Army of Two Initial Impressions

Mar 4, 2008

In the future the armed forces are no longer controlled by governments, they’re controlled by private corporations. A lot of hype surrounded the game’s release last November before it was delayed. I spent the last few hours playing the campaign with an AI teammate as unfortunately pretty much nobody had the game tonight.

Visually AO2 is well done. It doesn’t do anything extremely well but it gets it done for a next gen title. The character models for Salem and Rios are very well detailed from body to face scratches. The masks the AO2 boys wear are pretty intimidating as well and there’s a ton of them to buy. The frame rate remains pretty constant as well throughout the experience. The environments themselves aren’t anything you haven’t already seen before but the locales never get boring visually. From the story, I can easily see why early reviews with the game toned up on language may have been a disaster about killing a-rabs because quite frankly, that is what the game is about. I have to admit seeing one of the characters watch 9/11 in one of the opening cut scenes for a mission headed for Afghanistan did feel awkward. That is much pretty the story line here. You’ll travel for terrorist hot bed to terrorist hot bed and kill. The enemies don’t vary much between assault rifle wielder, suicide bombers, and a few heavily armored enemies.

I am having a ton of fun with the game play of AO2. It’s far from perfect but it is something that at the least feels different even if it isn’t. The shooting mechanics are pretty nice and do not feel as stiff as they looked in some of the videos for this title. Although bear in mind, this is not CoD4 level accuracy of realism when it comes to gun play. It feels very much more like Mercenaries. The first few levels serve as the training ground and while these first levels are okay the action doesn’t really get intense until the 3rd and 4th levels Iraq and a mission where you have to over take a US aircraft carrier which is overrun by terrorists. Playing with the AI up to this point has been sufficient but I’ll be honest, at least the difficulty I played on the AI was pretty terrible and I did most of the work myself. If you have another human friend playing with you online I would definitely recommend starting at a higher difficulty or else the game may be way too easy. In the later levels when things intensify however the enemy AI does lack and you are out gunned and this became especially apparent on the carrier where there is little to no cover.

Enemy AI however actually managed to surprise me. It’s quite good and the enemy recognizes when and where to take cover and overall does one of the better jobs I have seen at making use of the environment in a game. The game’s squad based controls for two people are also very nicely done and easy to use. Tapping the direction key sends an order on what to do such as advance, hold position, or regroup. Double tapping the direction will also change between aggressive and passive modes which governs how much attention your teammate is going to draw. As many of you know there’s a balance between aggro and stealth that a tandem can use. Aggro is the amount of attention enemies pay to you. The more you have it the more you get shot at and the more likely it is you’re going to die. To counter balance that however, your partner becomes invisible to enemies for a short time while you are in aggro. The whole concept of the game is to draw fire and flank with your team mate. It’s a very simple premise, but a ton of fun and easily executed. When playing with the AI I let him be the bullet magnet while I stealthed my away around enemies for kills. It’s pretty satisfying to me and never got old coming around a group of enemies and unloading. One thing I must point out is that with the buying system of weapons which I will explain below there is no picking up of weapons even though during boss battles (of which there seem to be one terror leader per level) is using a special weapon. For example, the boss of the Somalia opening level was using the gold AK47 we have seen so much of. You work hard to kill him and you can’t pick up his gun. Enemies thankfully however do seem to drop ammo in droves. The cover system is a little buggy and uses the Y button solely to either slide up against cover or jump over it. Yes, that is the problem. Sometimes you’ll mean to be hopping into cover and instead will end up jumping over it. With experience though you do fix that problem.

AO2 does a good job as well of breaking up the monotony of running from scenario to scenario killing all the bad guys and moving on. Sometimes you will open a door and be surrounded by enemies which will trigger a back to back sequence in which a bullet time mode is turned on and you can just unload into a ton of enemies. There are also some portions where you will be parachuting into scenarios and from the ground enemies will fire rockets and sniper bullets at you and your lone defense is a sniper rifle while your buddy vehicles the parachute. These mechanics can be very Ace and Gary at times but they do work pretty well and are fun. The health and healing process is also pretty revolutionary and something I liked and seemed to fit the game. When you or your partner dies you must drag them to safety while still shooting at enemies. Once at safety you can press A to revive them. Wait too long to revive them or die yourself and it’s game over. This leads into another positive point for the game. The game auto saves in just the right places after the right battles so you’ll rarely die and have to go through a ton of fighting over again.

Another primary feature of the game is the fact you get money for completing objectives both main and side. With this money you are able to buy new weapons and armor at certain checkpoints throughout the game. You are taken to a screen where four very from the movie stereotypical people sell you guns. The African warlord sells assault rifles. The gangster from NYC sells handguns and uzis. The chinese guy with a glass eye sells “special weapons” such as an RPG. And last but certainly not least, a guy from Ukraine sells armor upgrades. It’s not the deepest gun customization in a game ever but I found myself previewing almost everything with the money I had earned to buy the perfect combo of damage and accuracy. For example I bought a C2 assault rifle, upgraded the magazine to a 60 bullet clip and added a group for added accuracy. Each gun has its own special set of customization and one thing I liked is that each gun lets you get a little arcadey with attributes but you can never make a rail gun for example with sniper rifle accuracy. Of course, if you have the extra cash laying around you can bling your weapons in gold or platinum depending on the weapon. I stared at the gold RPG launcher for a while but at a quarter mill decided to move on.

I know IGN gave this game a 7.9 and I have only played a few hours not touching the online co-op and multiplayer aspects yet. But I do feel this game is better than a 7.9 and definitely worth people at the least giving it a rent to play with their friends. It is a blast to play. The game knows what it is and tries not to take itself too seriously despite being a commandos versus terrorists 3rd person cover shooter. This is one of those sleeper games that should not be overlooked.

Tags: army of two, Electronic Arts, PS3, Xbox 360