Army of Two Xbox 360, PS3
Games with a cooperative focus are few and far between. It’s a mode that really should be included in a lot of the games out there on the shelves, yet for some reason the developers don’t want to include the feature. Nothing can beat the feeling of accomplishing the achievement of beating a level together with a mate sat next to you, or a friend online. It’s a shame that something like this is so overlooked, so it was great to hear that EA would be working on a new franchise that specifically was focused on cooperative gameplay. The game would be known as Army of Two. The title pretty much says it all. It’s a third person shooter that is heavily based on cooperative gaming for two players that sees you take control of two soldiers.
The story behind Army of Two is one that will almost certainly seem familiar. It starts of back in 1993 where you take control of Elliott Salem and Tyson Rios, two guys who are part of the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment. After successfully carrying out the mission, these guys along with their Lieutenant Colonel get invited into a private military contractor group known as the Security and Strategy Corporation (SSC). Having a successful number of jobs under their belt over the years, Salem and Rios have become extremely experienced, just in time because September 11 2001 has just happened and someone wants them to kill some terrorists that belong to an all notorious group known as Al Qaeda. From there the story is about blowing stuff up, killing terrorists, evil traitors and sometimes maybe saving someone, yep, just the norm you hear about in video game wars nowadays.
Just to put emphasize on cooperative play. The game features a play mechanic called the Aggro Metre. The general idea of this is that whichever player seems to be firing off the most, no matter what or how, the enemies will be attracted more to that player than the guy who is shooting less. Let’s just name our soldiers for a second. The noisy soldier will be called Mr. N and our sneaky soldier Mr. S. Mr. N goes all hardcore screaming and shouting blasting bullets everywhere like no tomorrow while Mr. S is sitting their enjoying the war ravaged view. As the Aggro metre builds up Mr. N is annoying a lot of enemies. They all turn and focus on him leaving Mr. S all giggly and happy as he turns transparent and can move around more freely without alerting enemies. That’s what the Aggro Metre is. This is the major gameplay focus of Army of Two. It comes in handy most of the time when you seem to be having problems in sections, it works surprisingly well within the game, maybe too well. It does feel like an overpowering move, but yet at the same time you are happy that you’ve got that ability because it just makes the game fun, and that’s what you and your friend want to feel while playing a game like this together.
There’s a bit more to the Aggro Metre than just that though. If a player manages to max out one side of the bar then he will be able to initiate “Overkill” mode. This makes the attacking player go into a bullet time effect, where he dishes out more damage on his foes. The other player will be practically unnoticeable and will be able to go around smacking people in the face without much of a problem. While the Aggro Metre is the main attraction, there are other features that will come in handy in your war against the terrorists. Stuff like co-op snipe, where you both equip your sniper rifles and the screen splits into 2 views. The bottom is split again with both players’ aiming reticules, while the top half is the normal view of the battlefield. The rest of the skills are things that help each other, like reaching higher places or pulling wounded partners into safety to heal them. Oh and not to forget the awesome shield protection, where one uses something to block shots while the other dude hangs right behind him popping over the shield to give a “BOOM! HEAD SHOT!” to some unlucky victim. The game really does make you feel like you are working with someone, and that’s pretty uncommon in this day and age.
Speaking of booms and headshots, the enemies in the game will take a fair amount of bullets unless you pop them in the head. It might be because they are two of you working together, so EA Montreal probably thought it was a good idea to make the enemies take bullets as if they were bodies of steel. It doesn’t affect you to the point where they will kill you a lot, well not till the last mission anyway. It’s just annoying and can be frustrating on the later levels where you sit there pumping all this lead into them. It’s a point just to get across so you know that this game is more on the side of arcade than realism.
As you know the game is very heavily focused on the co-operative aspect. Just so you know, you can play the game by yourself too. The other player will be replaced by a computer controlled A.I. “OH DEAR!” I hear you all cry as you all sit their wondering if it’s actually any good, or if it’s just another drunken hobo that just spoils the fun. It’s kind of a mixture of both, but probably safer to say that it’s actually alright. To be honest though this is a game that most of you will be interested in for the co-op play and will probably never play it by yourself, unless you are an achievement whore. That’s probably good because that’s what it’s really for, playing with friends. If you do ever go play it single though, expect the A.I to make some mistakes occasionally. One point I had my A.I partner think he was some sort of Captain Speirs from Band of Brothers as he wouldn’t stop dragging my body across the floor as people fired all over the place at me, the crazy git.
