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America's Army: Special Forces 2.4
July 14, 2003 | Andy Largent

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With the evolution of tactical 3D shooters like Soldier of Fortune, Counter-Strike, and countless Unreal and Quake modifications moving towards more and better realism, it seems only natural that the experts on the real thing -- the United States Army -- would try and get in on the action. In America's Army: Operations, they prove they do know how to take the genre to new levels of accuracy, while keeping gameplay elements that make the game fun and addictive. Most interestingly, the game, which is set for a Mac release very soon, is absolutely free of charge for any who would like to download it.

Boot camp
One of the first and continuous components of America's Army: Operations is the training. After all, what good is a soldier who is allowed to just pick up a weapon and start firing? This serves as both a basic initiation with the game's movement controls, as well as a chance to start getting a feel for the game's realistic weapon handling. Unlike other titles, you're required to go through a few levels of training before even entering an online match, which is certainly nice for those easily frustrated by hordes of newbies in their game.

As your training progresses, and you work to better your previous scores, you also unlock new training levels for things like sniping, Ranger training or parachuting. You're not allowed to enter online games above your current training level, so this concept is very conducive to bettering your skills as a soldier.

Movement in the game is not unrealistically fast (or jumping-filled), with many nice little touches like lowering your weapon when you sprint. You're allowed to lean around corners and certainly encouraged to crouch or go prone to take cover or get a steadier shot on your target.

Live rounds
Once in an online game, you'll need to quickly pick up some things the tutorials never taught you: strategy and teamwork. In America's Army: Operations, one shot can kill, and once you're dead, you are out for the rest of that round. This makes your life, and those of your teammates, very precious if you're going to accomplish your objectives.

There are mechanisms for team communication, and many teammates are willing to help show new players the ropes if you need some advice. Using cover to your advantage is highly recommended, and it's best to stick with one or two other players when navigating a map in case you get into a firefight. A round is done when a team is eliminated or all the objectives are completed. A variety of stats are kept to see how well you're stacking up against others on your side or that of your opponents.


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