I loved "Ghost Recon," I heart "Rainbow Six: Vegas," so I expected "America's Army" to be a good follow-up to those awesome games. Unfortunately, if "Army" was a recruit, it would get the boot.
Published by Ubisoft (think "Assassin's Creed"), "America's Army: True Soldier" is the sequel to the original Xbox gem, "America's Army." There's no doubt that game was awesome. This one? Not so much.
What really scares me is the disclaimer in the manual. It states "(This game) is the only official U.S. Army game on the Xbox 360 and was built and tested with U.S. Army Soldiers at every level of production." More on that later.
"America's Army" allows gamers the chance to develop their soldier. You can start in Basic Combat Training, Wargames and multiplayer. The first mode, Basic Combat Training, consists of learning to fire weapons such as the M-249 SAW (squad assault weapon), the M-16 and a rocket launcher. It's ok at first, but firing at little green target dummies and fake tanks can get old quick. After you finish Basic, you head off to do a series of tests to pass. You have to fire at targets, do the soldier crawl and carry a *wounded* comrade to safety. I'm not sure if this is what soldiers consider fun, but for the average gamers? Not by a long shot.
Back to the review. After your Basic finals, you get a chance to prove what you have learned in a real-time training situation. You have to follow the instructor, point by point and listen to what he has to say. After the walkthrough, you get a chance to lead the troops through the course. You are armed with a rifle and a laser - think "Ghost Recon" meets "Lazer Tag."
After passing the course, do you get ready to deploy and fight al-Qaida? Not quite ... welcome to Wargames! Yes! You get to fight ... and fight ... and fight teammates.
The Wargames mode is combines your training with real-life situations. There are four mission modes in Wargames. The first mode, Gray Wolf, puts you in the role of a rifleman. Black Cat puts you into the role of grenadier. Brown Bear puts you into the boots of an automatic rifleman and Blue Bird puts you behind the scope as a sniper.
Gamers will get a chance to choose the roles they want before missions. Games can choose to be a rifleman, grenadier, automatic rifleman, sniper, fire-team leader and squad leader. An awesome addition in any military game would be a mode solely dedicated to being a medic.
Very similar to achievements, Honor Points are points awarded to players who demonstrate U.S. Army core values in single and multiplayer modes. You can receive Honor Points by - providing medical assistance to wounded teammates, completing objectives, following orders (LOL), rescuing teammates and other core values. However, just as you can earn them, you can lose them too. You can lose them by harming teammates, leaving them behind or disobeying orders. Actually, in a combat situation, you'd be shot or killed for doing any of the following offenses. Be thankful for mercy.
The graphics are nice - it's not as good as "Call of Duty 4" and "Rainbow Six: Vegas" but is still rather engaging. The environment is very linear - expect one to two different ways to complete your mission. The weapons sounds rock - the voice acting reminds me of an elementary school production. You can see the direction the sound team was going but didn't quite get there. Just add a few Wilhelm screams and you earn some serious points with me.
Multiplayer is the real redeeming mode in this FPS. You can go online and team with friends over LIVE and battle other teams. There are player matches, ranked matches, unit matches, quick matches, custom, public and private matches. Online, there are a wealth of modes to keep recruits pleased. There's campaign mode - players are part of a squad and have to complete a series of objectives while facing enemy opposition. There's engagement mode - where players have to use teamwork to eliminate enemies sprinkled throughtout maps. The next mode, sector, forces players to work together to stop enemies from gaining various locations. Lastly, objective allows gamers to recon locations without alerting enemy forces.
The controls are ok - and I can't fathom why Ubisoft wouldn't use the Tom Clancy series as a template. And to imagine U.S. Army soldiers signed off on this game really, really hurts. Tom Clancy has solid controls, deep gameplay, multiplayer heaven and tons of options. This is nothing more than a cheap imitation.
Maybe it's hard to take this title seriously with such a flood of FPS on the 360 ("Call of Duty 4," "Halo 3," "The Orange Box") that offer much deeper gameplay and an overall experience.
"America's Army" really takes several steps backward from the original Xbox game. I would rather play that, last-gen graphics and all, instead of this offering. Maybe Ubisoft will stick to the Tom Clancy engine to make the next "America's Army" shine. If not, I think this recruit will be wounded on the training course.
Why should I care: The real question is - why should you?
The good: Online features save this game - without out, and "America's Army" would be a casualty - weapon sounds
The bad: Where do I start? Mediocre gameplay, training - training - training, and no way for a single player to fight baddies unless it's in ... TRAINING!!!! I could go further, but I will stop right here - and ... the U.S. Army signed off on this game.
The ugly: When losing Honor Points starts to be fun
Overall: 4.5 (out of 10) - there are several FPS that offer a memorable experience. The nuclear blast and the gunship mission in "Call of Duty 4," battling baddies on the African Sahara in "Halo 3," and who can forget the double-cross in "Bioshock?" The most memorable moment in "America's Army" is - I can't remember. I saw how awesome this game would have been - and looking at "Assassin's Creed" and the Tom Clancy series - you know the game could have been great. All you have to do is look at the original "America's Army" game on the Xbox and see a good game. This one should be discharged asap.