America's Army is an online game in the style of a typical tactical shooter with elements of the first-person shooter , which is developed by the United States Army and published for free ( freeware ).
The original versions were developed by the MOVES Institute (Modeling Virtual Environments and Simulation Institute) of the Naval Postgraduate School on behalf of the United States Army . The game, which is based on Unreal Engine 2, is financed from the state budget and was first published in 2002.
It is the first US Army computer game that was not developed for training purposes, but solely for propaganda and recruitment purposes . The US Army intends to recruit young, intelligent people who are up to modern warfare and who have the necessary speed of reaction, networked thinking and an affinity for technology. The most successful players in the game will be contacted by email from the army recruiting staff.
A new version based on Unreal Engine 3 has now been released. The originally estimated costs of 7 million US dollars have now been significantly exceeded. The development cost $ 32.8 million by December 2009 and was funded by the United States Department of Defense . The server is operated by the United States Military Academy in West Point .
There are several different virtual theaters of war in the game, where two teams compete against each other and have certain tasks to fulfill. These are, for example, securing (conquering) an arsenal on the one hand and defending the camp on the other. The special thing about it is that the player and his team - regardless of which team he should choose - always take on the appearance and designation of American soldiers ( belonging to various units of the US infantry), whereas the opposing team - likewise in any case - the appearance and the designation of non-American opponents, usually called "OpFor" (jargon of the Army for "Opposing Forces") are preserved. The opposing team, however, sees this player as an "OpFor" and sees itself as a US soldier. This opposing team is not only named "OpFor" but also as terrorists ("terrorist forces") or insurgents ("insurgents"), which is again due to the political background of the game. Fighting takes place virtually with weapons that are faithfully reproduced from those of the US Army right down to the operation. The opponents fight with appropriately authentic, mostly Russian weapons. The game principle rewards good teamwork - a team that works well together has a significant advantage over a team full of lone fighters.
From version 2.7 there is the cooperative mode, in which all players play on a server against computer-generated opponents.
In order to be able to take part in the game, every player needs a user account on the central server , in which his “Honor” level and the training units he has completed are permanently recorded.
Honor is a variable that is integrated into the game and is supposed to symbolize the observance of the seven principles of the army (loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, courage). The increase in this value takes place in a similar way to a role-playing game by winning a round or a single objective, healing a team member, but also by killing an opponent. Deductions are made for violations of the Rules Of Engagement (ROE), for example injuring or killing team members or civilians. In the event of a serious violation of the ROE, the player can be kicked from the server, if his honor level drops to zero (new user accounts start with 10) the account will be deleted. Psychologically, the acquisition of honor points is an operant conditioning , so that increasing the honor level can be an addictive factor . The increase is very fast at the beginning of the game, but the more honor a player has, the slower the increase takes place. With 61 “Honor”, for example, the player only received around 13 percent of the points that he would need up to 100. Because of this, there are only a handful of players whose Honor score is around 100, as it takes several thousand hours to achieve this.
The game itself is similar to other team-based tactical shooters , but many game elements are much more realistic than in comparable games. Players cannot choose their weapons freely, but only choose a role in the unit (with a specific assigned weapon). The operation of the weapons is also more complex than in many other games, shots fired "from the hip" are extremely imprecise even at close range.
The simulation of injuries is also very realistic. A wounded player can bleed to death if he is not looking for help ( medic ). The paramedic can stop the bleeding but cannot cure it completely; In addition, the injured person's ability to move and aim is restricted depending on the degree of the injury. In other words, you start to tremble because of the virtual pain when aiming, which makes precise shots more difficult.
The visual and acoustic representation of a hit on a figure, on the other hand, is more unrealistic. It is limited to a small red "cloud of blood". The reason for this was that large amounts of blood on the floor and walls, visible injuries and death screams would have resulted in an age rating that no longer corresponded to the target group . It should also be avoided that the game becomes involved in controversy over fictional violence . Critics point out, however, that America's Army thereby conveys the unrealistic image of a "clean" war. However, hardly any other game shows more realistically how fast you can fall in a real war - you die in the game without a lot of blood, but especially with beginners, a quick death without even seeing the opponent is not uncommon.
