America's Army: Rise of a Soldier Review

America’s Army began its life as a PC game offered by the US Army as a free download. Sure, the game was given away for free as a recruiting tool, but that didn’t mean that gamers couldn’t have any fun with it. In fact, they had so much fun with it that it has now evolved into a console game available commercially at your local game store just like any other Xbox title. Unlike most other Xbox first-person shooters, though, America’s Army: Rise of a Soldier is based on real-world tactics and combat situations and includes RPG-like elements that lets your character improve with experience.

The Army moves in.
You start out the game as a raw recruit reporting for basic training. Basic training starts out like most first-person shooter tutorials in that it gives you a chance to get used to the movement and fire controls without anyone shooting back at you. However, soon the US Army’s influence becomes apparent as you move on to more advanced training in areas such as how to work as a member of a fire team. Another thing that sets the game apart from typical shooters is that you’ll receive additional training when you’re ready to take on one of the specialist roles. For example, you’ll complete your training as a rifleman, get a live mission under your belt, and then you have the option of beginning training as a grenadier. There are seven specialist roles in the game and each has five training and live missions associated with it, so you’ll get a lot of gameplay and a variety of it in the game’s 35 total missions.

After completing a training or live mission your performance will be rated on a number of points and this rating will translate into the number of skill points that you are awarded. Skill points can be spent on seven different attributes – marksmanship, stealth, honor, leadership, observation, conditioning, and medicine – and each of these has a direct effect on gameplay. Observation and marksmanship will help you spot the enemy and keep your aim steady. Stealth will help you avoid detection while conditioning allows you to run greater distances before you become winded. Honor keeps you cool (and your aim steady) while under fire and leadership helps you produce the same effect for the other men in your fire team. Lastly, medicine enables you to heal yourself or your fellow soldiers on the field of battle. The skill points are an innovative and interesting feature for a shooter and help make the game stand out from the rest of the military shooter crowd.

For those who’d rather not mess with the whole skill point thing or who are unsure of how to spend their points, the game will let you specify a character archetype and will suggest where to spend your skill points based on your selection. For example, if you select sniper as your archetype you can expect the game to suggest spending your points in stealth, marksmanship, and observation. The game has you covered if you later change your mind or if your character is completely unsuited to taking on a new specialization – you’ll be able to redistribute some of your points as you transition roles so you can meld that grenadier into a sniper.