A.V.A Is Not A Shooter For The Non-Hardcore
While this game is being hailed as the free-to-play version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare it does little to help new players adjust to the frantic pace or offer much of anything new that other MMOFPS games haven't already done better.
A.V.A The Latest In MMOFPS Fragging
The MMOFPS genre is one that's fast-growing in popularity and with good reason. A lot of gamers are constantly on the prowl for a good online shooter. Now even though the free-to-play MMOFPS genre has yet to expand using any engines that properly support the same open-world scope, visuals and diversity as their MMORPG counterpart, that hasn’t stopped a dime a dozen FPS games piling out each year featuring MMO cash-shop and lobbied rooms for thousands of players to join and frag the heck out of each other. The latest game to join the ranks of the lobby-oriented MMOFPS genre is ijji Games’ A.V.A (Alliance of Valiant Arms). It's a PVP-based shooter that sports three player classes (point man, rifleman and sniper). Each class comes with its own assortment of weapons and skills and allows players to use credits earned in battle to outfit [certain] guns with [some] upgrades. Nevertheless, classes, skills and weapons don't really matter when measured against some of the major drawbacks found in the core design of the game.
Let me start by saying that if you are not a twitchy-fingered, eight-hour-a-day FPS-fanatic, avoid this game at all costs! Don’t let the Modern Warfare graphics fool you into thinking that this PvP-based FPS lives up to its “realistic" inspired gameplay. This game is nothing like other “realistic" shooters such as Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, Black Hawk Down or Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, where the pacing of the game and the one-shot kills were evened out across spacious maps for a smooth gameplay experience.
The major problem with A.V.A is that beginners (and some veteran players) die very quick due to the extremely frenetic pace of the shooting. Everything acts like it’s been sped up to be three times as fast as it should be to accommodate the needs of the twitchy-fingered arcade lovers.
The actual shooting mechanics are fairly solid if you can manage to keep the reticule on the speedy-Gonzales opponents. But what really messes up the shooting is the fact that there is a lot of “realistic" recoil in a very arcade-like setting. This means that a lot of encounters in this game result in several players running around in circles shooting frantically hoping to get in a lucky shot…and indeed, this game does have lucky shots, even plastering it on the screen when it happens.
It would have been better if the character speeds weren’t so fast but then again, the maps would have to be larger and there would need to be more cover spots. But I’ll get to that in a few sentences. For the most part the gameplay could be considered good if you don’t mind dying 100 times as a newbie. Heck, even when I was a higher ranked player it still felt like I was dying 100 times over every few minutes.
Maps And Pacing
Some of the biggest flaws in this game are pacing, map layouts and class balance. First off, if you’re a sniper then you automatically have a pretty big advantage on rifleman and point-man classes due to the fact that the maps aren’t all that big but they are spacious enough to afford for a lot of camping areas. It’s annoying because the game lacks a peep or cover function, which means players always have to step out into the open to check around corners. Usually this results in getting picked off by a sniping camper.
The other problem is that players move way too fast. In a game like Ghost Recon it felt intense and was fun for its “realistic" effect both with the shooting mechanics and the actual gameplay pace. Suppression fire was an absolute necessity for survival in Ghost Recon both in single-player and multiplayer games. In A.V.A, it’s easy to get picked off with a few well-placed shots from just about any gun on the game but there is no strategic gameplay anticipation whatsoever. This is mainly due to the arcade speeds of the game which prompts most players to run out in the open guns-a-blazing.
As I mentioned before, the pacing wouldn’t be so bad if the map designs were larger. This is not to say that all the maps are cramped and tiny, but most of them have a lot of ins-and-outs suited for campers or fast-paced fragging (think Quake or Unreal Tournament but in more realistic settings.) This is not to mention that there are only just over a handful of maps on the game to begin with, and only two standard maps for deathmatch.
Hands down, the game would have been much better with Ghost Recon-style maps that enforced strategy, team tactics and weapon proficiency.
Graphics And Sound
Visually, you won’t be disappointed with A.V.A. The game looks gorgeous; in fact you could say that it looks like a close relative to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The first-person gun models and hand designs are especially detailed, even when the game’s graphic settings aren’t set to the highest. However, for graphic whores, you’ll need a pretty hefty rig with an up-to-date graphics card if you want to run this game in the highest resolution with all the amenities turned up high.
The music is the standard-fare symphonic-triumphic tunes that you might expect from a military FPS. One thing of particular note is that during the actual game as a team is nearing victory some intense music kick into play to either help the winning team sink a victory or the losing team kick it into high gear.
The weapon sounds and team commands are especially high class, ensuring that the action sounds about as realistic as the game can get. If there’s one thing the developers executed perfectly in this game it would definitely have to be with gun sounds and audio ambiance.
A.V.A has a handful of game modes: the recently launched Prison Break, which pits up to four players against countless waves of AI prisoners in a survival setting. Escort, a mode where two teams must take turns protecting and attacking a tank that must reach a way point -- and easily the most fun mode on the game. Annihilation is standard-fare team deathmatch, with only two playable maps for this mode. And Demolition is a team-based affair where both teams take turns trying to blow up specific map points while the other team tries defending them.
The game modes could have been a saving grace for this game but unfortunately, they falter greatly. The major problem with A.V.A’s modes is that they are attached to maps. So it’s not like players can just pick a map, pick a mode and have some fun…instead, you pick a map and it’s attached to a mode. Now, some of the maps aren’t bad but because of the fact that you can’t do some stages without being forced to do the annexed mode(s), means that a lot of the fun factors are zapped out of the game.
The Escort maps are the largest which makes them the most fun, but they would be perfect for deathmatch, but alas that option isn’t present. Instead, all deathmatch modes have to be played on the too-small-for-their-own-good maps that result in getting fragged every couple of seconds. What fun.
The Prison Break survival mode is probably the most original on the game, but only four players can participate -- and not being able to practice the mode makes it a little unwelcoming to new players since most players only want pros on their team. That’s not to mention that there is no way to actually win the survival mode, so if you die early on you have to wait until everyone dies in order to gain any experience points out of it…even if one teammate manages to stay alive for ten extra minutes.
A.V.A takes on a good concept but adds nothing particularly new other than good graphics and a slightly more realistic atmosphere. The unbalanced gameplay pace for newcomers -- or gamers who actually have a life outside of playing shooter games 24/7 -- makes it completely inaccessible to a majority of gamers.
If you like looking at pretty graphics and hearing ear-piercing gun sounds (that actually sound real) and you don’t mind dying every couple of seconds to hardcore FPS gamers who can pick you off with a head-shot while rounding a corner with a sniper rifle, then Alliance of Valiant Arms will be a perfect fit for you.
Gamers who want a decent MMOFPS that’s better suited for new players and sports a lot of content and a slightly more welcoming community, would probably do better sticking with (or checking out) Nexon's Combat Arms or the pick-up-and-play mechanics of Cross Fire. Gamers looking for serious FPS tactics from a free-to-play online game should definitely try out Operation 7 instead.
For more MMOFPS action be sure to check out the complete Bright Hub MMOFPS Game Directory.