A special feature of the game is that every player has to complete a very extensive training in comparison to other games before he can participate in the actual online events . In version 2.7 a possibility was created for new players to play on separate servers on selected maps without completing training units.
In addition to this “basic training” there are additional training units that the player can pass in order to be able to take on special roles (e.g. sniper ). These training units not only require playful skills: in order to qualify as a paramedic, for example, the player has to listen to a lecture on immediate life-saving measures and then answer a multiple-choice test on the subject.
Each section of the training takes place in extremely detailed replicas of the original locations of the US Army. If you z. B. kills a comrade in a training session, one is a stay in the military prison Fort Leavenworth . However, some training sessions not only aim to teach the player the game, but also to convey a positive view of being a soldier. Due to the sometimes difficult training missions, many answer sheets and solutions are circulating on the Internet.
In 1999, the number of US Army recruits was at a record low, the lowest level in 30 years, while the other branches of the armed forces regularly exceeded their recruitment targets. For this reason, the United States Congress decided to conduct "aggressive and innovative experiments" on recruitment. Expenditure on recruitment were in the Ministry of Defense of the United States to more than 2.2 billion US dollars raised annually. This was used to finance an advertising campaign that includes the game, but also the establishment of a US Army team for the popular US racing series NASCAR , where the game is now being handed out.
In 1999, Lieutenant Colonel E. Casey Wardynski, later project manager of America's Army , presented the "Staff for Personnel" and the "Secretary of the Army for Military Manpower" to the US Army with the idea of an online computer game based on the United States Army and controllable by it to instill a positive image of the US Army mainly on the youth.
Use of Unreal Engine 2.0 up to version 2.3.0
Change to Unreal Engine 2.5 to version 2.8.5
Transition to Unreal Engine 3.0 up to the current version
PC / Mac / Linux version
On July 4, 2002, the first version of America's Army , called " Recon " , was offered for free download on the Internet and also became popular due to the large number of available servers (sponsored by the US Army) , the powerful Unreal Engine and the Game style Counterstrikes quickly became one of the most played online first person shooters on the Internet. At the same time, a kind of adventure in a boot camp called America's Army: Soldiers was supposed to be published, but for unknown reasons it never happened. The following versions, which were named Operations , mainly contained bug fixes and new cards. From version 1.7 the Linux and macOS operating systems were also supported.
On November 6, 2003 the still free version 2.0.0 - America's Army " Special Forces " - was published. The developers did not say why the US special forces had become the focus from that point on, but, as a brochure from the US Navy admits, this was not done without intent: because of their success, the US Department of Defense wanted the number of special forces double. As a result, the command moved down the ranks and also found implementation in America's Army , which underscores the Army's belief in the game as a recruiting method. Starting with this special version of America's Army , another unit of the US Army , the Special Forces , was integrated into the game. This version is significantly advanced compared to the first version from a year and a half ago, which shows how much US Army personnel and funds are invested in the game. Among other things, the graphics were improved and a ragdoll engine was licensed.
From version 2.4 the game is developed on the basis of the Unreal Engine 2.5.
The version of the game that was released on February 9, 2006 is version 2.6 - America's Army: Special Forces (Link-Up) . However, with this version, client support for the two operating systems Linux and Mac OS was discontinued. that is, it is only available for Microsoft Windows .
When recruiting, the game was apparently already able to contribute to the hoped-for turnaround: at the military academy in West Point, for example, 19 percent of the newcomers in 2003 claimed to have played this game. Furthermore, the recruitment rates have been rising again for several years and are now in line with expectations. Michael Zyda, the director of the Navy group that was involved in the development of the game, attributes the few protests against America's Army to the changed attitude of the US population towards the military: The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 would have made the game successful secured, because now the country thinks everything the military is doing is great.
