‘America’s Army: True Soldiers’ focuses on teamwork
“Call of Duty 4” and “Halo 3” are great games loaded with intense action. However, their Rambo-style combat lacks something essential to real warriors — teamwork.
While Soap and Master Chief tend to leap into any situation with guns blazing, a true soldier will look, learn and work with his comrades to get the job done. And that’s what makes “America’s Army: True Soldiers” an authentic — and exciting — game.
The T-rated game was developed by Red Storm Entertainment and the U.S. Army and published by Ubisoft for the Xbox 360. It’s part of the Army video game program that’s earned quite a bit of cred among gamers for its realistic combat simulations.
“True Soldiers” is a squad-based action game that’s built on the same engine that powered “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2.” Although it starts off with a single-player tutorial and training missions, the game is really meant to be played in groups.
Gamers can create a soldier, choosing his appearance and assigning skill points to such attributes as marksmanship, fortitude and training. These affect how well the on-screen avatar performs certain tasks.
Players then progress through basic training and a series of practice missions to learn the game’s controls and rules of engagement. After completing this training, gamers can play through the campaign in solo or co-op mode. Unfortunately, some of the missions are downright hard — even in the “novice” setting — and it’s very frustrating that you have to restart at the beginning of the mission each time you die.
Fortunately, the core of “America’s Army” is its online play. In this, the game expands the traditional capture- the-flag and death match scenarios into a long list of options, many of which provide a better grounding in reality than games that feature players fighting over a simple flag. For example, in one option, you must find downed pilots.
Online play can be a lot of fun if you’re part of a solid team. In “America’s Army,” the object isn’t to be a run-and-gun lone wolf. It’s to be part of a successful team in which comrades fight together and assist each other.
“We started with the concept of teamwork,” said Randy Greenback, designer and creative director at Red Storm. “If you drag a person out of battle and heal them or share ammo, you get honor points.”
Those honor points and other awards — such as respect tokens that can be given by the team members after a mission — are intended to encourage the sort of cooperation that’s essential for a real combat unit. In addition to gaining points for doing the right thing, players can lose points by straying from their team or acting against the Army’s code of conduct.
High honor levels pay off when teams are formed at the beginning of a mission. Those with more honor can land plumb positions leading squads or fire teams. Most missions feature a squad with two four-member fire teams. Squad leaders can call in artillery strikes and carry extra ammo that they can pass along to squad mates.
This team dynamic also works in the solo campaign. Your squad mates follow you and, if you go down, they try to heal you.
In general, friends and foes behave much more realistically than in many games. Your comrades will react to most situations without specific instructions from you.
However, your enemies also benefit from keen eyes and quick reactions. Blundering into hostile areas usually proves fatal — even in easier settings.
That’s why it’s vital to gather a bit of intelligence before striking at the enemy. It’s always best to scout the target area first, an ideal task for the small Raven reconnaissance drone.
Greenback said the Red Storm team worked closely with the Army to ensure realism.
“All their feedback and all their help have made the game more authentic,” he said.
Team members participated in a “green up,” where they underwent physical training, learned about hand signals and squad tactics and fired real weapons.
However, developers decided that realism should only go so far. The enemy and the battlefields are fictional.
“We didn’t want to trivialize anyplace where we have real boots on the ground,” Greenback said.
As a result, the campaign is set in the land of Ghanzia — which bears a striking resemblance to sub-Saharan Africa. It’s your job to tackle an insurgency by the Lions of Liberty Militia.
The graphics are good, but fall short of the superb character and background renderings available in “Call of Duty 4.” I also caught a few glitches — the most amusing of which occurred when I destroyed a truck, which evaporated, leaving the unscathed driver seated in mid-air until I ran down the hill and shot him.
Whether you enjoy “America’s Army: True Soldiers” will depend on whether you’re seeking something closer to a combat simulation than an arcade game. If you’re interested in playing Rambo, look elsewhere.
Platform:Xbox 360On the Web: truesoldiers.americas army.com