|Publisher: U.S Army Genre: Simulation
|Min OS X: 10.1 CPU: G4 @ 700 MHz RAM: 256 MB Hard Disk: 1024 MB Graphics: 32 MB VRAM
|America's Army: Special Forces 2.4
August 3, 2004 | Eric Ford
Glory, Honor, And All That Fun StuffAmericaís Army rewards good soldiers with Ďhonor,í their version of compiling all your wonderful stats into one number. After every round that a player participates in, a score is computed based on all your stats for the current game (goals completed, leadership points, enemy kills, as well as penalties such as deaths and rules of engagement infractions). Simply put, the more points you earn, the higher your honor will rise. What is the point of honor? Well, besides the usual reason of being able to brag to your gaming friends about your mad skills, some servers only allow folks with a certain amount of honor to partake in their gaming goodness (conversely, if you lose enough honor, you may not be able to get into standard servers).
Shine Those Boots, Soldier!Americaís Army is built on an older graphics engine than many of the newer games out today, and while it does manage to create an enjoyable experience to look at, it definitely does show its age. To be truthful, there isnít any thing particular bad about the graphics, itís just that you can definitely see the lack of detail in some settings, as well as the older, less refined look of the character and weapon models. For those lucky enough to game with a fast machine and a decent graphics card (Dual 2.0 G5 system for me), you wonít experience any frame rate loss whatsoever, and can enjoy the maximum settings that improve the appearance slightly. Overall, the graphics donít detract significantly from the playing experience, but it can remind you of newer and better looking games out there.
Sound quality is decent in Americaís Army, with a lot of macroed voice commands that can be given to your team of soldiers. All of them are authentic sounding enough and add to the game play experience (except for those folks that like to constantly give the same order over, and over gain). As for music, well, there is none, with the exception of the title screen jingle. As a gamer that believes that music is definitely an important factor in any game, Iím rather turned off by the lack of any music to accompany these missions. However, when looked at from an outside perspective, I suppose I can see how music of any sort could detract from the experience (somehow I doubt soldiers are listening to their iPods while on an on-foot mission against armed forces). Regardless, an option still would have been nice, in my opinion.
Drop And Give Me Twenty!Americaís Army isnít without its flaws, of course. Unfortunately, while I absolutely love the game, there are quite a few issues that can be dealt with to make the game much more enjoyable. The biggest problem that most newcomers will experience is with the horrid mac support of Punkbuster, an application used to check for cheaters while playing the game online. In order to work properly, Punkbuster should update itself automatically to the latest version of itself, which will then allow players to participate in the official servers. Unfortunately, there are a lot of players (myself included) that received a defective Punkbuster client when installing the game and had to manually download and install the files needed into the proper directory (for those of you having problems, there is an in-depth explanation at the mac support forums at americasarmy.com).
Another big problem are the unpredictable downtimes of the servers. Official FAQ sites claim that they had not anticipated the popularity of the game and are trying to move to a more stable system. Unfortunately for many players, the erratic behavior of an overloaded system of servers has also lead to quite a few people losing their profiles that contain their training information and honor. Support sites say they hope to have these issues rectified as they finish their upgrade, but for some players, its been a long time since theyíve seen their hardcore ranks that they worked so hard for.
Finally, there are the few minor glitches that donít affect game play too much, but sometimes make playing a nuisance. There are some in-game glitches that allow various forms of Ďcheatingí that arenít caused by external applications (and thus, are not detected). Also, there are several times when the game would quit on me unexpectedly (thankfully, the majority of the crashes are when Iím quitting to begin with), and there are just those odd times when you canít connect to a game for Ďtime-outí reasons or authentication errors. Also, as a side note, I just thought Iíd mention that since this is a game that features a wide variety of the gaming audience, expect to see a few gamers from time to time that only exist to annoy the hell out of the rest of us. There are options to vote people out of servers, however, so that alleviates the problem a little.
ConclusionNormally, when an online only multiplayer game has lots of server troubles, thereís bound to be a lot of backlash. However, Americaís Army has a lot of potential going for it, and as far as free games go, it canít be beat. The gameplay is incredibly addicting, and the simple fact that I find people coming back again and again even when they lose their profile data shows the strength that this game is riding on. Some people cry out and call it simply another military recruiting device; I say it's an excellent multiplayer FPS that has the potential for some the deepest player tactics out there today. Even when I die early in a round and Iím forced to watch the rest of my team try and win, I find it fascinating to watch some of the more advanced players playing the game like real soldiers, checking their flank, looking for traps, and doing every thing right. In a gaming age saturated with a lot of first person shooters that center primarily around deathmatches, this is truly a refreshing change of pace. I have to dock some points for problems that I feel should be fixed in order to make a great game, but gamers should know that if youíre looking for a great, free way to explore player tactics in a good, realistic environment, then thereís nothing better out there.
Americaís Army can be downloaded at http://www.americasarmy.com or can be obtained from Volume 2 of the MacGames DVD. Modem users beware: it is a hefty download.
ProsGreat, Addicting Tactics Based Team Gameplay
Large Variety Of Levels and Mission Objectives
Good (if somewhat odd) Training Program
ConsCurrently, Lots Of Server Problems
Average Graphics and Sound (No Music!)
No Offline Bots For Practice
Those Occasional Lame Players (You Know The Ones