Review: Army of Two
You would see the biggest gift would be from me and the card attached would say….
Bloody hellâ€¦ I remember reading about this in the summer of 2006 a few months before I bought my 360. At the time it seemed like a fairly original concept. A fully co-op based action game where the two players relied as much on tactical play as they did on their ability to shoot straight. Of course, just a few months later Gears of War came along and won the hearts and minds of almost every 360 owner.
Not all of them though. At least not me. Sure I thoroughly enjoyed playing it on ‘insane’ in co-op mode but then I’m a sucker for co-op stuff but the deathmatch modes literally made me physically sick every time I played them. Whiners, glitchers and ignorant motherfuckers all rushing for the same sniper rifle whilst shouting absurdly racist insults at each other. Thanks, but I’d rather play Jumper. Jumper? Thanks, I’d rather play the ‘Let’s drink bleach’ game.
And you know what. Fuck me because it was obvious that Army of Two was just Gears of War in a different setting but I’ve been really looking forward to this game. The first trailer video looked amazing with the two playable characters kicking over a table and using it for cover and then one of them being dragged along after he’d been shot. I loved it. It actually looked pretty innovative.
So, about a decade or two after it was first announced, EA have finally released the game and the good news is that it doesn’t suck horribly. Equally though it’s really nothing special. A theme that seems to echo through every aspect of the game.
p>In order to get it out of the way, I’ll quickly let you know about the story. Feel free to make a cup of tea and mentally block out the following few sentences. Rios and Salem are two soldiers who encounter a completely hateful twat called Clyde. Clyde is a mercenary who is rather excellent at killing people. Even though he’s constantly rude to them, Rios and Salem decide to become mercenaries also. The rest of the game plays out various missions that Rios and Salem undertake in the early 2000s to the backdrop of various conflicts (Afghanistan, Iraq) and places relevant to the utterly irrelevant plot.
Gripping stuff indeed. Now because this is an EA game, developed by their studio in Montreal, the already dumbed down plot is dumbed down even further with the inclusion of tragically over-the-top sweary dialogue. Adult language clearly aimed at children. Quite how EA have restrained themselves from putting Rammstein on the soundtrack I really can’t imagine.
So, snidey comments aside how does it play? Well, as promised, the game is entirely based around co-op. This can be done using an AI partner (not recommended) or an online buddy. Step forward Mark. Peoww’s two-reviewer policy comes in a treat. Anyway, each scenario in Army of Two can be approached in various ways from all-out assault, sneakiness or a combination of the two. It’s the combination where the co-op mechanic comes into play.
The game uses the awfully named ‘Aggro’ system. As one of the mercenaries shoots at the enemy he becomes more noticeable (literally glowing red) whilst the other player becomes less visible and can sneak around behind enemy. It’s a nice way of doing things and encourages good communications and tactical thinking from both players.
Other aspects of the co-op gameplay are using leg-ups to clear obstacles, dragging a wounded partner into cover in order to heal them (they can still shoot at the time which is makes these moments especially entertaining), hiding behind shields, going back-to-back and parachute drops (one player steers, the other snipes). These all work to varying degrees but are mostly good inclusions but other moments where the two players pull down parts of the scenery or smash open doors feel a little bit disjointed as they work as short cut-scenes which means you don’t really feel involved.
Aside from your main objectives, there are plenty of sub-objectives which can earn the mercenaries money. This money can then be spent on weaponary thanks to a selection of stereotypical arms dealers. There is a fairly wide choice of weapons although these just break down into the usual groups of pistols, rifles, SMGs and shotguns. These can all be upgraded to a degree but the customisations aren’t particularly satisfying, certainly not as satisfying as the upgrades in say Resi 4.
Oh, your guns can also be ‘blinged’ up. Jesus.
Well EA have gone on record as saying that they want AoT to become a viable competitor for M$’s own Gear of War franchise and on the whole they’ve succeeded.
Sure the common EA complaint of patronising ‘tips’ is in full force but thankfully EA Trax is nowhere to be seen or more importantly heard. The production values are high across the board as is the amount of American jingoism on display, but once you rub off the venire of HD graphics and ‘edgy’ dialogue you’ll find a solid tactical shooter to play.
Sure it’s not without problems like the team mate AI trying to drag you through a war zone to heal you or a flaky cover system or even something as simple as not being able to switch what shoulder you look over so god help you if you need to use a right hand wall for cover.
Where this game really comes into its own is in co-op mode where you’ll find yourself performing synchronised head shoots with your team mate or providing cover fire whilst he flanks enemies dug in behind cover thanks to the ‘Aggro’ system ripped off from Brothers in Arms. It’s not as good as GoW or a more strategic shooter like GRAW2 but as a mix of both it’s well worth a look if your bored of killing Locust hordes or even Mexican rebels.
Secondary Score: 7/10
The game isn’t huge, there are only six levels (and a training level) but they are quite substantial and the game encourages replayibility to a degree (wellâ€¦ if you’re an achievement whore it does). The levels aren’t massively interesting with the usual military bases and urban warzones to fight through but they do present a decent challenge and are enjoyable enough to play through. The occasional spark of creativity shines through (such as the superb aircraft carrier level) but for the most part this is just another third person grind. Less cinematic than Gears of War but just as ordinary.
Graphically things are, as expected, a mixed bag. Everything looks functional enough. The characters are detailed without looking incredible, the levels are clean but not particularly detailed and there is a bit more colour dashed around than in Gears but then that’s also true of the average crossword puzzle. There are some highlights though especially the water effects (beautiful) and some of the parachuting sections.
Sound is the suitably explosive but marred, of course, by stupidly jingoistic voice acting. At least the game stops short of using some awful nu-metal soundtrack though and, if I’m being brutally honest, the ridiculously stupid dialogue did occasionally raise a chuckle from both of us.
I can only recommend Army of Two if you’ve got a willing partner to play through it with you. If you can, and if you don’t take it too seriously, there is a good honest chunk of co-op fun to be had. In pure shoot em up terms, it’s probably more satisfying and immediate than Gears of War but there isn’t that much here to keep your interest and that’s probably the game’s biggest problem. Expect it to sell loads thanks to EA’s marketing machine but don’t expect it to score highly in any end of year award polls. Well, at least not those that EA’s money can influence.