Released strategically on July 4, 2002, America’s Army is a first-person shooter based on the Unreal Engine. Intended as a recruiting tool that shows the U.S. Army in a positive light, an estimated 6 to 8 million dollars have been invested into the game’s development. The initial version, Recon 1.0, has now been thoroughly updated nearly 20 times to the current, Overmatch 188.8.131.52. The game tries hard to be authentic to real combat situations with accurately modeled guns, realistic terrain and soldier models.
Before you can start the online multiplayer part of the game, your character needs to go through “basic training.” The exact specifics of what training is necessary have been modified as the game has progressed, but it generally includes control and weapon familiarization. Specialized training is then made available to the player in which they can opt to go through medical training (which then allows them to apply medical assistance to teammates during online matches) as well as Special Forces training (which allows the player to play as an U.S. Army Special Forces character on several specialized Special Forces maps. Players without the Special Forces training can still play on these maps, but they play as allied forces from different countries.
A game will be setup with matches, and within each match will be a set of timed rounds. Three scenarios can end a round in either victory or defeat: all the objectives must be completed, all the players on another team are killed, or the time runs out before either of the prior two scenarios occurs. On the majority of maps, running out of time will give victory to the defending team.
The game is a lot slower than mainstream shooters such as Counter-Strike. Often times, players will maximize the use of time round after round and exercise their opponent’s patience in the process. Movement is careful as cover from enemy fire is critical. A Rambo-like run often results in instant death.
An “honor” system is in place that rewards players for good behavior on the battlefield. Lots of enemy kills, objective accomplishments, or even just staying alive contribute to a player’s point build up. As a player earns more points, they automatically increase their honor level. The higher honor a player achieves, the more points needed to continually increase their level. Friendly fire is a huge hinder to this process, as the negative point impact of a few shots can reverse any positive points achieved over the course of several rounds. Enemy identification is a key to being successful with this game.
Conclusion (4 out of 5)
The game is executed very well and feels like any solid retail game. AA can be tedious for those players looking to grab fast kills – but if you’re looking for a game that stresses teamwork and strategy and yet still requires a trigger-happy reaction then you should definitely try out this free shooter.