America’s Army: Proving Grounds

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Overview

America’s Army Overview

America’s Army is a tactical MMOFPS released by the U.S Army. The most recent version of the game was made using the Unreal 3 engine and has an interface similar to other shooting games. What sets AA apart from rivals is its emphasis on realistic, team-oriented gameplay. Players must chose between four roles at the start of a mission and work closely with their teammates to accomplish their mission objectives. The game has quite a few maps and each comes in three modes ranging from ‘VIP Escort’ to ‘Secure and Defend.’

Roles:

Rifleman - The basic soldier of the Army. Riflemen are versatile and have a large range of equipment options.

Automatic Rifleman - Armed with a M249 SAW, the Auto Rifleman is capable of firing off a large number of rounds at a rapid rate.

Grenadier - Armed with an M16A4 and a M320 grenade launcher, these soldiers provide explosive support fire from medium to long distance.

Squad Designated Marksman – While not a sniper, the SDM engages targets further away than other riflemen with a specially designed M16A4 DMR.

America’s Army Screenshots

America’s Army Featured Video

 America’s Army: Proving Grounds – First Look

Full Review

America’s Army: Proving Grounds Review

By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)

 

Camping

Introduction

America’s Army: Proving Grounds is the next installment in the America’s Army franchise, which is developed and published by the actual U.S. Army. It is available on Steam and, like all previous versions of the game, is completely free. Proving Grounds is aimed to be a small-squad focused experience with 6v6 and 12v12 matches taking place in urban environments. As you might imagine, a platform that has been used to train actual soldiers in virtual environments has a lot of realism in it, and you’ll be going down with one or two shots if you’re not careful. It is this focus on communication, tactics, and realism along with the completely and truly free to play model that has given the America’s Army series a great amount of respect in the FPS community.

 

 

Customization

At the start of each round you are able to choose from all the available weapons and equipment. Currently, that is all the customization that is offered, but more may be available in the future. There is an advancement system in the game, but I do not yet know if this will be used to unlock unique looks, weapons, or other equipment. I do know, however, that everything put in the game will be available to everyone at no charge, which is quite nice. Normally, in 2013, I would expect quite a lot of customization available, even in an FPS, but I can’t quite complain as this game is completely free and I honestly don’t care to paint my guns or make my character look like a clown.

 

EquipSelect

Graphics

The graphics in America’s Army: Proving Grounds is a nice step-up from America’s Army 3, which was already nice to begin with. The higher quality textures make a huge difference, especially when added with the nice smoke and light affects. Don’t get me wrong, the graphics aren’t as impressive as a title like Battlefield 3 (or 4), but they are more than decent for a free to play game. The urban maps that are available are well designed and are interesting to explore. Part of the fun of Proving Grounds is learning all the ins-and-outs of the maps to find the perfect spots to snipe or ambush the enemy team.

 

Graphics

Controls

The controls in Proving Grounds are your standard FPS control scheme. WASD to move, left mouse button to shoot, right mouse button to aim, G for grade, C for crouch, etc… If you’ve played any other FPS ever, you will pick up these controls very fast. There are some nice intuitive effects that have been added. For example, if you sprint and then press C, you will slide into a crouch, making your escape to cover much quicker and safer. This is something that came naturally and I made a lot of use of it. Overall I am very pleased with the controls.

 

 

Community

I’m a bit mixed here. Generally, at least with my experience with past America’s Army games, AA tends to attract more mature audiences. However, with the new CoD-generation of FPS gamers joining into a mixing pot with F2P Steam users, a branch of younger gamers are starting to flow in with much more offensive demeaners. For example, in the very first game I joined, I immediately heard someone who sounded somewhere between the ages of twelve and fourteen cursing out one of their team members because they didn’t perform as well as they thought they should, despite the person doing the yelling having died quite a bit earlier and had essentially done more towards the team losing than the person being yelled at. However, I did find that most of the people in the match were mature and were more focused on working together to complete the objective than playing the blame game.

