Experience what it’s like to play an actual military simulator made available to the public by the US Army.
Learn about actual combat tactics and weapons used by actual Army infantrymen in their training exercises.
Play on different maps each of which was beautifully and specifically designed to simulate the need and importance of military squad tactics and teamwork.
In 2002, the United States Army released a tactical combat simulator which was initially used as a tool to recruit candidates to join the Army. The simulator did well that it was then used for training purposes as it was continually revised through the years as well as released to the public as a free2play title.
Known as AA or Army Game Project, the idea was conceived by Colonel Casey Wardynski and is being continually managed by the U.S. Army's Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis at the United States Military Academy. The project’s vision was to use computer game technology to provide the public a Virtual Soldier experience that was engaging as well as informative and entertaining. Using the Unreal Game Engine from the get go, Army Game Project has gone through 26 updates with the latest being released on Steam this 2015 entitled America’s Army: Proving Grounds.
From the start, one will notice that the game plays a little different from the usual AAA military FPS shooters available in the market like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Medal of Honor. The basic game play may be similar as two opposing teams must compete with each other on an allotted time frame in a particular environment to win the game. Other basic similarities would be the game mechanics as an FPS in general. AA: Proving Grounds however starts to diverge in terms of objectives, advanced game mechanics, maps, weapons and the overall game play atmosphere.
The game provides you with 4 classes of soldiers to choose from. These are rifleman, automatic rifleman, designated marksman, or sniper. These are actual roles or designations in an infantry squad which is a responsibility that has to be carried out. In this game, a player cannot just run off by himself and desert his squad without consequences as it will affect the overall match. Teamwork and adherence to chain of command is important to win the game. One must be in constant communication with one’s squad mates to accomplish team objectives using in-game voice communication and an enemy spotting system.
The game simulates actual military combat on the squad level if used properly. In fact, it does it quite well providing the teams playing are real teams whether online or offline buddies. AA FPS has a friendly online community that assists newcomers who are serious in learning and playing the game. The game play may be simple but the rules of the game require some cooperation and teamwork a lot of kids online may find difficult to adhere to. After all, the game was intended to invite people into the US Army and being used as an actual simulator to date.
AA: Proving grounds simulates an actual training MOUT environment (military operations on urban terrain). This is the kind of training that a Long Range Combined Arms – Recon (LRCA-R) unit goes through. This is not CounterStrike (Haha…), you will not find someone touting an AK47 and looking like Fiflaren. The weapons you will use are standard US Army issue. These will include a Baretta M9A1 Pistol, Colt M16A4 MWS, Remington 870 MCS shotgun, M14 EBR-RI with scope, FN M249-E2 SAW Macine gun and other standard weaponry. You can also carry Smoke and Frag Grenades as well as the overused Flashbang and shout Fire in the Hole (just kidding).
As a game, weapon performance is quite satisfactory compared to other shooters. The scope is so cool though it somewhat lacks the reflective effect which the lens usually gives as found in other shooters. Some of the sound effects are not so clear though the voice-overs have a real soldier feel to it.
In this game, all the default maps are tactical in nature since the US Army designed them that way. These maps are based on 2 mission categories, Battle Drill Exercise (BDX) and Forward Line Operation (FLO). BDX maps where designed for 6 by 6 matches. These include maps like Breach, Crossfire, Outer Hospital, Lockdown and Siege. FLO maps are larger and are used for 12 by 12 matches. These include Bridge, Inner Hospital, Downtown and 3 Kings. The missions will depend from map to map like Assault and Defend, Divide and Conquer, Relay Enemy Positions and Respond among other objectives.
Graphics wise, the game is really good from the individual soldier detail to the environment and special effects like smoke and flashbang. The game play is where AA: Proving Grounds or any AA game for the matter takes a slight detour away from the main FPS crowd. The main focus is on both tactics and teamwork. How both defense and assault are coordinated and implemented. As mentioned, the game should be played by people who are serious in learning and practicing military tactics while having fun at the same time.
Whether one is assigned to either Alpha or Bravo Team, One must play for the objective of the team, following orders, covering and rescuing teammates, etc. instead of scoring points or getting the most kills. The game may be competitive but in a team based way. Being the best player with the most kills will mean nothing if one does not know how to follow and execute orders.
A special feature of the game is the ability to revive your squadmates unless they are really RIP in the game. You may be vulnerable while playing Medic but bringing back your teammate means getting one more player back in the game to accomplish the team objectives. Besides, you get a merit or point for doing this. The animation of rolling out bandages and applying them is really cool. A fallen opponent on the other hand has to be secured by cuffing his hands. Once a soldier has fallen, as long as the enemy has not been able to secure him, a squad mate can still revive him. Also, while other FPS let's you crouch, this game let's you crawl on the floor or ground to hide or avoid getting hit.
The objectives of the squad must come first and the game is designed to be that way. An example would be a player who bypasses a fallen yet revivable teammate just to get a kill who will end up getting killed one way or the other. Had he revived his comrade first, there would be 2 of them to deal with and if he goes down, his comrade will in turn revive him. Kill does not matter, teamwork does. In this game, you are a soldier and expected to act like one. If you get hit while trying to revive your squad mate (chances you will), just remember that this is what happens in real life. As they say in the Army, you have no one to rely on but the guy beside you and you are as good as he is.
Of course AA: Proving Grounds is a simulator and can only impart a small aspect with respect to the overall concept of what it is to be a real soldier in the US Army itself. There is no alternative to actually joining up and going through military life to really know what it is really like. However in fairness, the game is of very high quality that rivals current AAA First Person Shooters, it’s free and it does a good job of imparting US Army tactics and concepts to the computer gaming public. If you love playing FPS, learning about teamwork, military tactics and the Army while having fun is a very good way to spend your gaming time. This game is highly recommended.