Not Quite An ARMA 2 Mod: Wasteland

As a current member of the Blufor army, this soldier's face must remain hidden

As a current member of the Blufor army, this soldier’s face must remain hidden

I’ve been getting back into some DayZ recently, and while that’s been pretty great fun (although I haven’t played any of the latest patch), something new has captured my interest.

Wasteland. It’s not actually a mod of ARMA 2, but it kind of is: Wasteland is better described as a team-based set of custom missions in Chernarus. There are two teams: Blufor and Opfor, both opposing factions. In the middle are the Independents, for the lone-wolves, the ones that want to kill everyone without discriminating. There’s a few other bits to Wasteland, so I’ll try and explain them in a bit more detail.

Far and away, the biggest difference to DayZ players in Wasteland will be the zombies. Or rather, lack thereof: in Wasteland, there are no zombies. it’s just you, the opposing faction (if you’re on Opfor or Blufor) and the independents (commonly referred to as “indies”). Occasionally you’ll get objectives which have armed NPCs at them (who can and will shoot at you), but those aren’t super common.

You might think the lack of zombies is a little strange, but really, it’s not all that different to what you might have seen in DayZ. DayZ is a little flawed in that zombies only spawn around buildings and the like, which means you don’t see any zombies if you’re just running around in the woods. If it helps, you can think of Wasteland as the post-post-apocalypse: the zombies have all died out, and now it’s just you and other players fighting each other over dwindling resources.

Whilst it may be true that zombies do add an extra level to the tension when you’re engaged with another player, not having to worry about them when you’re tracking another player is good, too — any kind of movement you spot in a town is likely a player. No zombies also means you don’t have to deal with bandaging in the heat of battle and other nonsense. It’s kind of nice, actually.

Unlike DayZ, you don’t have you find your weapons in deer stands, abandoned firestations, or military barracks. Instead, you’ll find your weapons in crates that you find at objectives, or more commonly, inside pretty much every car. And what’s nice about these weapons is that they’re all high-end gear, stuff that isn’t included in DayZ; all the way from top-tier military weapons, Soviet-era weapons (AKs and variants), all the way down to the lowly Lee Enfield and the Makarov PM (easily the worst thing about playing Opfor — Blufor players spawn with the much harder-hitting M1911, and I believe Indies spawn with the G17).

The Mk17 Sniper is a piece of art, and while you don’t necessarily need a silenced weapon in Wasteland as there aren’t any zombies to give your location away to, suppressed weapons can still be useful for silently taking out other players without them getting an immediate fix on your location. Anything with an ACOG scope is great for short to mid-range engagements, too. There’s basically no restriction on the weapons you’ll find in Wasteland — you’ll find specific variants at weapons crates and inside cars (US Special weapons inside a US Special Weapons Crate, for example), but finding a gun in Wasteland usually isn’t an issue. Plus, heavy guns actually work: various shoulder-fired rockets (RPGs, SMAWs, Stingers, Javelins) are necessary for killing armoured targets such as SUVs and Hummers, and make very big bangs.

We made a nice bonfire out of our excess cars.

We made a nice bonfire out of our excess cars.

One of the other big change from DayZ is vehicles: cars are plentiful in Wasteland. There’s over 700 vehicles in Wasteland servers, which means transportation isn’t usually a problem. You can spawn in, jump in a car nearby, and drive away — all without having to repair it or fuel it. It’s a beautiful thing to not have to waste an hour scouring industrial spawns to find a bloody toolbox, let me tell you. Like the weapons, there’s every variety of vehicle in Wasteland: armoured SUVs with mounted miniguns, giant trucks with anti-air machine guns on the back, Humvees, Humvees with .50 cal machine guns, armoured Vodniks, jeeps, off-roads, ambulances, plus the usual assortment of push bikes, motorbikes, sedans, vans, hatchbacks, utes, and so on. There’s also Ospreys, Blackhawks, Little Birds, C130s, and Hueys, but they’re much rarer — only a few per server, plus whatever comes up in the objectives (more on this later). Oh, and did I mention the tanks? There’s tanks, too.

The greatly increased number of vehicles evens the playing field a little: it means the map is smaller, to be sure, but it also means everyone has reasonable access to fast transport to anywhere on the map. What’s more, you can even drive through towns without having to take detours due to debris on the road: evidently, someone was sick of random wrecks on the roads, so they went through and swept it all up, making the roads actually drivable.

