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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

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There’s no surprise that when it comes to a great first-person experience, developers will try any thing to create a great experience for the gamer to enjoy. Futuristic venues, mystery spy missions, and classic war-time scenarios are just some of the many different settings that have given life to great FPS titles. But, what happens when a computer game is made simulating actual armed forces training and missions? Even more intriguing, what happens when that game is developed by the United States Army? Enter America’s Army: Special Forces, the official, freely distributed game of the US Army. Can this team-oriented multiplayer game compete with the big boys of the FPS market, or is it just recruitment fodder? Read on to find out.

In The Army Now.
Looking to give the average person a look into an actual military force, America’s Army features realistic team-based missions set in various locales inspired by actual training grounds across the United States. Players work in teams to accomplish a large variety of missions from infiltrating an oil refinery to crossing a heavily guarded foggy bridge, to securing a computer terminal in an insurgent camp. Suffice to say, there is plenty of variety in the different operations players can undertake online. But, before we get that far, you have to go undergo basic training.

The military takes its training missions seriously, and they show in America’s Army. The game features a variety of single player training missions that offer players a basic insight into the intricacies of playing the game. Training missions range from basic and advanced marksmanship to airborne school and medic training. There are several interesting points to address regarding the training missions in this game. First of all, before you can even go online and play on official servers, players must complete the basic training missions. None of the basic training missions are particularly difficult to complete, but regardless, it’s interesting how the developers want players at least partially aware of the game system before you can go online. Second of all, while most missions are performed on the field with tutorials on how to perform certain moves and abilities, there are others that are taught in a “classroom” environment teaching gamers actual real knowledge about armed vehicle identification and treating shock, to name a few. Sure, it’s interesting to learn all these little nuances of medic training and it adds to the realism, but I feel that a great deal of players may be turned off by these advanced “classroom” style training missions (especially since quizzes are involved afterwards!), and thus cannot gain extras like the medic class or the special forces missions.

Let’s Move Out!
Gameplay in America’s Army is built on a simple team VS team premise. On each map, players are divided into teams and given specific objectives that must be accomplished in order to win the ‘round’ (each game is played in a ‘best of’ series of rounds with the team with the most wins taking the set). Of course, a team can also take a round by annihilating the enemy opposition (players only respawn from death between rounds, so make that one life count!). If players are injured by gunfire or other means, they can call out for medics (if their team has any) that can pinpoint their location and rush over to heal them. Also, it’s important to note that this is a realistic game, which means that you won’t last very long if you stay in the line of fire of enemies. You die instantly from fragments of a grenade, much less being near the vicinity of the actual thing when it goes off. Additionally, like any other realistic game, friendly fire is turned on, and it is entirely possible (and sometimes too easy) to kill an ally and violate the ‘Rules of Engagement’ of the game. Kill too many allies and, besides the loss of many points, you just might get kicked from the server.

In addition to the previously mentioned medic class, there are several different positions that you can choose, depending on map choice and advanced training completed. Players can choose the role of a grenadier (possessing a semi automatic that also shoots grenades), a sniper (upon completion of advanced marksmanship training), an automatic riflemen, or a plain rifleman. In addition to these weapon classes, players can also elect to be a ‘fireteam leader’ of a group of small soldiers or even the squad leader himself, both positions giving the player extra options and commands to aid in providing orders to other players.

Each team starts with different advantages and disadvantages to their location and must utilize a combination of stealth, communication, and firepower to overtake the opposition. Sometimes, players will have a choice of different objectives that can win the round. Knowing which objectives to pursue and which routes to take can sometimes be the difference between victory and certain death. Imagine this scenario, if you please:

You’re with a group of soldiers clad in snow fatigues asked to infiltrate an oil refinery that has been taken over by opposing forces (OPFOR, in the game). In order to succeed, your team must either shut down the exterior, secondary, and primary oil valves controlling the plant, or infiltrate the control center and hack the main console. You have several options of entering the complex. There are two front doors, but will mostly likely be guarded. There’s also a basement entrance by climbing down a ladder into a maintenance pipe, or one can try sneak around back to the entrance of the exterior valve and work from there. As you start to move out an enemy opens up ventilation door and tosses out a grenade before getting blown up by one of your grenadiers. Luckily, the grenade only injured one of your teammates. A group of your team enters one of the front doors but is ambushed by a grenade-throwing enemy and takes them out. Another group makes it to the back and takes out a sentry there and secures a valve. They begin to sneak into the basement and start a giant firefight with some OPFOR. All the while, you find a secret ventilation shaft and use it to enter the control center and take the console. Pretty slick eh?

I’ll come straight and say not all missions are as exciting as the last one (a great deal of them just end up as last man standing deathmatches), but the fact that this can happen makes America’s Army a great game to check out. Maybe with enough practice you can be the heroic spy that accomplishes a mission after all your team has been killed.


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