Progression through Army of Two is straight forward. The layouts of the maps are rather linear and you can’t wander off the path too much. The in game GPS system puts down an arrow on the floor showing you which way to go, so you can never get angry for getting lost as it’s impossible to do so. Missions are placed around the levels for you to accomplish, some are part of the story while others are optional. Completing these tasks nets you a lump of money that you can spend in the shops on better weapons.
Weapons are broken down in to certain categories. You can carry one of each of the follow categories; these are primary, secondary and special weapons. Once you’ve earned enough hard cash you can visit the weapon store and buy new or upgrade equipped weapons. The upgrades are both stat based and visual based, so if you buy a new barrel for your gun, you’ll see it on the model. It’s pretty cool feature to see all the models of the guns get upgraded; there are some beasties in there.
One thing I don’t like about the whole weapon store is the amount of loading you have to go through. It must be because they use the game’s graphic engine to show the models of the guns in the weapon shops, but for whatever reason it has to load every time you click on a category of weapon. The game allows you to access the shop through the main menu, or if you are playing the game, when you hit certain checkpoints in the level. From there it loads to the weapon menu, then it loads either yours or the other players weapons (if you are playing with someone else) then you have to select the type of dealer you want to buy from (each dealer is basically a category) and then it loads the guns after that. Oh once you done with that section and feel like you want to go and buy from a different dealer, yep you got it, you’ve got to go back to the dealer page and then load the other dealer up. There’s way too much loading for something as simple as that. They must have been a way to avoid this because the loading isn’t like a second, it’s more than that.
Army of Two isn’t a mammoth of a game. The story mode can be finished in around six to seven hours. There are three difficulties to play through; the third is unlocked after beating the game for the first time. They are unlockables to get from beating those modes, so it’s rewarding if you want to play through the game again, plus you’ll be netting achievement points too on the 360 version. They are 1000 points spread across 37 achievements to gain from the game. A lot of them are story focused, while a few others are for the multiplayer. It doesn’t seem too hard to get a high amount from the game, so point whores will no doubt lap that up.
The cooperative aspect has somehow managed to weave its way into the multiplayer side of Army of Two. Battles are fought with two teams of two. You can either invite someone online or even have a guest account, so you can play split screen online with a friend. Money is the key to winning online as whoever has the most of it at the end of the game wins the match. You gain money by doing certain objectives that are given to you. It boils down to killing things, planting things or shooting people. It’s a fun extra but it’s also a game mode that you won’t stick with for long as it can get old. It would have been even more hectic if it had the ability to add even more teams into the equation, this no doubt will come in a sequel. It is EA we are talking about after all.
Army of Two is on both PS3 and Xbox 360. It’s yet another game that uses the Unreal Engine 3. The game is graphically nice to look at in places, but it kind of suffers in the level design department. It feels pretty generic till you get to the later levels, which feature an aircraft carrier and a flooded city, the second half of the game is much more inspired than the first. Both systems handle the game well and it’s hard to really notice the difference. It seemed that the PS3 version had somewhat longer loading times and a bit more overused bloom effect, with the framerate handled consistently well on both systems. Sound work is high-quality as well with a good soundtrack to boot. The voice over work is pretty good, although sometimes Mr Salem can sound like he lost his balls as he comes out with some phrases that seem to make his voice sound a little different. Just listen for the one in the cut scene at the army base as they make their way in the 4×4 to the plane.
People who look into Army of Two really need to make sure that they plan to play it with some mates. As a game by itself it kind of feels empty and soulless. Get a mate to join with you and that is forgotten as the fun level rises considerably. It’s not a bad game in single player, but you feel as if it really was meant for humans and not COMs to play with you. It’s a shame the game isn’t longer because the levels really do start to get better as you progress. Like I mentioned before there’s no doubt that EA will get a sequel on the way which will make all those things wrong hopefully corrected right. They’ve got a good idea for a franchise here and should just keep at it and improve on what they have started. For us players we can enjoy a fun game to play with mates, OoAHH!