Version 2.7 ( America's Army: Special Forces (Overmatch) ) has been available for download since September 14, 2006 . Since the new features of this version are very extensive, the file is correspondingly large at around 2.5 GB. A patch is not available, only the full version is offered.
Version 2.8 ( America's Army: Special Forces (Coalition) ) will be available from December 21, 2006 . This version allows you to create and change your own maps using the integrated map editor . Current version is 2.8.5.
On June 17, 2009 the release of a completely newly developed game in "Version 3.0" based on the Unreal 3 engine . Due to the many bugs and insufficient server capacity, this version was unplayable and was only slightly improved by a hotfix patch on June 19, 2009. In addition, the development studios were closed one day after the release of AA 3.0.
Xbox 360 versions
In order to reach a wider and younger audience, an implementation of the game for the Xbox with the title “America's Army: Rise of a Soldier ” was produced and released on February 21, 2006. A maximum of 16 players can compete against each other via Xbox Live. The Xbox version was released by the USK at the end of 2005 from the age of 16. An identical version for the PS2 was also planned, but was never implemented. Ubisoft announced America's Army: True Soldiers for the Xbox 360 in July 2007 , but it will only appear in North America on November 15, 2007. The game was developed by Red Storm Entertainment based on Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 .
Arcade machine version
The US arcade machine manufacturer Global VR is developing an arcade machine with eight mini-games in cooperation with the US Department of Defense , in which the player with two light pistols has to cope with missions that are “based on real army training”. , but offers less violent action and therefore has no age limit in the USA.
The lack of blood effects and the fading out of explicit depictions of violence leads, on the one hand, to youth approval. On the other hand, modern warfare is promoted as being decent and clean. Despite the threat of draconian penalties from the US Army, the game has long been affected by cheaters that spoil the fun for honest players. The German game magazine GameStar found many technical defects in the test of version 3. Connection problems , regular game server crashes and lag , which led to the devaluation, were named as particularly disturbing . The connection to the authentication server is also frequently disrupted and leads to quitting the game or to a program crash. Display errors when changing weapons are also noticeable. The developers of the game themselves blamed a lack of staff and time for the numerous bugs.
- Nieborg, David: America's Army: More than a game? (Institute of Media & Re / Presentation, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (English); PDF; 132 kB)
- Nieborg, David: Changing the Rules of Engagement - Tapping into the Popular Culture of America's Army, the Official US Army Computer Game (PDF; 1.6 MB)
- Molloy, Fran: Shoot to thrill , in: The Sydney Morning Herald , November 22, 2007.
- Version overview ( memento of March 26, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) on americasarmy.com
- Frank Patalong: America's Army: Hope for Brainwashing. In: Spiegel Online . July 5, 2002, accessed March 17, 2013 .
- Spiegel Online : US Army: Recruiting by first person shooter May 23, 2002
- American's Army - development costs known ( page no longer available , search in web archives ) Info: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.
- America's Army already costs over $ 30 million
- Release "Version 3.0" based on the Unreal 3 Engine ( Memento from January 5th, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
- Americas Army for Xbox 360
- America's Army: Coming soon in your corner bar - Official first person shooter of the US armed forces becomes a slot machine game
- Arcade machine on arcadeheroes.com (English)
- Mobile game "America's Army®: Special Operations" on Gameloft.de in the category console games ( Memento from February 5, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
- Hartmut Gieselmann: US Army produces first-person shooter , Heise online , May 23, 2002
- Hartmut Gieselmann: US Army warns Hacker , Heise online , January 13, 2005
- Gamestar.de: America's Army 3 - Free2Play , Fabian Sigmund, June 26, 2009
- Hartmut Gieselmann: Pentagon takes over further development of the online shooter America's Army , Heise online , June 19, 2009