Escape from Chernarus!

Watching them, of course. Was I supposed to be watching something else?

Outside of our prison, Thomas and Pariah scavenge for weapons while I stand watch.

In the scenario Escape Chernarus for ARMA 2, the United States is planning a big old barbecue in Chernarus, and invites have been delivered to local insurgents via the usual special recon teams—one of which includes me (The Innocent) and Space-Biff! buddies Pariah and Thomas/Alikchi. Unfortunately, the dictator (or whatever) does not approve of the upcoming capitalist festivities, and has had us locked up. Escaping our prison should be no trouble, but the real question is: can we escape Chernarus? It’s 225 km² (the same map used in the Day Z mod), and we’ll have the entire Chernarussian Army harassing our every move.

Fortunately, the dictator’s idea for imprisoning a trio of Force Recon dudes is to build a silly fort in the middle of the mountains and staff it with incompetents, including a warden who likes to climb fully-armed into the pen with his prisoners. Thomas judo-chops the warden, takes his rifle and hands me the man’s pistol, then murders his way out of the pen while I shoot the two guards who run around the other side. After five seconds of gunfire, all is silent.

Now that the Very Special Division is out of the way, things get serious. The dictator may have picked his worst men to guard us, but we’ve heard that the response teams are nothing to laugh at; the klaxons are sounding, and we’re pretty sure we can hear a helicopter approaching. We scramble to scavenge what we can—Pariah and I thank our captors for carrying silenced AKS-74UN Kobras, while Thomas grabs an RPK machinegun—and then we’re sprinting away from the prison and into the woods. Mere moments later, a search helicopter appears above, scanning the countryside for signs of our passage.

Although we’re able to find serviceable weaponry, none of the guards had been carrying the most valuable item of all: a map. Now, cowering in the brush whenever we hear the rotors of our hunter, we have no idea where we could be. We know that within minutes, a response team will have been deployed to the prison and the pursuit will be on. So we scurry across the mountain, sometimes running from tree to tree, other times crawling. We pass by a radar tower, fearful of any sentries that might patrol its base, and descend to visual distance of a city.

Is it coastal? The draw distance means we can't tell.

An unknown city.

Escape will consist of two major steps. First, we’ll need to locate a radio of sufficient power to broadcast back to the US Navy parked out in international waters. Then we’ll have to rendezvous with whatever evac they can manage for us. Both of these steps will necessitate staying out of sight except for lightning raids to gather essential bits of weaponry and equipment.

As such, approaching the city in the distance is not a real option. The civilians would possibly report us if we were seen, and anyway, occasional military trucks are on the move. Still, we hope that by identifying the city we can at least determine what portion of the country we’re traipsing across. So with Thomas and Pariah on overwatch, I crawl down the hill, hoping to use the binoculars I’d filched from a fallen guard to make out a street sign.

“Can you make anything out?” Pariah asks.

“It’s a cyrillic H, or maybe an A…” I say. “E… P… O… an R, I think, but it’s like a lowercase R… another O, then P-E-H. I think.” I reposition a few times, hoping for a better angle, but the hill opens up too much for me to risk crawling any closer. A few minutes later, I still can’t make out the sign well enough to be certain of our location, and we can see that it’s time to move:

"Papers!" shouts the guard. "Jeez, man, I live here! You see me every day!"

A military patrol harasses civilians on the road.

The armored car is currently too much to take on, especially at two hundred meters. Cursing (the car would have certainly had a map in it), we crawl backwards until we reach the safety of the treeline, then we sprint back to the radar tower we’d spotted earlier. Thomas and I hold our position a short distance away while Pariah reconnoiters. When he gives us the all-clear, we meet back up with him at its base.

This is the scene where I spot Pariah watching me. I shiver a bit, despite the heat.

Pariah spots from the radar tower.

The helicopter seems to have wandered off for the time being, possibly refueling or searching a different nearby mountain, so Pariah climbs up to the top and reports the location of hills and roads. It seems that we’re surrounded by bad choices: we can either pass a major highway, go into the city, or go back down into the valley where our prison was located. Pariah climbs back down so we can have a serious discussion about which way to go.

We also have an ethical discussion straight out of an episode of Battlestar Galactica about whether we can shoot civilians in the face to take their car.

A serious discussion.

Thomas, our respectable squad leader, proposes that we sprint across the highway and the field on the other side to a copse of trees, and reevaluate our position from the cover it will provide. Pariah and I concur with this plan, and soon we’re running as fast as we can through dangerous terrain.

Somehow the game uses my webcam to decide that I'm the most out-of-shape of our squad of three, and makes me run much more slowly than Pariah or Thomas.

Our squad sprints across the highway to the copse.

