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America's Army: True Soldiers

Score: 55%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Red Storm Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Squad-Based/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

America's Army, which was released as a recruiting tool by the United States Army, was a surprise success. Not only was it a fun multiplayer game, but the price was right - free. However, the same can't be said about America's Army: True Soldiers, the franchise's first 360 release.

True Soldiers' presentation is mixed. The visuals look okay, but are well behind other games available on the system Though there are some cool environmental effects, mainly wind that affects trees and tall grass, it is hard to shake the feeling that you're playing a higher-resolution Xbox game. Yes, the lighting effects are great, but the shadows are incredibly blocky. Characters look okay, but seem like lifeless mannequins. I know drill sergeants aren't known for their range of emotions, but it would be nice if they at least looked at you while telling you about weapons or objectives.

Audio is generally pretty good. There's a wide variety of gunfire and most of it sounds pretty realistic. Smaller touches, like heavy breathing or footfalls, help inject personality into the game. Music doesn't pop up much during missions, but when it does, it has the same feel as the music that plays in the commercials, which is a nice touch.


As with the PC version, multiplayer is the primary reason for playing America's Army: True Soldiers. Though it is hindered by the same heightened sense of realism that plagues the entire game, the ability to play with real squad members (as opposed to A.I. controlled ones) makes up for some of the game's shortcomings. However, given the game's cumbersome mechanics and tier-based skill system, it is probably best to start in Basic Training.

Basic Training is broken up into several training stations designed to get you familiar with the game's mechanics. You begin by training with various firearms, navigating an obstacle course and finally completing a squad-based training mission. Like much of the game, Basic Training is slow, but it does a good job acquainting you with the various mechanics.

Once Basic Training is over, you can tackle Wargames, which are expanded versions of the final mission in Basic Training. This mode also serves as the game's Campaign Mode. Each set of missions is tied together by the different job types, such as medic or assault specialist. While Basic Training is designed to get you used to single mechanics, Wargames are designed to show you how they work together with each job type. The concept behind the mode is solid, though the actual experience is slow and not much fun, which is probably a side-effect of the game's insistence on realism. Granted, a little realism is fun, but when it comes to a player's notion of "realism", reality sometimes needs to be tweaked.

Both modes prepare you for the game's deep multiplayer component, which is another of the game's strengths - provided you can deal with the gameplay flaws. Competitive and Co-op modes are included, as are a number of customizable match types. The best of the bunch allows you set up 16-player co-op missions against A.I. opponents.


Even in Basic Training, America's Army: True Soldiers is - like the real military - a tough experience. Friendly A.I. is really bad; they stick out in the open with no consideration for preserving their lives. Of course, you're always there to heal them up, though they aren't as quick to offer the same type of aide when you're down. Actually, your going down in a mission (you're using paintballs throughout most of the game) sends friendly soldiers into a guideless tizzy. There were a number of times when the A.I. simply froze up or became stuck in an action. It is enough to make you wish you could perform in-field court marshals.

Enemy A.I. isn't any brighter, though it usually makes up for its lack of smarts with its numbers. Enemies are just as scared of cover as allies, and just as worse of shots. It isn't uncommon to see A.I. controlled soldiers stuck in long shootouts at point-blank range.

Game Mechanics:

Controls mechanics are another of America's Army: True Soldiers' problem areas. The general interface is well-designed and easy to follow, however the implementation is suspect. Nearly everything is based off of a clunky radial menu. Not only does it slow the game down, it makes most actions difficult to perform. Even simple actions, like switching weapons, are a chore. It is easy to choose the wrong actions on the menu, especially when in a tough situation.

Completing both Basic Training and Wargames earns honor points that can be distributed between your character's skill sets. This is probably one of the game's most successful aspects; there is a noticeable difference between tiers. Aiming is wobbly on lower levels, yet steady on higher ones. The only thing that doesn't change over time is walking. Soldiers move with an odd pace that is partially reminiscent of older Tomb Raider games where Lara would awkwardly move between invisible grid points.

One of the core reasons for America's Army's initial success of the PC was that is was free - which made it very easy to overlook many of the game's problems. However, as a full price console game, especially on a console full of shooters, America's Army: True Soldiers is hard to enjoy.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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