Dec. 11, 2002

America's Army

You can't beat free.

You can, however, beat off for free. But what you do with your lanolin is your own business.

I'm going to tell you a little bit about America's Army, the self-promoting video game released (for free) by the U.S. Army.

A Holiday Gift That Costs You Nothing! 
Tips on how to pass off free shit like America's Army
as a gift to someone "special." Ho ho ho!

America's Army
is a squad-based, tactical first-person shooter, in the same vein as Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, Sierra's S.W.A.T.3 or even CounterStrike.

You play as a member of a squad of combatants, facing off against another squad; one team guards an area which contains an objective: a bomb, a bombsite, or some gameplay "whosit," like a "computer data disk," while the other team assaults the objective.

This is becoming a very popular genre. CounterStrike is to this day the most played multiplayer game on the Internet. I saw CS being played on nearly every single console at the Internet Cafes scattered all over the Vancouver last summer.

America's Army shares a similarity with CS in that it's free. In fact, it's even MORE free than CS, because CS still requires that you purchase (or somehow "acquire") a Half-Life CD-Key -- or purchase the retail version of CS.

The first game to
provide job training!

Be the crazy sniper guy, shooting students from the clock tower.

So advanced, you can
see yourself in the
. And stuff.

The purpose of this review is not to wonder who justified using taxpayer's dollars to fund the development, marketing and hosting of a game whose purpose is to promote enrollment in the armed forces. So, other than to say that I think it's the most retarded thing ever, I won't address this topic.

But, retarded as the military may be, they somehow managed to put together a pretty good game.

America's Army uses the Unreal engine, developed by Epic Games. I'm not sure which version of the Unreal engine they're using, since there appear to be a dizzying array of versions (Unreal, Unreal Tournament, Unreal 2, Unreal Warfare...whatever), but it certainly looks good enough to be one of the more current iterations.

Animations for the characters are nice -- smoothly animated, probably not motion-captured, but fluid nonetheless. Movement looks authentically "military" (like Platoon, as opposed to Commando), and affects gameplay -- for example, players can "sprint," but in order to do so, they have to shoulder their firearm.

The first-person view is also highly developed, and probably benefits greatly from having real military consultants. For instance, players interact directly with the weapon models. So, if you run out of ammo, you eject the spent magazine, load a new one, chamber the first round, then do some other army-type shit that you need to drop out of high school to understand. It's dope.

Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit here. America's Army requires that you undergo some "training" before you're allowed to create a login for the official servers for the game and play against other people.

This training consists of running an obstacle course, completing marksmanship, and testing on various weapons. Until you've completed all of the training, you can't go online. There's also some "optional" training programs which, if you do exceedingly well in the initial trainings, are unlocked and made available. These include Ranger, Paratrooper and Sniper.

You too can be a sniper! Isn't this game just the best ever?

di3z0r 73rr0R!$7 di3z0r!

AA-trained soldier captures terrorist-in-training

The final training takes place online. Here, you'll first have to play in the simulated combat courses, which is basically laser tag with machine guns. These levels are usually the most fun, because both teams are on an even standing. The first level requires that three neutral positions be acquired, and then held against the other team. This can go back and forth, and is more like a typical "capture the flag" game.

The second training map gives an inkling of the problems with America's Army. A defense team holds a hostage and basically hides out in a collection of cabins, while the assault team attempts to either eliminate the defense or free the hostage.

The real problems crop up when you start playing the "real" maps: The assault team always has a disadvantage. Whether it's a bridge, oil refinery, or terrorist hideout, the problem always lies in covering open ground against an equal number of opposing combatants armed with machineguns, grenade launchers and sniper rifles.

Usually, the defense wins

Of course, this being the Internet, 90 percent of those playing at any given time are dumbasses, and sufficient numbers of dumbasses will blow the shit out of themselves with grenades -- Christ only knows who will win in the end.

But, in a situation where the defensive team doesn't fuck up royally, the assault team typically gets whacked.

This takes realism a bit too far, IMHO. After all, if I wanted reality, I'd load up a shotgun and go shoot up my local middle school. Anytime that I'm sitting at my computer, and my name is "Sgt.KiNGMonGo", you can be damned sure that I'm aiming for fun, not reality.

But, there's a definite appeal to America's Army, above and beyond the "free" part. After all, as a multiplayer-only game, it's got a leg up on quite a few commercial products as far as playability and quality of gameplay. It's not exactly the frenetic fun of CS, but if you graduated from high school and never got a chance to join the military, it's not a bad way to pretend you're some elite muckitymuck, gunning down funny-colored foreign nationals.

More things you can do:

Shoot fellow soldiers!

Get all gay!

The best part of AA? You're always a soldier, and your opponent is always a terrorist. It wouldn't do to be on the wrong side. No indeed.
America's Army
U.S. Army
- Win 98, Me, 2000, XP
- Pentium3 766
- 128 MB RAM
- 600 MB hard drive space

Complain here, preferably with
"I can't go to the store for a pack a smokes without
running into nine guys that you fucked!"

King Mongo | Rants | NA!P

Text is copyright © 2002, King Mongo
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