a review of America's Army
a videogame developed by the u.s. army
and published by the u.s. army
for personal computers
text by Brandon Parker
If someone broke into my house and started shooting at me, even if I had a gun I’d think, “Well, maybe they’ve mistaken me for someone else,” or “Maybe someone is holding their child hostage and forcing them to shoot me,” or “Maybe they have a sick mother and they need to murder me and rob my house to get her medicine,” or, “Maybe they’re shooting at a big dangerous man behind me that I didn’t notice.” I mean, I wouldn’t be able to shoot back. If I did that there would be a good chance they’d fall down and never get up again, because they would be dead, and I just don’t want to do that to anybody.
So there’s really no reason for me to join the military, being that that’s all they do. There have been a few times when they’ve tried to call and hassle or guilt trip me into giving some sort of a stuff about my country and it’s caught me off guard when “U.S. GOVERNMENT” shows up in big letters on the Caller ID. and I think finally the hounds are closing in and the hammer is coming down. Thankfully, I need only mention my “condition” I’ve had ever since the “incident” and they just try to awkwardly end the conversation and leave me alone.
Recently, at the Missouri Black Expo, the army showed up to use their predatory recruitment tactics and show off their video game, America’s Army. Some Iraq veterans put in an appearance and protested the use of the game as a recruitment tool, since someone might sign up for the army thinking they’ll respawn after they’re shot. Since I live in Missouri, all of those people thinking about the game sent subconscious signals to the idea-antenna in my brain and that’s when I decided to play it suddenly. I also thought it might help me if I were worn down through rigorous training into a computer killing machine, especially since these giant stubborn sonsabitches with drill hands and diving armor were giving me a hard time in another video game. So I was going to get tough and come back and get those bastards. Drill hands, I mean, how do you beat that? Joining a damn army, that’s how.
During basic training, I lost control to my obsessive compulsive needs. I couldn’t settle for anything less than perfection. I retook the “Shoot House” test until I hit all targets with 100% accuracy well under the allotted time. “Hell yes,” I said, as I got up from the game to do some celebratory push-ups for my badassery. However, my arms got tired and a bead of sweat felt like it was beginning to think about forming on my forehead during the first one, so I postponed the celebration until later. It seems fate has bestowed upon me an Iggy Pop build and an Idler work ethic, incapable of performing any actions requiring more effort than grinding one’s teeth.
For combat medic training you have to actually sit through someone giving a lecture and take a real damn multiple choice test afterward. Just like real school, almost immediately after the teacher began to speak my mind sort of went off and thought about other things and the next thing I knew it was test time. They seem fairly detailed with this business. I almost felt like I could have saved a real human if I needed to. I probably could have if I had paid attention instead of just checking GameFaqs for the answers. So I was pretty disappointed when it came time for the field test and all I had to do was go up and press a button to fix up the casualties. All of that effort of alt-tabbing and looking for a FAQ with the test answers, all gone to waste, it seemed.
The training did end up coming in handy, though. Eventually after enough basic training I was deemed worthy by America’s Army of playing online with other human beings, or “in the stuff,” as us hardened veterans call it. It wasn’t long into my first mission before a teammate next to me cried out for a medic, which was me. He was a mess. He had been hit and it was bad. A heads-up-display told me he was in the RED, which meant he was probably mere seconds away from bleeding to death. But for some reason I couldn’t figure out what to do. Even in a damn video game all the best laid plans and training go right the hell out the window the second the bullets start flying.
And they were flying all around us while I was pressing all sorts of buttons, accidentally throwing down my weapon, putting my binoculars on, bringing up a large map to look at, trying everything I could think of just to help this guy. I could have sworn his character model took on a pleading look in his eyes. What do I do? What’s that damn button? GOD DAMNIT, SOMEBODY, THIS MAN’S DYING, I just wanted the co-Oh right the “Use” key. There you go pal, all patched up and good as new. He thanked me with a “Hooah!” and stood up ready to charge forward again, filled with renewed vigor, then took a round from a sniper rifle right in his hecking heart. I’ll never forget the look on his primitively textured face.
I guess in war you might end up having to fight alongside some jackasses. But war is war and we’re all buddies in war, even Texas.Lawman.357, who first made his presence known to the squad with a joke:
“me neither LOL. Any wimmenz here?”
He truly lived up to his name, so much that I expected Trivette to pull up in the jeep at any moment, needing his help to solve a mystery or bust a drug ring or whatnot. It bothered me later on, though, when he was trying to get people to talk to him, and he said his TeamSpeak server was 9mm.somethingorother. I just wish he’d pick a caliber and stick with it already. You can’t just have both.
America’s Army has a curious feature: whether you pick offense or defense, the mission briefing always refers to the other side as terrorists and the player will always see himself and his allies as U.S. soldiers and the enemy as brown men in black ski masks. First of all, that makes camouflage pointless if everyone who is going to be seeing you see’s you as a black ninja. So the game deceives you by making you think you’re wearing desert fatigues or whatever, when you’re actually standing out like a sore thumb. Maybe that’s just real army training for being told you’re wearing protective gear that’s actual some flimsy bullet attracting stuff.
Second of all, the army seems to be sending some conflicting messages here. According to them, we’re the good guys and all those terrorists out there kept awake at night by the thought that we’re just too damn free need to be found and killed immediately. But according to the army’s video game, everyone is a terrorist in the right situation and to the right people. Yes, even your mother is a terrorist if the retrieval of her delicious home cooked muffins are determined to be critical to national security (she would be defense in that situation). So, which is it, army? Who is the bad guy? Mom and her hired private military company, or the army seeking her tasty home baked treats? Or is everyone the bad guy? In which case, the only way to win America’s Army is to not play at all. I like to win, so I’ll do that.