Un Día Cualquiera is a helicopter heavy, five-mission campaign for Arma 3 that is loads of fun.
Every few weeks, I sit down with a cup of coffee in the morning and start wading through new entries in the Arma 3 Steam Workshop – a nifty place that has a lot of debris, but that occasionally throws up a gold nugget. It is pretty telling that A3 shows up as my most played game on the Steam Workshop – it is a brilliant game and platform that allows nearly everyone to indulge in their chosen gameplay type and style. I very much enjoy helicopter missions in A3, both those created by Bohemia Interactive, and user created submissions. Though not a new release, as I was sorting through user content in the Workshop, my eye was drawn to the page for Campaña – Un Día Cualquiera. Originally published way back in 2014, the thumbnails piqued my curiosity and the campaign description seemed to check off many of the things I look for in A3 missions:
- Single player or cooperative (pilot, co-pilot/gunner, assault, medic, and repair)
- Missions and situations from rescuing civilians to assaulting enemy base operations.
- The story takes place over five days in various parts of Altis and Stratis.
- Helicopters DLC necessary.
Google Translate to the rescue!
The campaign mission briefings and in-game dialog are almost exclusively in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish – at least, not with anything other than with embarrassing results. Fortunately, Google Translate is an excellent tool to help get the gist of the mission details. Most of the time I could pretty much discern what I was supposed to do (and the reasons for it) just by reading the in-game dialog and making some assumptions. You could always do what I did, and just mentally think to yourself you are a mercenary from your home country that just happens to be flying for a Spanish speaking country. The good news is – the sound of bullets cracking overhead doesn’t need translation.
A3 + VR + vorpX
Before we get to the details about the campaign and missions, I wanted to say that I played this entire campaign in VR using my HP Reverb Pro headset, and it was the most fantastic experience I’ve had playing A3. Using the magic of vorpX, I was enable to enjoy the living, breathing A3 world in a unique and immersive way. I’ll be writing a separate article on vorpX in a few weeks, but I was very happy with my VR experience using the software. Most of the screenshots that accompany this article were taken “through the lens” of my headset by me holding an iPhone up to the lens and snapping a picture. As such, the photographs are not as clear, sharp, nor do they contain the true field of view that you’d actually see in the headset. And, importantly, the photos obviously can’t show the 3D effect that is evident in game.
I will be purposefully vague in some of my descriptions to preserve some of the story, but to convince you to give it a whirl, I do have some helpful observations to make. First, the missions are very well constructed. I did not run into any instances where triggers or actions did not occur. This is probably far harder to avoid than perhaps most of us could appreciate, because when you design a mission for any game or sim, you have to think of all the possible ways the end user can screw it up or go off script – and the very nature of the A3 world encourages off-script thinking!
During the campaign, you will spend much of your time behind the controls of various helicopters (note: Helicopters DLC is required!), but you will also drive vehicles of various types, manage a few AI troops, and perform some light infantry work. What I like most about the campaign is it is extremely well balanced – I don’t feel like I’m being asked to do something ridiculous, but nor do I get bored. In fact, you might run into some missions where you die quite a few times.
Missions are multi-segmented with a nice freedom to accomplish the mission according to your own personal strategy. For most missions you are given a few squad members that smartly consist of a medic, another pilot, and a mechanic that can help get you out of some sticky situations. A3 being A3 – your squad does require some hand-holding here and there, but I did not feel their inclusion impeded gameplay. When I play A3, I try to keep my AI squadron alive, and it always pains me when I lose a member. Apparently the mission can be played as a multiplayer campaign as well, so there is always that option.
Dialog in the mission is text only, so I didn’t get a chance to try out my awful Spanish listening skills. There is a very good chance I’d interpret “¡Ayuda a tu copiloto!” to “Murder your copilot!”. I feel I would be exonerated during the court martial given the circumstances.
A custom experience
As I’ve mentioned many times before, one of the things I really enjoy about many A3 missions is that you can play them in any style you prefer. The author of Un Día Cualquiera designed the missions in just such a way. In one mission, I was given some tasks and told to go mount my helicopter, but I was also given the option to visit the armory to pick from a limited amount of gear that would best suit my play style. Given that I’m playing in a VR headset, I actually prefer scoped rifles because I find them a bit easier to be accurate with since you can zoom in and the image is presented with no parallax. Weapons use in VR in A3 is quite realistic in that you need to establish your dominant eye and train your other eye to ignore that part of your stereoscopic view. Or you can just close one eye, which I’m told is bad form. But back to the point – the armory boxes are a nice touch that allow for customization.
A3 with vorpX works quite well. My system is an i9-9900k and an RTX2080ti and performance is very good. Different headsets will run at different resolutions, but I found a nice combination of in-game resolution, aspect ratio, vorpX settings, and game detail level that work well together. I would warn that playing A3 in VR is a fairly dynamic experience. The ability to uncouple your head movement from your mouse movement is fantastic for flying helicopters and driving vehicles. I suspect that same feature also can make running in first-person while glancing left and right a challenge unless you have good “VR legs”. I had zero VR sickness and spent many nights in VR for hours. Helicopter flight in A3 VR is simply about as good as it gets. Helicopter dynamics in A3 are pretty good – I’m flying with a HOTAS Warthog (pulling for rotor pitch as all normal, functional humans should) and using Slaw Device pedals for yaw. The depth perception and fine helicopter positioning that VR allows for really adds to the experience.
It is worth noting that vorpX offers an “edge peek” function that zooms the screen out to something akin to a drive-in movie theater. Your head movements will still be reflected in the game, but you’ll also be able to take in the whole screen if you need to do something like consult the mission map.
A very nice feature of A3 is the ability to customize your game overlay to your specific requirements. Using a VR headset means you have a slightly odd aspect ratio and headset field of view depends on the headset manufacturer. With my HP Reverb, I was able to set a game resolution and zoom level I liked, and then used the A3 settings menu to adjust the position of the in-game overlays to bring items I needed into the periphery of my vision to include: Vehicle status (upper left), squad member status (lower left), sensors (mid-right), sling load monitor (mid-left), weapon type/round remaining (upper right). All of these are moved in a bit to be in the field of view at all times. Some might find it distracting having all of that information wherever you are moving your head, but I just chalked it up to wearing a VR augmented pair of glasses or headset. I’m a dude in VR playing a dude with VR…if you know what I mean.
…back to Any Given Day…
Regardless of whether you are playing in 2D or VR, the campaign created by “Cancerbero” is a nice journey across Altis and Stratis. A near perfect blend of action, mission types, vehicle types, and challenges that have just the right level of frustration. It has always been my experience that I die when I’m doing something I shouldn’t be. The events that are happening outside of the direct scope of the mission often provide for some of the most intense moments. I had a particularly intense vendetta against an enemy technical that I could have bypassed, but it became personal. What other sim platform can you branch off from the mission, land your helicopter, hop out and hunt down an adversary using a rifle if you want, then continue with what you were doing? I highly recommend a play-through, and I hope the mission designer decides to publish more content in the future.
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– Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth