America's Army - PC - Preview
As part of their new media campaign, the U.S. Army has decided to get involved with creating a team-based multiplayer combat game for the PC. Being completely honest, I didn’t think that this game would be any good when I heard about it. Although, after seeing it and learning about its features, I must say that it is more realistic than all other first-person shooters to date and overall it should be a great game for those interested in a true to life combat FPS.
The cool thing about this title is that it’s truly authentic, as the U.S. Army has had direct involvement in every single aspect of its creation. To begin with, it follows their actual training scenarios, and this single-player training must be completed before gamers are able to take part in the primary online multiplayer mode. Also adding to the realism are the soldier animations, which are a result of soldiers being motion captured while doing various movements and the realistic damage system (it’s easier to die compared to other similar games). The soldiers in the game are truly life-like in almost all respects.
The Army also helped in formulating the variety of missions, which include prisoner rescues, escorting VIPs, destroying targets, and more. These objectives must be completed cooperatively as a team – it’s not possible to just go gung-ho and do it individually. Strangely though, both teams in the battles are actually U.S. Army soldiers, which is a little weird.
The realism also carries over to the gameplay in various ways. For example, it’s not possible to run at full speed and shoot at the same time, since actual soldiers cannot do this. Also, when targeting an enemy the crosshair isn’t as easy to control as it is in other shooters. Instead, breathing and subtle movements of the soldier make it significantly harder to aim. Further, it gets easier to aim depending on whether you’re standing, crouching, or if the gun is setup on the tripod.
There are actually rules of engagement that apply while playing this game as well. So if you receive too many ROE points by, for example, killing another member of your team, you will be kicked off of the server and sent to the jail.
Gamers get to use a wide variety of weapons, including assault rifles, sniper rifles, pistols, flash bombs, various grenades, and more. Each of these guns is extremely realistic in every possible way, from their sound to their distance limitations. Some guns actually jam up at times and jam clears must be executed Even the flash bomb has a very accurate effect on other players (or yourself if you don’t throw it far enough), complete with a white screen and a high pitch ringing in your ears.
America’s Army: Operations uses the warfare engine and the environments are very impressive. There are both urban and outdoor settings, including a very unique woods level that looks amazing. It’s possible to damage most objects in these environments, but I would like to see this concept taken to a further level so that buildings could be blown up, or structurally damaged as they can be in real life.
Since this is an online game it’s important that enough players can get in on the action at once. Although it’s only been tested as 8 vs. 8, they’re hoping for 16 vs. 16 capability in the final release, but even more would further add to the experience. Also, the ability to pilot vehicles wasn’t available in the beta version, will very likely be implemented as well. To make sure there are places to play this game online, the Army will maintain 124 different servers dedicated solely to this game.
At first glance, America’s Army: Operations may be passed off as just another Half-Life type game, but it’s actually far from being so. It isn’t a typical FPS in that you can’t simply run around shooting and win – it takes careful planning and strategic combat tactics to complete objectives and/or defeat enemies. Games constantly try to simulate true battle scenarios, but with the direct U.S. Army involvement I think this one will stand out from the crowd.
The planned release date is July or August of this year.
Pictures from the Amerca's Army booth at E3 2002