America's Army tries to be that little bit more realistic than your average shooter. But some things are in games to make them more intuitive and enjoyable to play. Crosshairs, for example. Unrealistic, but useful.
You don't have a white icon telling you where you're pointing your gun in real life. But without crosshairs, how awkward would aiming Master Chief's Battle Rifle be? How would you have coped in Half Life 2? Would you have survived the armies of enemies in Call of Duty games? Crosshairs are your friend, but America's Army dumps them. We can deal with that. You do get used to the absence of the little white marker, and you can always pull the gun up to eye level to use the sight.
We got more annoyed with the 'realistic' reload times, which take forever. There's no
automatic reloading either, and everyone forgets to do it now and then. Your player will take his time pulling out a clip, slipping a new one back in, banging it in securely and fiddling with a couple of switches. While he's doing that you're gritting your teeth and yanking the R-trigger in desperation for the bloke to just shoot the DAMN GUN!
Although annoying, the realism of America's Army doesn't stop it from being highly playable, unlike other hardcore sims, where 'realistic' basically means 'impossible'. Levels take you through a mix of empty, Middle-Eastern urban environments, open fields, underground tunnels and indoor complexes. It's the sort of solid tactical shooter action we know so well.
You progress through missions as part of a team, and they hold your hand every step of the way. They watch your back while you watch theirs, and move strategically through buildings and open enemy-infested lands. Your allies tell you where to stand, and waypoint markers give you an extra hint when you seem confused. Hold on... waypoint
markers? We've never seen any giant yellow stars hovering just off the ground in real life. It makes the game's slightly annoying efforts to be realistic appear a little bit inconsistent.
The game also swallows its geek-like simulation pride by adopting an auto-sighting system. When you aim in the direction of an enemy soldier the game will lock onto them, placing a red dot over their head. Hold the L-trigger to look down the sight of your gun and the game will pull your aim in his direction. All you have to do is refine your targeting while battling with the breathing movements of your soldier, and take a shot.
Surely that's not realistic either. But at the end of the day it's intuitive and makes for a highly playable game. We just wish they'd realized that when they killed the crosshair.
Not the best out there, but a competent and playable shooter, with a large variety of cool missions and decent visuals.