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'America's Army' to upgrade this year

This week, the U.S. Army announced that the much-anticipated America's Army 3 would be released sometime this year, however it hasn't stated exactly when.

I haven't seriously played America's Army in about three years. By "seriously," I mean I was once obsessed, played as much as I could, and felt like I couldn't get enough. It was kind of a precursor to World of Warcraft for me.

I remember one week coming down with a really bad case of the flu and staying home from work for five straight days. That week was a highlight for me with this game, and it was then that I fell in love with levels like Pipeline and Bridge.

As good as the setting looks, I'm much more excited about how new and creative the level design may be. U.S. Army

Since then, I've only played every few months when a new patch releases. But news released this week could bring me back more frequently. The U.S. Army announced that the much-anticipated America's Army 3 would be released sometime this year, however it hasn't stated exactly when.

America's Army is a free, downloadable, first-person shooter for the PC and Mac. The game was first released in 2002 using the original Unreal engine. Since then, the game has received numerous updates and upgrades, including new levels, weapons, and gameplay features.

In the game, you take on the control of a soldier in the U.S. Army. Most of the missions are based around team-based multiplayer action and are usually of the assault-and-defend variety.

Before you're able to access certain features in the game, you'll have to pass tests based on actual Army training. For example, before you're allowed to use a sniper rifle, you must reach a high score in sniper training.

The new upcoming version of the game will be using Unreal Engine 3, so a complete graphics overhaul is expected. The Army has also announced a new Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) (yes, I had to look that up) for a combat medic. With this training, players will be able to administer treatment to minor and major injuries in single-player training missions and apply advanced medical aid in multiplayer missions.

In future patches, players who complete Combat Engineer training will be able to assist in mission preplanning, such as placing obstacles to impede the mobility of enemy forces.

Another new feature will allow players to quickly join online games with limited capabilities using the "instant action" feature.

What originally got me excited about this game was that you could actually make use of your surroundings in unique ways. You can take cover behind a bombed-out car--and have that move actually be effective--or use a vent or underground passage to reach an objective, rather than come through the front door.

Hmm, just thinking about it makes me miss it. Hopefully, AA3 has the same cool level design as its predecessors.