I've been part of this community since the release of Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis. As such, I started my ARMA career in singleplayer, and because of that I've also cared about the single player content in ARMA games since I started out, despite the fact that my main focus these days are on the multiplayer aspect. This post was sparked by the "Contact" announcement, but it is in no way limited to that, as I see "Contact" as the last development in a trend that has been going on pretty much since ARMA: Armed Assault. What draw me into the world of ARMA was the brilliance of the Cold War Crisis, Red Hammer and Resistance campaigns. All of them did something unique that I've felt has been lost to a growing degree in the following releases in the series. It seems to me that Bohemia Interactive increasingly is unable to understand the strenghts (and weaknesses) of their own product.
What made the original campaigns good (even Codemasters developed "Red Hammer") was that they all where rooted in human stories. War was the common theme, the backdrop. But the stories ultimately was about how war influenced the characters of the story. We got to feel the confusion, the excitement, the horrors and the fear that the characters while being part of something that was bigger than themselves. A theme that fits the ARMA franchise perfectly, considering how vulnerable and insignificant one infantry soldier is in the grand scheme of things. You where a cog in the machine, while having some influence on the development of the story, you had to rely on other elements and other units in order to succeed. If you died, the war would enevetably move on without you. Instead of focusing on the grand political schemes, the original campains all orbited around what war was like for those with boots on the ground.
Gradually, the series has been moved further and further away from that, with the small exception of the free "Eagle wing" campaign in ARMA2. A tiny campaign lasting for only a few hours that despite that was able to achieve a sense of mystery, loneliness and terror that none of the other official campaigns since OFP has ever been able to achive. ARMA is really, really good at making you feel small and insignificant, and it seems to be that BI doesn't understand how powerful that is as a narrative tool. In order to succeed, you need to rely on others, and you need to cooperate. ARMA is one of the few games where individual skill matters way less than a groups ability to coordinate, both within themselves, but also with other assets such as helicopters, planes and land vehicles. You see allmost none of that in ARMAs official campaigns anymore, they all strive to fulfill a power fantasy that is ill suited to ARMAs capabilities and strenghts. The civillian faction has gone from being an integral part of the story, to becomming backdrops and setpieces that are insignificant to the story itself, and the main focus has shifted towards grand political schemes and cinematic, bombastic hollywood heroes with nothing in terms of personality. Small groups of characters single handledly changes the outcomes of large scale conflicts, and to be quite honest, it sucks. There is no human element anymore, and it feels like ARMA desperately tries to compete with the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty when it comes to storytelling, trying to recreate the super soldier of the silver screen. The end result is simply forgetable and bland, and Contact seems to further the trend even more.
ARMA has the ability to be grounded, to tell stories with impact about modern conflict. It has the ability to be unique, mainly because the gameplay itself IS unique. No other game has an engine as capable of conveying the horrors of war as strongly as ARMA, because the whole games premise is how useless you are on your own. To match that with stories about super soldiers is simply bafflingly stupid, and it is incredibly ill suited for it.
ARMA is a great game, and thanks to mods and multiplayer, I'm able to play content that is better suited to the strenghts of the game. But it would be awesome to get to play a professionally made campaign that takes advantage of what ARMAs engine has to offer, instead of having to rely on hobbyists to get the most out of what ARMA can do. Don't get me wrong, ARMAs modding community is simply what keeps this game alive, and I love them. But it is about time that BIS understand what kind of gem ARMA really is and start making content that makes sense from a narrative perspective. Think more in terms of "Band of brothers" rather than "American sniper". Stop relying on fancyful super weapons and aliens and focus on the humans who are doing the actual fighting. On what's on stake for them, on their families, their fears, their struggles and their victories. Their cameraderie and their losses. ARMA has a unique opportunity for story telling like that, take advantage of it. Don't try to compete with the bombastics of the tripple A's, create something unique. Find new writers.