It’s not unusual to come across a convoy of vehicles driving along the road in Wasteland. Get a few players, get a few cars, and there you go.

A Blackhawk towing a MTVR.

A Blackhawk towing a MTVR.

Every now and again, an server-wide objective appears for every player on the server. It’s usually something like a go-get mission, where you have to go get an abandoned repair truck that could help your team. Or sometime’s it’s a weapons cache that’s guarded by NPCs. Sometimes it’s an immobile heli or inoperative tank, which you can repair to get running for your team. They’re incredibly team-focused, and because the objectives appear for everyone on the server, getting to an objective first, holding it until the calvary arrives, and making away with the loot/tank/heli is usually a monumental task depending on how valuable the objective is (and how much the opposing factions also want the objective for themselves.

You don’t really know where the objective will appear on the map, which is why it’s so important to have a small, fast strike force to go in, secure the objective, then have a larger force come in and take it back to base. Even if all the objective is is a weapons cache, that could help the team considerably later on in the game.

This guy managed to build himself a skybase far, far above a forest.

This guy managed to build himself a skybase far, far above a forest.

Every time you kill someone in Wasteland, they drop their currently-held cash. You then have to go over and pick up the cash from their dead body, and with that cash, you can buy supplies such as medic or repair kits (for yourself or vehicles, respectively), things to help your team (spawn beacons), or other goodies such as food, and camo nets. Of course, you can also buy weapons, ammo and other militarised equipment such as rangefinders, GPS, and NVGs.

The locations of gun stores and general stores are marked on the map for everyone to see, which is why they’re usually hotly contested territory on the map.  It’s also not uncommon for you to head into the town where a gun store is only to see the enemy already having a grand old time in your gun store – the question then becomes, do you try and assault the gun store? Or do you just leave them to it? Maybe you don’t even get to make that call, since you get blasted as soon as you drive down the main road.

ArmA2OA 2013-02-13 19-05-29-29

A boat on land is the most normal thing in the world.

I’ve saved one of the best parts of Wasteland for last: base-building, fortification, and construction. There’s a lot of structures you can place in Wasteland. For some reason, Wasteland players seem to love the concept of a “base” — where the main Opfor or Blurfor forces are located when they’re not out doing objectives. Such affairs are usually highly-team focused, as it takes quite a few structures to build a nicely fortified base of operations. You can play with scaffolding, sandbags, little fortifications, “depots”, various barricades, concrete slabs, ramps, tents, and heaps of other things. You can pick up and place objects pretty much anywhere (within reason), and there’s an almost infinite number of ways to fortify a base from enemy attack. There’s a number of buildings you can transport in cars, including mounted machine guns, food and water crates, and so on.

The fun starts when you’re starting to build your base — finding the right parts, loading them into your car, and transporting them to where you’re building your base. Then you have to work out the layout and how the parts will fit together while considering how to defend and attack from the base itself (perhaps, if you’re super unlucky, while you’re in the middle of constructing your base). And then all that’s left is to protect it from intruders — whether that involves you shooting people with your rifle, or jumping on a mounted turret and making swiss cheese out of their car is up to you. It’s incredibly good fun if you’re with a few other players on Teamspeak and arguing about where you should be placing the walls.

HALO jumps are amazing.

HALO jumps are amazing.

But, just between you and I, the one reason Wasteland is so amazingly great is that it’s everything I’ve always wanted in a shooter. As it’s built on a military simulator, it’s got the realism that I want: the bullet physics and weapon variety, the way you use the guns, the way the guns feel, sound, all of that — it’s all great. But it’s also got the teamwork, exploration, and adrenaline-pumping encounters of DayZ and other similar first-person shooters. It’s not as arcade-y, which is great, but it’s got way more than enough to keep me hooked, because in Wasteland, every encounter is different. Yes, I’ve died from truly-screwed vehicle physics before, and yes, I’ve died without getting a single shot off, but it’s all part of the experience! Wasteland lets me play soldier like I’m actually in the armed forces, all from the comfort of my own home.

The long and the short of it is: I’d miss a lot of Wasteland if I went back to DayZ. I not sure I could say the same if it was the other way around.

Tags: , , , , , , ,