Ah, the co-op game. Since the days of the 2-D classic, Double Dragon, there have been too many of these games to count with a majority of them being in the shooter/action category. In recent years, we’ve seen some great success with games like Crackdown, Gears of War, and to some degree Lego Star Wars. Last year, Halo 3 upped the ante with four-player online co-op. Essentially throwing down the gauntlet for cooperative play, this new benefit that Bungie added basically said to developers, “This is more than just multiplayer. Now you can share you single player experience with anyone.” Enter EA Montreal’s Army of Two. With promise of outstanding graphics and innovative gameplay relying heavily on the co-op mode the hype for this new title from EA was high. This is also a new title from the company and not one of their franchise or movie-tie in games. Unfortunately while the idea and delivery is serviceable in terms of a videogame, Army of Two falls flat enough times to make it not a must have.
The story follows the dynamic duo of Salem and Rios, two mercenaries who basically spend their lives killing people for money and during the course of the game you take part in their missions over a 16-year span. As you continue on in the story you discover that something just isn’t right, which ultimately leads to the revelation that there’s someone who has set up these hired guns. It’s a fairly formulaic story peppered with plenty of R-rated lame dialogue making cracks about the regular army and some pointless banter. This is not what you would call a gripping story line.
Gameplay involves you and your buddy on mission after mission basically going after your target to earn money. This money you then use to buy more weapons as well as customize them to the degree of “pimping” them out. Why? Because making gold plated weapons is cool? No because having weapons like this helps with your “aggro.” Aggro is a staple of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft where a character draws attention to themselves so that their partners can flank enemies and effectively take them out. In Army of Two, this mechanic is used to make one player almost invisible while the aggro player turns red. Other than the aggro move, there are a variety of co-op moves you and a live player can mess around with to accomplish your task like, co-op sniping, back to back shooting, being able to drag your wounded buddy out of harms way while he keeps shooting or faking death to trick the AI enemies.
As far as the single player campaign goes, it’s simply not as much fun. EA put so much time into developing the co-op mode the AI buddy is frustrating if not downright dumb at times. Often times, he’ll drag you into heavy fire when you’re wounded instead of somewhere safe. As far as commanding him to do things for you, you’re limited to go there, stay here or shoot a lot. Even if you send him out he doesn’t always go where you want him to go. Your best bet is to play this game with a buddy because a lot of the AI flaws are not as present with a live partner. This goes to same for the multiplayer element which features a good variety of modes for anyone into this type of game.
Of the other issues not related to the co-op play probably the most frustrating is the shooting mechanic which offers up no real way to aim properly unless you take the time to stop and aim. There are times when you’ll find it more effective doing a melee move than shooting somebody on the ground. If that’s not bad enough the enemies seem to have no problem hitting you at all and some of them seem to have quit the stamina. When you run out of bullets on all three weapons you’re carrying and you still can’t take a man down, that’s not good. For an action shooter this is not a good thing at all.
No question, this is a good looking game and that definitely helps. The character models, crisp background and destructible environments work very well with the theme of this game. Ultimately this is a shooter that’s a notch above average but misses the mark on making it the game it should be.
"Army of Two (X360)" is on sale October 31, 2007 and is rated M. Action.