 

 

Gameplay

America’s Army: Proving Grounds is a fairly standard FPS experience, but with a more tactical twist. As I’ve said earlier in the review, you’ll be working with your teammates more than you would in similar titles. Lone Wolfing is a quick trip to being taken out of the game, and working together is the key to success. The two biggest factors that play into creating this tactical and cooperative experience are the built-in voice communication and the fact that you do not die immediately after you are taken down. You can still be revived by your teammates, or ‘secured’ by the enemy to take you completely out of the round.

 

The maps have been designed for tactics to come into play with every turn. You won’t get far if you try to just run at the enemy team with your assault rifle. You won’t be jumping around and shooting, either. No, if you want to do well you will need to go slow, use cover and be smart about what you do. Taking care to make sure you aren’t making too much noise or exposing a part of your body to an enemy sniper. At the same time, you will be communicating with your team to coordinate your attacks, reviving those that fall so they can stay in the round and continue to help you, and securing your enemies so they won’t be able to come back and bite you in the butt when you least expect it.

 

Fighting

 

Game modes are pretty simple. Essentially it comes down to capturing something or taking down and securing the whole enemy team. My favorite game mode was a variation of Capture the Flag, which Proving Grounds has given a few unique twists. As a result, it felt a lot more tactical than what I was used to from other FPS with CTF. I’m used to just going for a mad rush at the flag and then trying to get out ASAP. That won’t work here, fortunately.

 

CTF

 

Realism is important to the folks in the U.S. Army, or at least I get the impression. Combat and situational awareness is probably the most important thing to learn. The sounds of enemy gunfire or footsteps, the muzzle flare when someone shoots, or using smoke screens and flashbangs are all important. You will go down with one or two shots in most cases, so you have to be extremely careful with where you go. You might think it’s OK to sprint across a room with a large window, but more likely than not you’ll get sniped, or alert enemies to where you are so they can ambush you around the next bend.

 

Snipe

Verdict: Great

America’s Army: Proving Grounds is shaping up to be a very fun FPS. The fact that it is completely free to play is a major plus, especially when you consider the quality you’re getting. There won’t be any cash shops for you to waste your money on, only a fair environment where you can test your skills. The tactical gameplay is a refreshing change from the usual mindless twitch-fest that most FPS games have become, too. If you’re looking for a modern tactical FPS, fire up Steam and download America’s Army: Proving Grounds today and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Review of Previous Version:

 

America’s Army Review

By Erhan Altay

America’s Army is one of the most interesting video games ever to be created, not so much because of the game itself but the story surrounding it. The game was originally developed and published by the U.S. Army to bolster the Army’s image and increase recruitment . To date there have been over 26 versions with the first being ‘America’s Army: Recon’ released back in July 4, 2002. Since that time the game has been refined and published on various platforms including Xbox, Xbox 360, and even mobile devices. The most recent version of the game, and the one we’ll be discussing here is America’s Army 3, (AA3 for short) which was released on June 17, 2009 for the PC.

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Two Paths to Recruitment

Ever since its conception, America’s Army has had connection and distribution issues. To remedy this problem with the latest version, the Army has turned to Steam; a digital distribution system run by Valve. Players can chose to download and launch the game through Steam which also keeps the game fully updated at all times. Alternatively, prospective soldiers can stick with the traditional method of downloading the client separately and running the game on the America’s Army Deploy Client. My suggestion is to go with to Steam option, since it is already popular among gamers and has a proven track record. Whichever option you go with, America’s Army requires players to register a separate AA. Those who have an America’s Army 2.0 account have the option of entering it during account creation to receive bonuses, but there is no way of moving your records or characters over to the new version. Character creation is a simple process which involves selecting one of fourteen avatars with no appearance customization beyond that.

