TITLE: America’s Army: Proving Grounds
DEVELOPER: Army Game Studio / U.S. Army
PUBLISHER: Army Game Studio / U.S. Army
GENRE: Tactical FPS
STATUS: Open Beta
PLATFORM: Windows (via Steam)
I have billed this article as a “sort-of review” because there are several reasons that prevent me from giving this game a full-fledged write-up in its current standing — the least of which is the fact that the game is still considered “open beta,” meaning this should really be a preview more than anything else. Regardless, I was asked if I would be interested in covering this game, so I don’t plan to shirk that responsibility.
I was initially contacted about this game over a month ago, but was told that new content would be coming on October 31, 2013 and that any write-up could likely benefit from waiting for the new content to roll out. So, I waited, as suggested, and then fired up Steam, downloaded the game, and sat down to give it a shot. Immediately, I was prompted with a warning message that told me that I would need to create an America’s Army game account in order to play the game online. “That’s okay,” I thought to myself, “I don’t need to play it online right now, I just want to figure out the game’s basics and stuff before putting myself out there to get shot to pieces.” Yet, after clicking the option to play offline, I quickly discovered that there was no offline content nor training area available offline, and that in order to learn the game’s basics, I would have to jump into public matches to learn the hard way.
This is a massive, fundamental failure to me, and represents a very poor business tactic. When someone makes a game, they should do everything possible to give new players a way to learn the fundamentals without just throwing them to the wolves. Now, an argument can be made that trial by fire is the best way to learn, but if someone is just thrown into the fray in an online match, several things happen. First, they somewhat gimp the team they’re assigned to by being a total “noob” who hardly knows how to control their character, thus spending time looking at keybinds to figure out what’s going on; they may as well not even be there. Secondly, because they don’t know what’s going on, they’ll spend time getting easily ganked by the players on the other team, who won’t realize this person is new and just trying to figure things out, or simply won’t care. Both of those are bad propositions. Either way, this potential new player may become very discouraged and never play the game again, all because there was no way to become introduced to the gameplay experience without getting creamed during online matches.
This is to say nothing about some of the other criticisms that other players have had, including pointing out the comic-style graphics the game has (perhaps this is an effort to appease a new, younger audience) that almost seems like it could be making light of violence (literally casting it in a comic-like light), or the fact that rank progression is done as a series of numerical ranks, as opposed to having the player rise from a no-stripe Private all the way up to Sergeant Major, just like previous installments. I cannot fully detract anything from the game on those grounds because I didn’t have direct experience with them, but I can say that they are valid remarks.
For now, these developers have lost me as a potential player or advocate for this game. This is a shame, because I’m actually a Captain with our military, and playing this game was something that kind of interested me, but now I see it as nothing more than a heavily-botched enterprise. Can they ever get me to consider it again? Perhaps, if they ask very nicely and, more importantly, really clean up this game’s act.
FINAL SCORE: N/A