As always, it’s Pariah who hears the rumble of approaching trucks first. “Sounds like military,” he says as we run. We barely make it into the trees before a pair of trucks rolls past. We have the highway on our left, not thirty meters away, and a sort of white longhouse across more field in front of us. A peek through the binoculars tells that we cannot move forward the same way we advanced to this point, as there is at least one squad of soldiers patrolling its yard.

Yes, in Call of Duty this would take two seconds and then you'd regenerate health. In ARMA, it would take two seconds and you'd be paralyzed. Forever.

Two riflemen and a machinegunner patrol the longhouse.

We briefly consider attacking the squad in hopes of finding a map, but there are too many unknowns. We’re too close to the highway, and patrols roll past regularly. We have no idea if there might be a second squad on the other side of the longhouse, or how far the register of our gunshots will carry across the valley. It might be possible to take out the squad with the silenced rifles that Pariah and I are carrying, but at this range a killing shot is no guarantee. So instead, we opt to cross the highway to our left, hoping that the stand of trees will be enough to block the patrol’s line of sight on us. When we move to the left, we discover that we were right to not attack the patrol: there is a single sniper walking along the road, close enough to easily wipe us out from behind at the barest noise.

At first it seems that we’ll wait for the sniper to pass, but Thomas points out that he’d much rather be carrying a sniper rifle than his bulky machinegun, so I line up a shot from the bushes and put a burst into the man’s chest. He crumples into the tall grass next to the road, and Thomas quickly pilfers the man’s weapon and ammunition. Then we’re running as fast as we can up the hill, hoping that the patrol behind us doesn’t notice three special forces refugees.

This scenario is basically a Close Call Generator.

The helicopter hunter reappears as we reach the treeline (click for bigger).

Thomas and I make it into the trees, with Pariah right behind. As we lay low in the grass, we’re unsettled by the appearance of a helicopter. Is it the same one that hounded us on the mountain to the south? Neither option is comforting: either the Chernarussian military has deployed even more birds to track us down, or perhaps our original hunter has somehow picked up our scent. We hope that the body of the sniper, invisible from the road, will not be easily spotted from the sky.

At any rate, we’re relieved to find that this mountain is much more remote than the last one. The only signs of civilization are power lines, which we trace for a good while, and eventually an abandoned farmhouse, which we search fruitlessly for a map.

We do consider killing all his chickens, but another TV ethics discussion kicks in and we decide that this would be Wrong.

We search an abandoned farmhouse for a map.

We desperately need a map. Without one, not only do we not know where we are, but we have no idea where a radio might be. Still, it seems that we’ve evaded the widening search net for the time being—the skies are silent, and we’re far enough from main roads that the drone of engines is comfortably distant. Still, we’re on guard, covering each other as we move and periodically stopping and scanning the hilltops and treelines for signs of movement. It seems that out here, there is nothing.

After a few more kilometers, we see what looks like a red roof in the valley below. We shuffle closer and discover that it’s a long narrow town along a road that doesn’t look too well-traveled. The three of us split up to recon the town. Pariah crawls down the hill and gets up close, crossing by a pond that locals probably swim nude in, or something similarly barbaric. Thomas moves along near the crest of the hill, spotting with his SVD scope. And I stay between them, remaining on the hill but low enough to be in a workable range for my silenced rifle.

At first, the conversations between the soldiers humanizes them and I wonder if I can go through with killing them. But then one of them says, "You know, I actually liked the new trilogy." I kill him without compunction.

Four men patrol the small town.

After about ten minutes of watching a small patrol gradually move up and down the road, we’re fairly confident that there are four of them, though the thick foliage and the placement of the town’s houses means we’re not one hundred percent sure. Thomas recommends that we try to take out three of them at once, coordinating our shots, but by now we’re close enough that the soldiers have begun to suspect our presence. One of them turns and spots me, and half a second later I’ve shot him in the head. Thomas fires next, bringing down another sentry. Two of the four enemies are dead before the fight’s start, but the remaining two have now heard shots and are moving in cover. Because the fight began about ten seconds too soon, Pariah is caught out of position, trapped behind a low fence with both enemy soldiers on the other side. Thomas’ view is blocked by trees, so I shift my prone position and begin firing a bit too wildly. I eventually tag both of the enemies, but most of my silent subsonic rounds are spent.

We all rush down into the town to scavenge the bodies of the enemies, and we’re all in a bit of a shock from how sloppy that skirmish had been. As such, we take too long searching the dead—we find two maps and a compass, and we’re ready to go, but still we stay, looking at each other for leadership.

“We should go,” someone says. It’s a phrase that we repeat multiple times, each one of us saying it at some point.

Suddenly, “we should go” turns into “we should have gone” when a military jeep with a mounted rocket launcher bursts through a fence. Pariah and I open fire, obliterating the driver and gunner before they can respond to our presence.

Talking to Pariah after the battle, we agreed that we really were in a bit of shock. We waited too long, then didn't wait long enough.

