Recently an update to America’s Army added their largest map yet and the beginning of their co-op mode features. As a long time former player of their old 2.x game and AA3, I gave it a chance (yet again) and play through the new content. To my surprise aside from the account wipe, I enjoy the gameplay despite the servers hosting the same game types repetitively and without bias; hint to things to come.
Before we get gritty with the new stuff, here’s what I know so far for playing this game for about five or so years. You play as a U.S. Army soldier sent to a fictional country with a Soviet-like atmosphere. From what it seems, the country starts to become unstable and the United States is called upon to render aid to the country. A couple old maps return to be part of the whole open-ended story. You go from training to combat in about hour. Honing on fitness, marksmanship and weapons familiarity. Summing the the tutorials to easy pieces to help get the feel for the game. Along with the Basic need to know, you receive additional training which allows the use of some additional equipment like a first aid kit to heal teammates and optics for your weapons. You can play without the training, but you would only be privy to getting the basic gear to get moving.
Now that we have that squared away, lets get into the new stuff; the co-op. So how AA has set it up is a co-op with a competitive mode added after a certain threshold has reached. Meaning you can play through the AI specified levels as one team until the server decides the threshold has reached to split the teams; more meat on that in a bit. A large step with co-op they made a large step by adding Airfield, a long open stretch airfield where the objective is to capture and deliver a target to the extraction zone. Currently, I’ve seen only the carried objective where you carry a briefcase to the area and the escort VIP to the same area. So right down to it; you spawn on one end, fight your way to the middle, grab what you need, fight your way to the other side. Kind of disappointed so I tried the other maps with the same layout; start east, move to middle, grab, move west, win. Now the AI on the other hand makes it more of a challenge than the previous incarnation since they do react and move in a certain way to allow them to survive much longer and aside from shooting at you, they do throw grenades of the smoke and fragmentation variety. Also the AI are given spawns in this map to allow them the opportunity to flank the human team to keep them on their toes. Due to the layout of the map being long and relatively flat; the AR (Automatic Rifle) and their M249 SAW is at a disadvantage. The game currently doesn’t boast a bipod for this beast, so accuracy is only limited to about 100 metres and any kills is fairly pray and spray. The advantageous roles are the others which essentially are riflemen with their M16 and M4 carbines loaded with the optics of your choice. Because it’s semi-automatic, range is fairly admirable especially with the ACOG 2x optics which is unlocked through training; making any rifle a designated marksman rifle. However the DMR (Designated Marksman Rifleman?) has the biggest advantage in the entire map when it comes to range. Equipped with a ACOG 4x, the M16 for this roles is powerful. Which provides a more role dominated gameplay considering CQC is fairly nonexistent and even with room clearing, most of it can be done with semi-automatic on.
Competitive co-op provides a storyline twist and adds a PvP element to the game. Along with the enemy force to fight against represented by the AI, rogue elements represented by players have the same objective as your team. However it’s not the usual death match where you go down, you stay down; with the MEDAVAC system where tapping out will place in you in a queue with 4 others to back up the current forces on the ground. So you keep spawning in until the round is over. Which is a major plus to keep playing, however with a big drawback. To enlist on this queue, you sacrifice losing your current weapon and a chance to receive a different role and weapon. In my opinion, it’s kind of a downer since as you read the M249 machine gun is the weakest in most of the gameplay for Airfield. Other maps however like Ranch and Bridge, the M249 would have more of an edge. Back to the competitive co-op aspect, it’s kind of a trick to get people to play PvP. Have they even considered people want to just have a co-op? Also it’s not necessarily co-op if players are playing against players. Probably just me, but the combination doesn’t mix well. It’s a good concept to look into, but at the moment and bias I don’t really enjoy it.
Overall the new content is great but much to improve especially adding CQB maps and some way to steady the machine gun for longer distances. Also the gameplay is linear so likely seeing many objectives would go far. Like a mix of escort and capture and hold or escort and briefcase/intel gathering, or just have random objectives pop up and once finished to add more time to the round and do the next objective. For now, I will server hop to just play the co-op.