|System: PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Montreal||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q4 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tom Becker
May 22, 2007 - The world is a very different place since the USSR up and died.
No longer is our nation aligned against such a clear and present danger. The threat of terrorism looms large in the speeches of politicians, but it just can't compare to the Cold War and its threat of mutually-assured destruction. Multinational corporations like Halliburton that are as faceless as they are powerful are dictating foreign policy and conducting military operations on an unprecedented scale. If the trend continues, war itself may become totally privatized and conducted exclusively by armies-for-hire. It's in this world that Army of Two takes place. A world where war is business and business is booming.
The plot follows the escapades of two former Army Rangers: the hard-traveled Tyson Rios and the cocky upstart Elliot Salem. The two work for a large private military corporation (PMC) called SSC which offers security and supplemental military force to the highest bidder. Like typical roughnecks, they gripe at each other and bark orders as bullets are flying. They're not the most highly developed or original characters, but they have personality enough to deliver the wry dialogue written for them. Much like the more intricately plotted Haze, Army of Two leads the player through a variety of missions which slowly reveal all may not be what it seems when fighting for the old PMC. The emphasis is on action and entertainment, and Army of Two doesn't seem to take itself too seriously.
The gameplay differs significantly from most FPS in that it is entirely cooperative. Whether fighting with another live player or with a computer-controlled character, co-op is the name of the game. Players must engage their partner to successfully execute their missions, whether taking out enemies in the field or simply moving from one area to the other. Missions are laid out in the typical format, but always with an emphasis on cooperation in tactics.
Players can "boost" each other to higher areas, a tactic which features highly in gameplay and trailer videos. It's the typical "leg up" maneuver and it looks not only very useful but very realistic. One of the hallmarks of modern tactical strike warfare, rappelling, plays an important role in the game. Whether fast-roping into the fray or stealthily lowering their comrade into the next area, the player will have to master the art of the rappel. Back to back is self-explanatory and has a lot of potential for John Wu-style gunplay. With up to 50 enemies onscreen at one time, well, you can imagine the possibilities. Ammo-sharing is important as well, as players can share all or part of their supply when their partner runs low. Ground cover, especially destructible groundcover, plays an important role in next-gen FPS, and Army of Two is no exception. From the typical barrels and crates to car doors torn off their hinges, players will have a variety of makeshift cover to interact with. It's not just fighting where cooperation matters. If the player is going to survive, they have to keep an eye on the health of themselves and their partner.
When players become so injured that they can no longer walk, they will fall to the ground and have to be dragged along by their less-injured partner. The only drawback is that the player doing the dragging has one less hand to fight with. While they may not be able to walk on their own, the player being dragged can still fire normally while sliding towards cover. It's a component of infantry fighting that is largely missing from FPS and perfect for a game with an emphasis on cooperation. If a player gets so badly damaged that they are near death, keeping them alive is a two-man job. The dying player must push buttons rapidly to avoid "going into the light" while the other player must also push buttons rapidly in a sort of CPR-like motion. When not strictly fighting and surviving on the ground, players will be operating a number of vehicles and executing maneuvers.
Like the classic Halo format, the two-man vehicle interface requires that one man drives while the other operates a turret. The old mainstay of the jeep with turret is here, but players will also be able to drive a hovercraft and a forklift. Even showing up at the battle is cooperative. In the parachute mode, one character controls the vents of the chute to steer while the other player, strapped to his chest, provides cover fire. It's all good FPS fun and designed to get the most out of cooperative play without skimping on the action and snappy dialogue.
Interactivity is at a premium these days as next-gen consoles allow a variety of ways to interact and play online. EA has gone so far as to utilize the real-life contribution of gamers to developing content for Army of Two. Earlier this month, EA announced a weapon design contest which runs until June 15th. Anyone can submit a design and based on developer approval and popularity with other gamers, two designs will be chosen and incorporated as a special unlockable pre-order item in the Xbox60 version.
Light on plot and heavy on the action, Army of Two knows better than to take itself too seriously and gives FPS fans what they want: an old fashioned, butt-kicking good time. The emphasis on cooperative play makes it unique and could make this title stand out in the overcrowded FPS market.
CCC Freelance Writer