China trains soldiers in a homegrown version of Call of Duty
But gamers think Strong Army puts patriotism over substance
A new Chinese PC game tasks players with defending the South China Sea by blowing up US aircraft carriers.
Strong Army, still in development by Nanjing QiangJun Network, is similar to the Call of Duty or Battlefield games, featuring first-person shooting alongside missions set in vehicles -- like one in a Chinese fighter jet. It even features the country’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
Sounds like something gamers in China might dig, right? Nope -- the game is being fiercely criticized, and among the things bothering them is the game’s shameless patriotism: The Chinese name of the game, Qiangjun, is taken from President Xi’s recent slogan of delivering “China’s dream of building a powerful military.”
It’s also being criticized for feeling like a low-budget title. Gamers claim it was made almost entirely with pre-made 3D models available for purchase from the online store for Unity -- a gaming engine often used by indie developers.
“These trees all look the same. They are straight from the rainforest pack from Unity,” one gamer wrote.
“Oh, you can drive your jet right through an island. The island is just a skin with no actual mass. Good game,” another wrote.
It’s led players to accuse the game of simply trying to capitalize on patriotism. “But with such inferior quality, they are just giving Chinese games a bad rep. Shame on them,” one said.
But patriotism may give the game a market of sorts with an apparently unlikely source: China’s military.
The National University of Defense Technology said a version of the game, designed for the military, will be used as a training tool in shooting classes. Soldiers will be playing it with virtual reality headsets and guns.
It’s not a new thing for the military either: They used to use a version of Counter-Strike to train.
But the drama doesn’t end there with this game.
Right before beta testing was about to begin on Steam, the page for Strong Army disappeared. Developers then announced on social media that “the game did not pass [Steam’s] review because its content was considered sensitive… as it allows China’s Dongfeng missiles to strike US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers”.
They later added, somewhat sarcastically, “Americans can blow up whatever they want. Yet we Chinese can’t be blowing up the Americans. Our launch date coincides with US Memorial Day. So it’s gotten all the more sensitive.”
But when gamers pressed the developers for evidence of such accusation, the company evaded the question.
It is worth noting that Western games have featured China as an antagonist before: Battlefield 4, to name one, sees players fighting Chinese forces in the South China Sea. Other games have featured other real-world countries as enemies, including Russia and North Korea.
As for Strong Army, the beta was later launched from a temporary domestic server, before quietly reappearing on Steam.