Mar 11, 2008
Once in a great while a game comes along that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does add the 20 inch rims and makes people think, “Hey, how come nobody thought of that before?”. Army of Two is definitely one of those games. Third person shooters with a cover system have been done time and time again but never once has a game focused on taking advantage of the fact that most gamers nowadays would prefer to play socially by inventing gameplay specifically tailored for cooperative play. In this regard Army of Two is a pioneer in the industry.
Army of Two follows the story of Salem and Rios, two mercenaries who in the future work for the now privatized military. Rios and Salem don’t take themselves too seriously as you’ll be able to do things like high five your partner when they do something right and slap them across the face when almost get you both killed. They are sent from mission to mission with one goal in mind, complete the objective of killing off various terrorist leaders in exchange for large sums of money. The campaign mode will have you spanning 6 levels and should take approximately 8 to 10 hours on average. The environments in these levels are very diverse from the desserts of Iraq to the rich foliage of China. You certainly will not feel like you are looking at the same textures over and over again. Play models for Rios and Salem are extremely detailed. The only area of repetition however is in the enemies. There seem to be a few type of enemies depending on the stage and it is wave after wave of that enemy without much variation. Despite this, the game is visually pleasing and provides for a very stable experience graphically. Explosions in the game are also very satisfying. In certain portions of the game helicopters will attack and you will be given the opportunity to shoot them down. For a visual treat and not to mention some added cash I suggest you try it.
Army of Two sets itself apart from other games in the design and gameplay department. The design concept is quite simple and one that most all skilled players attempt to use in any multiplayer shooter. One player grabs the AI’s fire while the other becomes temporarily invisible and flanks the AI. This tactic is commonly used in multiplayer shooters but never has it been implemented successfully in a campaign mode experience such as this. As you draw more fire you gain aggro which is how angry your enemies are with you. The more aggro you gain, the more likely it is you are going to die so you must depend on your teammate to do some damage. Maintain enough aggro for a certain period of time and you can engage overkill by pressing A when prompted. This will slow down time and increase your damage two fold which becomes imparative when dealing with multiple enemies on screen which Army of Two does a great job of. There can be at some point what seems like 20 to 30 enemies on screen at one time.
The cover system in the game works sufficiently well but there are some areas that could have used a little bit more polish. For example, you can slide up against almost any subject to automatically take cover by pressing Y. However, sometimes I found myself trying to lean up against a boulder for cover and instead of leaning I would vault over it. It wasn’t anything to detract significantly away from the experience, but those expecting a flawless system should beware. While the game was obviously meant to be played cooperative with a friend the enemy AI and control wheel while alone work surprisingly well when giving commands. A simple tap on the d pad issues an order to hold, advance, or regroup. A second tap changes the color of each order to denote an aggressive or passive stance. This leads to some interesting strategy choices in fire fights where you will need to plan ahead to succeed. For example, you will face heavy armored foes which can only be killed from behind. Based on this, you will need to tap the d pad to tell your AI teammate to shoot to draw the enemy’s attention while you sneak and go in for the kill. While your enemy AI is great at taking orders he’s not such a great shot. Shooting sequences are broken up nicely by parachute or hang glider portions. Also, you’ll be speeding around one level in a hover craft James Bond style. The campaign is made much more enjoyable by playing with a friend on the same Xbox or over Xbox live.
The next interesting and addicting aspect of the game is in the weapons system. You cannot pick up weapons dropped by enemies in game. Even during boss battles when very appealing pieces of death machine hardware are dropped you can only look but not touch. As you complete objectives in Army of Two you earn money. Mid level checkpoints allow you to enter an arns dealer menu where you can purchase various guns such as assault rifles, hand guns, special weapons, and armor. Once you purchase a weapon you can also upgrade it to improve accuracy, range, or damage. It becomes pretty addicting pushing on through the game to try and strategize out which gun you want and what features you want it to have. There is also a great deal of balance to the weapons so while you can greatly increase the attributes of a weapon you can’t do something unrealistic such as create a chain gun sniper rifle. Aesthetically, you can also pimp out your gun in gold, silver, and platinum which will increase your enemy’s ire to allow for quick aggro aggregation and overkill mode.
Besides the campaign the versus multiplayer component on Xbox live is extensive and will have players playing for quite a while. The four multiplayer modes you will find in the online portion of the game are Versus, Warzone, Extraction, and Bounties. Most of these game types focus on destroying, killing, or defending key targets whether they be objects in the battle field or actual enemy general’s. One neat thing that we are starting to see more of online that Army of Two incorporates as well is the fact that during online play not only is the battlefield just you versus your opponents on PSN or Live. AI enemies are thrown into the mix and cause for a lot of chaos when trying to complete objectives especially when trying to kill off heavily guarded targets. Games online become real interesting as teams jockey for proper position and try to kill each other off to make enough money to win the game. The team with the most money at the end of a round wins. The strategy becomes in spending money to buy better weapons and armor against not having enough money to win once the timer expires.
Presentation 8.5: Great menus and cut scenes. Despite the cheezy story line it does engage the player quite well.
Sound 9.0: Voice acting is very well done. Great sounding weapons and explosions.
Visuals 8.5: Great environment variety as well character models. Frame rate remains solid.
Gameplay 9.0: Great two man game innovation with the aggro system and addicting gun buying and mod system. Gun play itself and cover could use a little work but overall you are treated to a very fun arcade esque shooter.
Last Appeal 8.5: Coop campaign mode is the way to go. A few online modes that mostly do revolve around the same general premise may leave some feeling its repetitive. Maxing out guns and playing matches to earn fat sums of cash is a lot fun.
Overall Score: 8.6 – Worth the purchase
Tags: , army of two, EA, PS3, Xbox 360