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Friday March 27, 2009 12:25 pm

GDC 2009: Hands-On with America’s Army 3

Americas Army 3

Anyone familiar with military gaming (or anyone as cheap as I am) already knows about America’s Army, the PC developed by the United States military as an outreach program for the young’uns. It’s paid for by the guv’mint and completely free of charge to anybody who wants to play it (as any good PR campaign would be), and the folks behind the game let me get some hands-on time with the newest incarnation, America’s Army 3, at in San Francisco. Hit the jump for some of the things you can expect from the world’s most realistic military shooter.


  • All the bells and whistles from the Unreal 3 engine that powers the game will be on full display. The game itself looks fantastic, with real-time motion blur, lighting engines from Beast (the same guys behind the bright, bright world of Mirror’s Edge), and the most realistic character and weapons models in any military game to date.
  • Did I mention the models? Holy crap. America’s Army is all about the realism, and it’s out in spades when you look at the way they’ve animated and built these things. Not only do characters move and maneuver convincingly, but the dev team went the whole nine yards with the subtle touches. For instance, when you reload, your soldier actually reaches into a pouch on his body, withdraws a clip, and replaces it with the spent one. No half-assing it with static meshes and animations.
  • A heavy feature of the game will be the Army Value System. Instead of increasing ranks in headshots and grenade tags, you’ll be able to gain experience in assets like Loyalty, Honor, Respect, Duty, etc. This is all calculated from your behavior in game (complete a lot of missions for increased Duty, assist members for Loyalty, etc.) and viewable by other players, so they can figure out whether you’re a worthwhile asset to the squad or slightly more worthy of a beatdown.
  • The game will convey what it’s like in a soldier’s life off the battlefield. What’s it like to be at home? Or in the barracks? Or at your graduation? Or right before first deployment? How this will be addressed wasn’t discussed in depth, but it seems interactive scenarios are the likely vessel.
  • The game will feature Incapacitation and Second Chance mechanics that you see in a lot of FPSes, but within reason. You’re not a bullet shield, but you can take a wee bit of damage so long as you have a buddy to help you out in a pinch. Again, realism is the key.
  • There are rewards and penalties for rules of engagement – friendly fire and the works. However, if you get penalized against a teammate, they can forgive you if they knew it was an innocent mistake.
  • The game will feature some highly advanced current-gen military technology, such as UAV drones and trackers. You can even pinpoint enemy locations with your gun and have it appear to all your squadmates. Plus, there’s a pretty cool gun that doesn’t currently exist, but is within the constraints of current weapon technology. You’ll have to play and see. There’s an intense amount of customization for your soldier, so you can always mix it up and tweak your character in just the right ways to suit your play style.
  • You’ll start out as an 11 Bravo and will differentiate yourself as you gain access to class systems. However, newbies will be easily identifiable, and the game promotes camaraderie between new and senior players.
  • New maps will be released all the time in the game, which will continue the story of the fictional conflict that is the game’s backdrop. So, it’s kind of an episodic deal, but all sorts of real-time data is taken into account when they design the levels, which could potentially lead up to a climax in the future.
  • Strategists will love the new pre-planning feature in the game, which allows the squad commander to issue positions in a tactical manner before the round starts. Players will even be able to choose from strategic spawn points during offense/defense missions, instead of the whole team plowing from point A to point B.
  • Did I mention this game is realistic? The demo I was shown was almost scary in the way it presented combat; There was the ability for bullets to realistically ricochet, indoor grenade overpressure, working camo due to the capability of the light engine, and most importantly, cover and concealment – bullets can punch holes right through walls and thin metal, meaning that players really have to pay attention to their surroundings. If you just hide in a barn, it’s no problem for the opposing team to simply spray the side down with bullets and hope they hit you.
  • Accounts in the game will be integrated with boards you use for the website and message boards.
  • Lastly, and I say this with full confidence – the sound design for the weapons is the best to ever appear in an FPS. The sound design and actual effects are phenomenal, including features like real-time and FULLY FEATURED occlusion, falloff, reverb, and supersonic effects. The crack of a bullet behind a wall and clipping your helmet are completely different, and actually mean that the concept of suppressing fire is an even scarier prospect for opponents. Play this game with a good pair of headphones, folks.

America’s Army 3 will be out sometime in 2009, at which point you can download it for free through their website or Steam for the low, low price of completely free.



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