Peace Time: September 8, 2003

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Noting that the troops spend a lot of time playing video games, the U.S. Army set out to create a squad training simulation that would run on XBox. Starting in 2000, they hired video games developer Pandemic to create "Full Spectrum Warrior" (FSW). A commercial version will be available in early 2004, although current plans are for both the military and commercial versions to ship on the same CD. This way, civilians can experience the more realistic, but less "fun" military version (which has strictly realistic ammo loads and time durations for battlefield procedures). The game will have online multiplayer capabilities. The artificial intelligence of the enemy force appears to be pretty realistic and deadly, but a final opinion on that has to wait until lots of players (military and civilian) get to use the game. 

Compared to your usual video game, the military version of FSW will kind of drag along at times. It can take a minute or more for troops to do some things, like move to another position or use a smoke grenade (it takes nearly a minute for the smoke screen to form.) The player assumes the role of the squad leader, and uses the video game controller to intuitively give battlefield type commands to the two team leaders or, if need be, individual troops. The use of the game controller and the game software is pretty intuitive, allowing the player to handle a real time battlefield game without the game controls getting in the way. 

The troops use the same drills and tactics taught to U.S. Army infantrymen today. The game is quite effective in showing users how well trained combat troops are supposed to move. One reason the army put over a million dollars into FSW is the program, begun in 2002, to improve the combat skills of non-combat troops. FSW appeared to be a painless way to expose these clerks, mechanics, cooks and office workers what they should do when under fire. There will be scenarios in the game covering situations where non-combat troops will have to fight. Many non-combat units are informally organized into squad sized units and often have machine-guns assigned as well. But unless the non-combat troops take the machine-guns and assault rifles out of the arms room regularly and practice, it does them little good to be armed.

 The initial batch of scenarios involve going after irregular type troops in Middle Eastern locations. By using the XBox, the players get photo realistic graphics and equally realistic sound. The army worked closely with the developers to make sure that the game was extremely realistic. The game will available free to anyone in the army (active and reserve). A study will be done to see if  troops who used the game heavily became more expert at battlefield tactics. Troops regularly run realistic training exercises using "laser tag" equipment to provide realistic battlefield conditions, and non-combat troops will be tested as well. It's also hoped that the commercial version might help recruiting. 

 


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