someone said...

No, a google image search shows that it was a BRDM of some kind. I saw it's forward part turned to me, while the turret was spraying your forest position with fire. I noticed two cute little observation windows on it's "nose", took aim with the sniper rifle and shattered each of them with two well-placed shots. I'm not sure if that actually killed anyone, I was hoping to immobilize it, but it certainly kept moving around and spewing bullets after that. Then again, I may have killed the secondary driver and the commander, both of which are useless as far as the AI is concerned. It certainly attracted the enemy attention to me, which is sort of what I was trying to accomplish, but the AI was competent enough to split it's mobile MG assets equally between the two of us.

I actually spawned as a sniper carrying a DMR (and not much else), standing around somewhere close to the proceedings. I've gotten to that hill where we saw the Hind and out onto some meadows, trying to sneak up on the town's infantry, find a good position overlooking most of it and kill them all, but then I saw your situation and tried to find exposed gunners and other crewmen to weaken the armor killing you.

Also, I came up with a better tactic than "sneaking onto a hill and trying to kill everyone from it": Get the two hummvees, ride them to the objective and find a convenient ambush spot. Lay satchel charges, hide two people near buildings or in forests, preferably on opposite sides of the presumed ambush point (a narrow road, for example). Get one hummvee close enough to attract the armor, make some noise, get the hell out and lure the armor into the ambush. ???, PROFIT, etcetera.

Sekundaari said...

It was kind of chaotic, the end of the mission. I wasn't able to issue any commands, the bots that had previously waited at the cars got involved in the battle somehow and I could barely type while keeping the tree between myself and the BMP.

The tactic certainly sounds interesting, and we'll have to try it, if we try 50% again. Though maybe we wouldn't have needed it if the target town had some better positions for us to use. We'll see.

I thought we also might try a small self-imposed challenge in Hills: We go with our starting weapons, or possibly just basic rifles. The checkpoint has enough weapons to make the mission very doable, but taking it becomes less trivial.

Someone said...

I actually had a T-74 attack me while I was trying the mission solo. Running away from it in a hummvee was quite a thrill ride, let me tell you!

I don't think "Hills" lack difficulty. With either collection of weapons, our main problem would be circumventing the MG emplacements near the castle. If we hadn't gotten an APC, clearing out those pesky machinegunners would have been a great challenge.

I was actually thinking about tactics usable against MG nests, and the best I could come up with is using smoke. Poke out and launch a smoke nade at the MG, and follow it up with a grenade while the gunner is blinded and can't respond.

Sekundaari said...

Hmmm... why go through the trouble of using smoke? Wouldn't just the grenade work? Or a few? Or VSS, if I can find a suitable position.

To clarify, I only meant we wouldn't take weapons from the truck in Gvozdno, we could still scavenge.

Someone said...

If you poke out of cover near an MG, you usually only have about 2 seconds before it tears you into a thousand pieces, meaning that you have to take aim, account for distance, fire and take cover in a span of 2 seconds, or you're dead meat. If you are using a smoke nade, even if you miss it should generally be enough to put the smokescreen between you and the MG position and, once you do that, you are free to take your time aiming the throw/launcher shot and admiring your handiwork.

To clarify: I meant that "Hills" have enough pain in the ass already, thank you very much.

bucaneer said...

How about something completely different: going straight to the radio tower first (or at least dealing with the checkpoint and then doing a roundabout to approach the tower from the rear)?

There are maybe 6 guys there - no big deal - and a Vodnik that patrols the hilltop and comes kinda close, but doesn't mind as long as you don't make much noise. The bunker and tower are nice sniping spots, approaching the castle on level ground is much more convenient (plus you get a Kord to clear the area with), and the Vodnik might still be serviceable after you neutralize it.

Doing it solo took a couple of attempts (though I didn't even try assaulting the castle afterwards), but it should go very nicely with four people.

Someone said...

@bucaneer: and there is a small clearing in the woods near the tower, perfect to land the transport chopper in! Honestly, I'm okay with any scenario that lets me play with a chopper.

Still, aren't there snipers on the walls?

bucaneer said...

None I could spot (or could spot me) from atop the radio tower, so at least it's not an immediate danger.

Sekundaari said...

That could be interesting too. As I said some time ago, it seems the radio tower is meant to be "our" objective anyway, and the castle proper would be mostly taken by the larger group of independent guys.

"Turning their own weapons against them" with the KORD could make for some very cliched stories though... Wait. The mines. My VSS. The BMP. Nevermind.

Someone said...

Actually, disregard my comments about smoke usage. I've been reading through the ACE2 mod feature list, and one of the highlighted items was "Smokescreens affect the AI", which suggests that vanilla AI is unaffected.