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Boot Camp 2.0

Anyone whose played any of the earlier versions of America’s Army knows how much emphasis was placed on single-player training missions. Previous versions didn’t even allow gamers to play multiplayer matches until they passed several target practice courses. Luckily, the new version expedites the process significantly. No training is required to play online, though there are training courses available that must be passed to play some of the more advanced roles. Since there is no formal tutorial, I’ll talk a bit about the first training course. The training mission is set up as a timed obstacle course that involves shooting targets, using grenades, and so on. Each time the player misses or shoots a friendly target, additional time is added to the final timer. The course is broken down into two segments and the activities you are required to perform in them is self explanatory. The only part I had repeated trouble with was the medical dummy. The game gives a symptom such as ‘has pale skin’ and based on this players must chose the right treatment out of a choice of four. I failed this test twice which added a whopping 1 minute to my final time. Keep practicing and eventually you’ll receive a satisfactory score on this course and be allowed to try more advanced training missions.

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No Respawns in Real Life

Like many FPS games, America’s Army was built using the Unreal 3 engine. America’s Army has the same basic controls and interface as other MMOFPS games including Combat Arms and Sudden Attack. So what sets this game apart? For starters, it’s a tactical shooter rather than a frag fest. This means players can’t run into the center of the map and start spraying while bunny hopping and strafing. America’s Army is a teamwork oriented game where careless players find themselves dead in no time. There are no free-for-all modes in America’s Army, all game modes pit two teams of players against one another on one of five maps. While the map selection may be a bit disappointing, the fact that each map supports three game modes and the fact that gamers can chose between four soldier roles helps keep things interesting. The four ‘roles’ or classes in AA3 are Rifleman, Automatic Rifleman, Grenadier, and Squad Designated Marksmen. All of these roles can be played by new players except the SDM, which requires high marks on the marksman training missions. While there are around eight game modes ranging from escort missions to secure & hold, most of the time rounds are won simply by killing all members of the opposing team. Just like in Counter Strike and certain modes in War Rock, players do not ‘respawn’ after they die, they must wait until the round is over before being able to play again. The game keeps track of every bullet you fire, every kill you register, and every death you suffer. A high score and acts of heroism earn players achievements and higher ranks which are based on real Army ranks such as staff sergeant, corporal, and so on.

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Punk Busters

Though most free-to-play games use GameGuard or Hackshield, America’s Army relies on punkbuster as its anti-cheat mechanism. This is probably due to the Western origins of the game, as opposed to the mostly Asian FPS games we’ve seen recently such as Sudden Attack or WolfTeam. Punkbuster gave me some trouble during my first multiplayer match, which caused the game to crash, but since then I’ve had no problems. I’m not sure what caused the initial crash, but hopefully it won’t occur again. It is possible to play on servers with punkbuster turned off, but there’s really no point to it since they’re infested with cheaters. Another point worth mentioning about America’s Army is that the game entirely free-to-play. The U.S. Army didn’t create the game to turn a dime, it was mainly a publicity stunt aimed at increasing recruitment numbers by making the army look like a cool, modern career path. I’m not sure how it has succeeded on that front, but the fact there is no cash shop or other optional costs involved makes the game that much better.

Final Verdict: Good

America’s Army is not your ordinary MMOFPS; gameplay requires a high degree of tactics and cooperation. Unfortunately, a steep learning curve and unimpressive graphics keep AA3 from being all it can be. The game may well be worth a download if only for the sheer novelty value.

Screenshots

America’s Army Screenshots

Videos

America’s Army Videos

 America’s Army: Proving Grounds – First Look

America’s Army – First Look

America’s Army Bridge Map

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America’s Army Gameplay Footage

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America’s Army Course

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America’s Army 3,9 Features Trailer

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System Requirements

America’s Army System Requirements

Minimum Requirements:
OS: Windows 7 /8
CPU: 3.0 GHz Single Core
RAM: 1024 MB
HDD: 5.0 GB
Graphics Card: NVIDIA 6600/ ATI X1300

Recommended Specifications:
OS: Windows 7 / 8
CPU:  2.4 Ghz Duel Core or better
RAM: 2 GB or more
HDD: 5.0 GB Free
Graphics Card: NVIDIA 7950 /ATI X1950 or better

 
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