copyright © Jedo Dre 2011


Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas



Rati ng:


Impact: Memorable

Firstly let's get things clear. America's Army is a commercial, a good and a big commercial. It is therefore free to download and play. The financial backbone behind this commercial is the US government which makes it all that much more fun (or not for some). Because it is a commercial for the US Army and is kids-friendly you should not expect to see the bad sides of the war. You will NOT see your friend screaming in pain at the top of his longs for help as he bleeds to death in the middle of the hostile territory having his leg blown off and there's nothing you’re allowed to do about it. You will NOT see the guts of mothers and children all over the pavement after they've been hit by your or a hostile bomb. Remember that.


The core (Gameplay):


America's Army is an online game that's giving you the control of one of the US soldiers within a single squad (regular US Army, indigenous forces or Special Forces). Working together with other players you must accomplish one or more designated objectives while in a fight with the OPFOR (Opposing Forces) played by the opposite team that has it's own objectives. Here the game cleverly introduces a new concept: while you see the enemy as terrorists they see themselves as the good guys and see you as terrorists. This might upset some who like having a terrorist outfit.


The game is divided sessions consisting of 7 rounds. At the end of each session the players can choose their roles in the squad. The order of those who can choose is based upon the points gained in that session.


According to the role you have chosen in the squad you will receive a single weapon sometimes accompanied by an extra firearm and usually several types of grenades and other tools required for the mission (like the breaching charges). This might be weird to those who are accustomed to choose their own gun...and not just an American made weapon but several other types. That possibility is still there but you just have to either wait for someone with that weapon to leave the server or wait till the end of the session and earn the gun with points.


I have to say that the above is still not working too well. When playing in outdoor maps there are usually a couple of weapons that own the whole map and everyone on it. There are many players so it's hard to get those weapons and when you do get them then immediately a bunch of players start to whine to you about how bad they want that gun so you just spit on it all and never choose that gun to begin with.


The game falls into the Tactical Shooter category and is based on team play and therefore can be hard for some of the Rambo’s who like jumping and running around alone. Many objectives for the assault team heavily rely on teamwork. That's one of the reasons why an America's Army Rambo (and even normal players) usually doesn't care for the objectives. He just walks around until he kills everyone on the opposing team. The team play is further strengthened by numerous sound commands and several silent hand signs (a really nice touch!) as well as ability to report your position.

Before you can even THINK of starting to play you first need to accomplish several training sessions that have minimum requirements for passing. Some of these training missions can be pretty long and tough. And you know what? I like that! This kind of requirement before you start playing keeps out many of the really childish players (so does the earn-weapons-with-points system). That does not take away that the servers are still filled with players whose primary objective might be to annoy others.


Every player's progress is recorded. Based on the amount of kills, survivability and other things (that I still haven't figured out) players earn honour points throughout their whole career. That number of honour doesn't always refer to the player's skill but more often to the time he spent playing the game (or the money he spent buying that account).


To conclude on gameplay I must state that the game feels very realistic in many aspects due to the attention to details. For example when reloading or fixing the jammed weapons you will see the whole process and not just the sticking in of a new magazine like in most other games. The damage taken to the body is also very realistic and includes bleeding, 3 severity levels, slowing down in movement etc.


Gameplay development:


Since it is absolute madness to assault an equally equipped, well barricaded and expecting you opposing force the developers of AA lately started creating more maps where both teams have the same objectives to achieve. This actually evens things out a lot.

“Bunny hopping” that is so loved by Counter Strike Rambo’s as well as several other annoying things have been forcibly reduced by the 2.5 patch although not eliminated.


In order to increase diversity and decrease spawn spamming the spawn points for teams in the latest maps are random as well as the locations of the objectives.


Of course not to forget that more and more better balanced out content is coming into the game.


A bad development is the lack of servers. Probably to financial difficulties many of the servers have been shut down and it became up to the players (and their wallets) to keep the game going. This is especially true for the European servers. Due to that all, lag has also increased as the official servers always did have less of it.


Another bad development, not dependant on the developers, is the abandoning of some maps by the players. For reasons I still haven't understood only several maps are ttrully played while the majority of the maps has either no servers at all or just one lost lamb server that is usually empty. I hope when the developers release some AI this personal problem of mine will be fixed.


The Bugs and their development:


Unfortunately I have not yet seen a game that had no bugs (no not even Half Life 2) and AA is not an exception. Many of the bugs haven't yet been fixed. I keep getting stuck in some places and my gun keeps disappearing (at those very rare moments) but those bugs do not destroy the gameplay and they do occasionally get fixed.


The graphics:


Surprisingly for you and myself I consider the graphics of the game very very good even though I haven't seen much change in the last few years of playing it (I believe the game did change the graphic engines once). Graphics are good even when compared to some of the latter games. Of course it might not have that new generation Doom 3 look with all the shaders but it looks surprisingly well considering its creation date and it's minimum requirements. My current system is far from high end but until recently I've been playing the game with every video option turned to maximum.


Graphics development:


Here comes the "...until recently..." part. Since we're also talking about the development of the game I must state that the minimum requirements have rose quite a bit with the arrival of the newer maps. Some of the stuff that I thought to be lag is actually my processor starting to choke.


Sound:


Good. Nothing too fancy but explosions, bullet shots and background sounds are all there as they should be. I'm mostly talking about the latest maps where the gunshots in the background sound very similar to the real gunfire that I heard outdoors before. Many voice commands are present in game since communication takes a very important place.


Sound development:


I remember back when I was playing older maps the background sounds consisted of some wind and on the indoor maps some machine sounds. Probably due to the growing complexity of the maps the amount of sounds got increased too. Some of the sound bugs also got fixed.


Growth now and in the future:


AA is constantly changing. New maps, weapons and tools are being added from time to time as the new versions of the game are being released. This review was for example based on version 2.5. Soon a working AI as well as movable vehicles are promised by the developers. Whether that will all be done by UBISOFT who got a contract on making an AA game for the XBOX (that you will have to pay for...hahahahaha...sorry I'm digressing) or done by someone else or not done at all...we'll just have to wait and see.


Conclusion:


Relatively good graphics, good sound and a constantly changing online gameplay bringing military simulation into my home as well as the lack of a price tag will ensure that I will keep playing this game probably for many years to come. I would certainly recommend it to any serious tactical player but I would suggest for the Counter Strike and Soldier Of Fortune fans to think twice before touching this game as it might just be not exactly what you expected it to be.


PS I deeply apologize for any orthographical mistakes I made. I am but a Russian immigrant.