Platform:PC Exclusive Publisher:US Army Price (as reviewed):Free
For over a decade now a great debate has raged over whether computer games provoke violence in young people. Now sure plenty of games have appeared with violent themes and often graphic brutality, from the likes of Postal and Manhunt that focussed on up close and personal acts of sadism to Defcon, which sees players icily destroying the homes of millions of innocent civilians with nuclear weapons. While these games may well have arguably desensitised players to their violent content they never actually sought to turn players into violent people.
The developers didn’t actually want their game to be the catalyst that turned somebody into a killer. I mean really, you’d have to be pretty morally fishy to deliberately make a computer game based around the central objective of making the person playing it interested in killing people. Why would anybody make such a game? Who would be so despicable?
Apparently the US military is who. In the hope that violent games might indeed turn young gamers into killers they have launched the third in their interactive recruitment poster trilogy of games, imaginatively titled America’s Army 3.
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So what's America’s Army 3 all about? Well in simple terms it's a team based FPS, like a cross between Battlefield 2 and Counter-Strike: Source. You play as either the US Army or the Opposing Force who are generic baddies, and battle for various objectives on a variety of maps with an array of real and fictional weapons - the fictional weapons are used only be the Opposing Force.
Upon launching the game you have to create an account and a soldier. Your soldier can unlock new skills and level up over the course of your time playing the game, in much the same way as you could in earlier America’s Army games. The actual creation of a character is, by modern standards, very lame indeed, with the ability to choose from a large pile of ugly faces to slap into a uniform that covers most of it up anyway.
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Although the characters naturally tend to look alike at this stage there is some degree of differentiation that become more pronounced the more you play as you improve along your strengths, for instance you score points in one field for healing, points in another for killing.
The best first stop on your path to wading through the game is training. The assault course, the firing ranges and so on and so forth. This is time consuming and such a spectacular gaming cliché in the modern age that it was as much as I could do not to take my M16, Charlene, into the toilet muttering to myself and hoping for the opportunity to gun down the drill sergeant.
While such a harsh description of the training might seem to contradict the initial comment that it’s a good place to start you will be grateful for a chance to learn the controls and get a feel for the game before you actually start killing.