A jeep interrupts our shock.

Another car drives up, and we hold fire when it turns out to be nonmilitary. A civilian climbs out of the car, sees the crashed jeep and six murdered Chernarussian soldiers, gets back in the car, and peels out. With only a glance, the three of us bolt away from the village in the opposite direction that we had arrived, hiding in the trees. We can hear the sounds of the search net closing back in, but at the top of the hill we stop to consult our maps and decide which way to run.

You may have noticed that the weather changed from rainy to really bright. We noticed this too, and wondered if Chernarus had time compression technology. Good thing we're invading them.

Resting and consulting the map.

We can finally make out our position: a few kilometers north of the city of Chernogorsk. There are four visible radio locations, none of them easy to access. The closest is in Chernogorsk, but our pursuers are blocking any easy route back to the city. The same problem applies to the radio in Elektrozavodsk, which lies only a short distance east of Cherno. The other two are far to the northeast—much too far to continue on foot. We will have to acquire some sort of vehicle if we hope to evade our pursuers.

So we make a horrible decision and hope to survive it. We figure that the main response team probably hasn’t arrived yet, and if we hustle we should be able to steal the jeep (provided that Pariah and I didn’t put a round through the engine) and make our way north much more quickly.

As we descend the hill, we realize that we may have taken one risk too many when we are attacked from the left. This happens to be my position in our formation. The shoddy training of the Chernarus military proves helpful, letting me kill three of our flankers before taking a stray round and going down. Thomas pulls me to my feet while Pariah covers from higher up. Then we’re running as fast as we can, hearing men shouting below and the rotors whining above. I make the mistake of glancing up, and my morale plummets:

"If only Mark Wahlberg had joined our game!" Pariah shouts. I shrug. Wahlberg never joins when he says he's joining.

An attack helicopter, ready to rocket the forest.

We’re hounded as we cross rough terrain. Twice we are engaged by squads of hunters, though we manage to cut them down with our desperate fire. Each of us is knocked down at least once, but we manage to help each other limp farther from the village. Rockets from the helicopter slam into the forest nearby, rocking us and our pursuers alike as we dive blindly into the foliage.

I think this is the only pic I have, out of over 100, of anyone actually shooting an enemy.

Defending our constantly-shifting position.

It occurs to me that we’re definitely proving more trouble than our capture is worth. Our pursuers have lost quite a few men, and when we cross the hill and begin descending to another road, Thomas manages to land a grenade right in the middle of a group of four soldiers, giving us a minute of peace while both we and our hunters regroup.

Pariah and I begin to scavenge our fallen enemies while Thomas goes to the road to flag down a civilian car so we can make a getaway. Pariah nabs a rocket launcher (though curses that the soldier carrying it apparently wasn’t carrying any rockets for it), and I head back to Thomas in time to see him stop a civilian, only for the civilian to slam on the gas and bowl him over. I run down to him and pick him up, but he’s badly injured.

The three of us continue down, crossing the road and hoping for more cars to pass, but we can see an enemy technical blocking the road, keeping civilian vehicles from passing our way.

This is how traffic cops operate in Utah too.

An enemy truck blocks traffic.

It’s time for a Hail Mary. Thomas aims his SVD and plucks the gunner from the truck. We prepare to dash to it and get out of there, courtesy of the Chernarus Motor Pool, when things go really wrong.

It turns out that our pursuers have regrouped on our right, and they’re now lying on the highway and shooting down at us. At the same time, a squad has appeared from the bushes behind the truck, and they’re gradually advancing on us. We’re caught in a pincer and have nowhere left to run. Pariah goes down first. I try to get up the hill and around our flankers, with hopes of letting off a grenade right on their position, but instead I bumble right into the sights of two machinegunners, who make short work of me. Thomas is keeping low, and he manages to survive for a long minute.

Game over.

How does it compare to Day Z? Well, I prefer it, but probably mostly because Day Z makes me pee myself.

Left: the map of our “escape”; right: the map of Chernarus. Courtesy of Pariah. (click for bigger)

Our escape attempt lasted an hour and a half, during which time we eliminated 32 Chernarussian soldiers. We’re looking forward to trying again, though the beginning position is random, so with our luck, our next prison will be right in the middle of a military base.

Posted on May 22, 2012, in Mod and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. digitalpariah76

    You’re far too modest. There’s no mention of the bit during our final flight where your legs were shot out from under you. I remember you uttering the immortal line…”You guys go on without me, I’ll hold them off.”

    You hero, you.

    • Haha, yeah, I remember that.

      Unfortunately, my heroism was partially based in my worry that I would have to jump off at any minute. But I’ll take what I can get. =)

  2. Good game report. ArmA 2 is at its best when it’s helping tell stories like this.

  1. Pingback: Crying over Crysis 3 | SPACE-BIFF!

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