Two-Man Take Down
Army of Two follows the exploits of Salem and Rios, a team of American mercenaries working for a private military firm called SSC. The game takes the pair through a series of major gun battles in various locations over a period of years, all in the name of getting paid.
Army of Two is not your typical shooter: it employs two-man character control and a unique tactical fighting mechanic that makes the experience very rewarding. However, the game is not without some problems. Fortunately, details such as smooth graphics, interesting level design, great multiplayer co-op support, and outlandish weapon upgrades outweigh the faults found in the run-of-the-mill story, sluggish multiplayer servers, and the uncanny blind-shot precision.
The marquis features of this title are the two-man, team control, and tactics. In Army of Two you will lead a two-man squad of mercs into military hot zones in order to secure a number of objectives. You and your A.I. or human partner will be able to accomplish missions that one man could never pull off. In single player mode you will be able to take advantage of the Partner Order Wheel. The POW is not locked within a submerged bamboo cell; it’s actually mapped to the D-Pad. The POW allows you to issue orders to your A.I. partner such as hold, advance, attack, regroup, act passively, or even go Aggro. If utilized correctly, your partner will make life a heck of a lot easier for you.
One of the biggest reasons for this is the Aggrometer feature. By playing aggressively, you or your partner will increase their Aggro level. Soon the aggressor will be glowing bright red and be targeted by the enemy A.I. as the major threat. As such, enemy fire will be concentrated on their position. This allows the partner to become somewhat transparent and move stealthily to other positions in a flanking maneuver. If one player is able to go Aggro long enough, then both players’ skills will be greatly increased for ten seconds. Furthermore, the other player will become completely invisible to the enemies.
The Aggrometer function is the major tactical difference in Army of Two that separates it from other shooters. Using two-man team tactics this way is really quite fun. There are also a collection of other co-op maneuvers such as going back-to-back when surrounded, using riot shields for cover while your partner plinks the baddies, getting dragged to safety and healed by your teammate when you’ve been put down, negative and positive emotes, etc. that really help to accentuate camaraderie.
The single player mode is very good, and the friendly A.I. does a good job of keeping up with you. However, this game really shines when played with a friend. You can host or join private or public co-op campaigns that can be played locally or over Xbox LIVE or the PlayStation Network. Additionally, there are Versus modes that pair you up in ranked or unranked matches online or for some heated split-screen action at home. In Versus play you and your partner will take on an opposing team in an attempt to secure objectives before the other team goes and earns the most cash. All of the multiplayer content in Army of Two is stellar. Sadly, the games are plagued by a rash of serious lag. Hopefully this is due to a few kinks that need to be worked on EA’s servers and not an issue endemic to the game’s build. Sluggish play was only frustrating during co-op campaigns, but it became unbearable during online Versus play.
Army of Two is a very easy game to play either alone or with a friend. Unfortunately, the Professional difficulty level is locked until you beat the game in either the Recruit or Contractor difficulties. As a result, the first time through will take serious gamers only a few hours to complete. Thankfully, the game is fun enough to beat again as long as you do it with a buddy. My suggestion would be to breeze through the story alone and consider it to be your training. Then you can invite over a friend or get matched to somebody online in order to take on the Professional campaign in co-op mode. You’ll find that the use of the Aggrometer and flanking tactics work much better with a fellow human at your side.
Everyone who plays this game will have loads of fun, but gamers used to tactical squad-based shooters such as GRAW 2 and Rainbow Six Vegas may find gameplay to be a bit sloppy and imprecise. In fact, the blind fire function is too lethal and too prevalent in Army of Two. The game would be even better if there were greater emphasis on precision kills without having one player go Aggro first. That being said, this is a unique shooter that will have you giggling with irreverent delight.
Other than achieving the main mission objectives for which you were contracted, there are a lot of side missions you can uncover along the way that will pay you well. After all, gameplay is centered around mercenaries that expect to be rewarded for putting their life on the line. So what do you need all that cash for anyway? To buy sweet new weapons, custom modifications, gear, and even to pimp out your firearms with garish gold and silver inlays to show your enemy who’s the boss. I expect the already extensive weapons collection and modifications to be expanded and enhanced by DLC weapons packs in the future.
If you’re looking for a great story, Army of Two doesn’t really provide it. The developers have tried to tackle the moral issue surrounding the use of private military organizations in modern warfare. However, it’s not as if the game calls upon players to really stop and think. You’ll be far more concerned with the quality of head shots you rack up or the golden sheen of your pimped out AK-47. In its defense, the story is engaging enough that you’ll be satisfied with the end result. Moreover, stages within the story are broken up in such a way that each one seems self-contained. In other words, the developers aren’t really tied to a story and can easily drop Salem and Rios in any location for any number of reasons. This will be great for additional downloadable content in the future. It seems like this game was tailor-made for supplementary DLC. So long as the extra content is reasonably priced, I don’t think gamers will mind shelling out a bit more cash. However, I would have liked to have seen another mission or two in the included content.
The visuals, sounds, and controls are all pretty terrific. The environments are highly detailed, and I especially liked the water effects and the way your enemies flail wildly when shot. It’s as if they were ragdoll acrobats. The sounds are also really good. The weapons sound powerful, and the voiceover work is hilarious despite its hokey nature. I think the majority of gamers who pick this title up should enjoy the expletive-filled dialogue. Finally, the controls are very easy to use. The use of the D-Pad to change weapons or to bark orders is a bit rough at first, but players will adapt quickly. One thing that drove me nuts was the absence of a separate melee button. If an enemy gets too close for comfort, you will have to depress the standard trigger button and hope you head butt your foe before he kicks you. Typically the enemy will win these hand-to-hand battles and you’ll end up on the floor while he fills you full of lead. This ends up just slowing down your advance rather than allowing you to quickly pistol-whip your adversary and set up for cool stealth shot.
Army of Two is a unique shooter that will literally get the blood flowing. The two-man control and tactics are really fun. This game probably marks the birth of a franchise assuming that the distinct gameplay doesn’t get tiresome. The slick presentation and intensely fun co-op play has made a believer out of me even though gameplay can feel sloppy at times. If you love shooters and are looking to play an interesting campaign mode with a friend, then Army of Two is a must-buy.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
The visuals are very smooth and the environments are compelling. 4.1 Control
The controls are simple to use for any shooter fan, but the lack of a separate melee button was annoying. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sounds of the environment and weapons are great, but the voice acting seems hokey. 4.5 Play Value
Co-op gameplay is great, especially when shared with another human. Some people may find the game to be too imprecise, however. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.