America's Army invades Xbox

Shooter produced by Ubisoft and US Army makes console debut on Xbox; PlayStation 2 version peeling potatoes until Q1 2006.

The first America's Army game made national headlines when it was announced in 2002 not only because it was being given away for free and cost $7 million to make, but also because it was a revolutionary way to recruit young PC gamers into the armed forces. However, it was the game's actual play that made news with gamers.

Originally thought of as a simple recruiting gimmick, the game soon proved to be an ample shooter, besting some of its competition in the squad-based shooter genre. Ubisoft recognized this, and in 2004 it signed a deal with the Army to bring the franchise to consoles.

The first of the collaborations between Ubisoft and the Army is now battle-ready and available in stores for the Xbox. America's Army: Rise of a Soldier stresses realism and teaches gamers the same tactics that the military uses. The game was developed by San Francisco, California-based Secret Level, which also worked on the decidedly unmilitaristic Karaoke Revolution.

Gamers will create a new recruit and lead him through the Army chain of command by progressing through the career mode. When soldiers successfully complete objectives and save their skins, they'll earn experience points, which they can use to ramp up their skills. At first, recruits will start out as part of a squad. But as they advance, they'll eventually work their ways up to being in charge of their own squads so they can issue orders instead of taking them. Rise of a Soldier also supports multiplayer battles for up to 16 players over Xbox Live.

While the Xbox version has completed training, the PlayStation 2 edition seems to be stuck in boot camp. Both versions were originally scheduled for release this past summer, but both were pushed back, with the PS2 version slated for a December release as recently as last week. Now it appears the PS2 game needs more training and will be released in the first quarter of 2006.

America's Army: Rise of a Soldier is rated T for Teen and retails for $49.99.

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