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The Slacker's Guide - So Long, America's Army

by Chris Barylick
May 1st, 2006

One Last Go on the Mac: America's Army
When Epic programmer Ryan Gordon announced on his .plan file this week that future versions of America's Army for the Mac would be discontinued, I had mixed emotions about the decision. Entirely his to make, Gordon had been putting out the updates to the free video game for a while now on his own time, and ultimately at his own expense since the Army had cut funding for the Mac and Linux versions of the game, and GameSpy had increased the rates to use their multiplayer game matching client. Still, the game has been free, fun and it's hard to let something like this go, even if the reasons behind the change are perfectly logical.

And it does make sense. No matter how much you care about something or try to keep it afloat, other parties need to lend their efforts, especially where time and finances are concerned. Over the years, Ryan Gordon has poured his heart into his work, ensuring that projects such as Unreal Tournament and its updates have gone smoothly. This is his work and whenever corporate support for a game or upcoming project seemed weak, Gordon seemed able to pick up the work load of a small programming team to make it happen.


Advancing behind cover in America's Army.

When America's Army debuted in 2002, it was followed by a fair and understandable amount of controversy. The game was and currently is part of the Army's recruitment package, something the military uses to reach out to potential recruits to inform them as to what life in the Army is like. From there, it sought to combine a conventional first person shooter game with more realistic elements such as improved physics, better smoke effects and full environmental elements (a bullet that flies by your character's head will ring in your ears).

To its credit, the game provided consequences for your actions. Your character wasn't invincible and a bullet to the leg would make movement lag. Nearby impacts or shrapnel could stun and/or kill the character and repeated instances of friendly fire from your part would result in nothing less than a comfy cell in a military prison.

Not a terrible use of marketing money, even if it drilled home the point that if I did joined the Marines, I probably wouldn't wind up fighting a giant lava monster with a sword as the commercials of yesteryear seemed to promise.

I was really hoping to fight a giant lava monster with a sword.

Politics, recruiting efforts and an entirely debatable war aside, America's Army has its merits not only as a free first person shooter with a modern feature set but also as a role playing title of sorts. Players gain additional abilities as well as access to new weapons and multiplayer stages/scenarios as they go through training. Finish basic weapons familiarization at a designated proficiency, and sniper training opens up. Complete this and sniper weapons become available in conventional gameplay via the weapons selection menu. Similar abilities can also be gained through completion of the Rangers and Special Forces training scenarios.

America's Army isn't the be-all and end-all of first person shooter games on the Mac, nor did it ever claim to be. Still, it's fun to sit down and try to work on a new ability, try a new map or go back to a favorite game mode. Put the semi-jingoistic feel of the training missions aside and the game becomes genuinely fun, even if the cathartic joy of being killed and leaping back into the game to exact revenge is toned down by having to wait until the round ends, á la Counterstrike.


Examining the scene from a sniper's scope.

America's Army will live on in a playable format for the Mac thanks to Boot Camp and native-speed Windows XP emulation. The current 2.6 version can be downloaded, and version 2.7, which will feature radical new changes to the graphics engine as well as other elements of the game, should be released sometime this year. The game requires a 700 MHz or faster G4 processor, 256 megabytes of RAM (512 recommended), a GeForce 4 or Radeon 8500 graphics card and one gigabyte of hard drive space. The game can be downloaded courtesy of Macgamefiles.com via this link and a patch to resolve login issues can be found courtesy of Versiontracker.com.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,

.

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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