Be all that you can be…in this video game replica of the army. by Cole Smith
December 15 , 2005 – America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier is about as authentic a military game as you can get. In some respects you might not even consider it a game since it was originally developed for the U.S. Army as a recruiting tool. It chronicles the training of soldier and his rise through the ranks from rifleman to commander. The situations are realistic as are the weapons, placing this game behind sim lines.
There really isn’t much of a story to Rise of a Soldier. You’re basically living it. Starting as a grunt in basic training you will have to earn your promotions by completing the various missions in each class level. Missions range from escort to recon. You’ll never do the same thing twice as you’ll constantly be evolving as you rise through the ranks. RPG elements allow you to earn skill points which can be assigned to different traits such as marksmanship, health, honor and leadership.
You can place the points where you want but if you’re not sure what to do there’s an interface that will help distribute the them depending on what classification you’re most interested in. If you want to be a medic there will be more points allotted to the health category. If you want to be an excellent marksman most of your points will go towards marksmanship. This may seem obvious but there are other areas where your points will serve you well that may not seem so obvious. To improve your marksmanship for example you should also level-up your honor. You may wonder why being honorable would affect your aiming skills but it does have direct bearing on it.
The skills you choose to develop will not only affect your character but they can influence your entire squad. When you start the game you will find that your aiming leaves a lot to be desired. This is evident in the way that your character shakes as he aims, showing an overall lack of confidence. This will eventually remedy itself through experience but it can start all over again when under attack by enemies. A team leader with good leadership skills and honor will be able to calm his subordinates as they can place their trust in him. This calming allows the team to react faster and shoot more accurately.
The skill-leveling feature is better displayed on the online mode where you have different players messing with their attributes in different combinations. You can’t import your leveled-up characters from the off-line version but the process is much faster and you can experiment with it more.
An Infantryman is the entry-level position in the career of a soldier. He goes through basic training and learns how to operate a rifle. The rifleman’s tasks are some of the most dangerous. The army doesn’t want to sacrifice officers that have extensive training and experience. The riflemen are expendable. They will be on the front lines, opening doors and flushing out the enemy in urban combat. They will be sitting in foxholes in the middle of the forest and exchanging gunfire in every conceivable location, day and night. They must also follow the orders of the team leader to the letter – even if it means certain death.
Eventually you will train as a sniper, automatic rifleman, heavy weapons specialist, team leader, ranger and ultimately as a member of the Special Forces. The weapons you will encounter are very realistically presented. These are not your standard arcade guns. You can’t even use the machinegun properly unless it’s on the bipod and you’re lying down. With the sniper rifle you’ll be able to zoom in on the enemy but you have to expect a certain amount of float until you gain more skill. You can increase your accuracy by compensating with the R stick to help hold it steady. It also helps to lie prone so that you can better support your weapon.
To add more realism, the scopes are not outfitted with night-vision technology. You will be able to use night-vision goggles but only to locate the enemy and follow the laser sights of your weapon. Keep in mind that the enemy can also see your laser sight if they are using night-vision goggles and can pinpoint your location. There are also plenty of low light situations where night-vision goggles are useless. I would probably complain about the poor visibility if this were just an arcade shooter but since this is replicating real-life conditions one must accept the challenges the way they’re presented. When you’re in a war not all conditions are going to be ideal.
Your physical condition, state of mind and environmental conditions will affect your abilities. You will be dragged down if you’re tired or injured. Your morale and the morale of your unit will help or hinder your progress. Weather conditions will also determine how your skills play out in the field. Overall, a realistic cause-and-effect exchange permeates the gameplay keeping us mindful of all the various influences.
Environments and weather conditions run the gamut from arid deserts to snow-covered towns. The urban areas tend to be arranged not unlike the corridors of Doom with walls, fences, lanes and stairs forcing you down a path. The biggest problem is the limited view. The camera can be moved in virtually any direction but the threats come from the sides, above and below and you need to see the whole area at once so that you can react immediately. Taking the time to pan the camera up a stairwell can cost you dearly. It would be better if there was an instant pull back that allowed you to get the full perspective of the area.
Up to 16 players can take part in the online war with eight to a team. Each player is assigned to a specific class such as infantryman, sniper, team leader and so on. Your character levels-up much like he does in the single-player campaign. If you’re new to the game you’ll have to start as a grunt and work your way up. You can’t be a team leader until you acquire a certain amount of points. You will have a vested interest in staying alive because you’ve only got one life and if you get killed you might have a long wait ahead of you before you can get into another game.
To streamline communications the Situation Awareness Map was created which is essentially an enemy radar. Once a member of your unit spots an enemy, that position is displayed on the map for all to see. It just cuts down on redundant communication since this is obviously something that would be communicated back to the unit – unless of course the batteries are getting weak. Fortunately there are some elements of reality we don’t have to deal with.
Teamwork is stressed as the abilities of the different classes are used in true RPG fashion to achieve different results. Automatic riflemen will cover infantry and snipers looking to gain better vantage-points. Medics will tend to the wounded and the leaders will size up each situation and issue commands. There is plenty of action to be had but there’s a great deal of strategy required so as to minimize the loss of life.
The online experience is easy to get into and runs without a hitch. If you don’t mind playing this game on your PC, it’s actually available for free. Yes, free. The catch is that you have to join the army afterwards. Just kidding. This is a recruitment tool remember.
Graphically the game tends to look like a simulation. There isn’t much in the way of detail especially in the urban areas that look more like movie sets rather than places that were actually inhabited by human beings. There is a decided lack of garbage, furnishings and accessories that would make these places look lived in. The character models are good but their movements are quirky. They appear to skate and float rather than run. The music in between missions is a little harsh, and you can definitely see the propaganda at work with actual videos of U.S. military operations and other more subtle in-game innuendoes. I would expect this of the free version but I would appreciate more neutrality when I’m paying for it. Hey, I’m Canadian for crying out loud. I can’t join the American Army anyway.
As a recruitement tool first and foremost there was a lot of work put into the simulated gameplay that makes this a game not to be ignored. If you’re looking for a realistic military experience this is the closest you’re going to get to boot camp without leaving mommy’s nest.
- Unique career mode: Create a soldier and guide him through his career, from raw recruit to Special Forces team leader.
- Unparalleled realism: Special Forces operatives assisted the game designers to ensure the highest level of authenticity.
- U.S. Army license: Authentic weapons, equipment, and combat situations come straight from Army experts.
- Open-ended gameplay: No linear campaign design, so you’re free to choose your own career path.
- Intense military action: Quick reflexes, smart tactics, and the use of teamwork are mandatory to succeed in Army missions.
- Multiplayer support: Create and develop an online character in Xbox Live® career mode.
By Cole Smith
CCC Staff Writer