Reviewed: March 29, 2008
Released: March 4, 2008
Co-Operative (or Co-Op) games have come a long way since the days of Gauntlet and TMNT in the local arcades. Instead of the top-down or side-scrolling titles of our youth, we are presented with beautiful 3D wonders that are to some mind boggling.
Gaming companies these days are pushing to make their titles the best on the market. One of the ways that they are accomplishing this is with Co-Op modes. EA joined the Co-Op bandwagon this year with the release of its IP title, Army of Two, that was released on both the PS3 and the Xbox 360. Iím here to talk about the latter.
You play as Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem who from 1993 to 2009 wage a two-man fight through war, political turmoil and a conspiracy so vast it threatens the entire world. You start out as members of the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment on a mission to assist Philip Clyde, a private military contractor with the Security and Strategy Corporation (SSC), to assassinate Abdullahi Mo'Alim in Somalia. After the mission your commander is invited to join the SSC and the rest is history.
At first look you will get a serious Gears of War/Rainbow Six Vegas vibe when you load up this title for the first time. Just like Gears, Army of Two is a third-person shooter, but that is where the similarities stop. Army of Two takes what was good about Gears and takes it to a whole new level, minus the chainsaw. There is also the Partner Order system that is reminiscent of Rainbow Six Vegas as well.
Army of Twoís interface is simple and pretty easy to pick up on. The playerís screen is minimally obscured with the HUD. The HUD consists of the Partner Order Wheel, the AI Partner Health Bar, and all important Aggrometer. And of course your current clip size and ammo and total ammo is shown in the lower left hand corner of the screen when you are firing your weapons. The two things that I will go into detail about are the Partner Order Wheel or POW as I call it and the Aggrometer.
The POW is one of the two most vital assets available to you. The POW consists of the 4 basic commands sets you see in any tactical shooter. By pressing Up, Left or Right on the D-Pad you can order the AI to Attack/Advance, Regroup, Hold Positions/Stop and become passive or aggressive. If you think you can do the missions alone then, think again. The name of this game is TEAMWORK. Without it, you will perish. Pressing the Down button will also enable/disable your partnerís camera. This way you can see where and what your partner is doing.
While the POW is essential, the Aggrometer is where itís all at. Learning how to use aggro quickly and effectively will quickly turn a bad situation, and you will have them, into a small victory. A perfect example is when I was going up against a heavily armored enemy (or Heavy) in single player. I would have the Ai stay in one place and draw his fire while I hid and waited for the perfect opportunity to strike from behind. However if youíre feeling particularly brave, there is a couple different and effective ways to deal with those Heavies. But Iíll let you figure those out.
There are few modes that are interesting and one feature that is there for fun. There are times where you must Co-Op snipe a target or targets to either gain more cash or make advancing through the level just a bit easier. This in my opinion was a nice way to break up the routine of normal game play. There is even an option to switch your weapons with your AI. Not that you would really need to unless your AI buddy has a sniper rifle and you need it instead of your RPG. I also like the little encouragements you can do with your AI or real life partner if youíre playing the Co-Op campaign. Again they arenít necessary but fun none the less.
The Army of Two campaign takes you through 6 amazing yet challenging levels. I will admit that I did die more than a few times throughout my campaign runs. Army of Two features three levels of difficulty: Recruit, Contractor and Professional. However Professional mode is only playable after beating it on either Contractor or Recruit. You may ask yourself why I would want to beat Army of Two more than once. Well, if you plan on playing with your buddies or working on those achievements then you want to beat Professional mode.
One of my favorite things about Army of Two is the weapons upgrade system. Throughout your conquest to stop all hell from breaking loose, you gain money for completing objectives. Be it taking out an Al Qaeda leader, no not Bin Laden, to recovering reconnaissance, you earn major cash for everything you do. This cash in turn is used for purchasing new weapons or supping up your current ones. Army of Two does feature a pretty diversified list of weapons ranging from a SOCOM MK.23 pistol to the FIM92 Stinger.
You can literally upgrade just about everything from the barrel to the stock on almost every weapon. A few of the weapons however are maxed out already and the only thing you can do is pimp it out. Thatís right, I said PIMP it out. For a mere 10k you can, dare I say ďblingĒ out your weapons in gold, silver and diamonds. While this may look cool it inevitable means that you are going to get shot at a LOT more.
While Army of Two has a single player mode, the real gem of this title is the co-op mode. You can team with a buddy via both split screen and over Xbox Live to put the hurt on the bad guys. It is so much easier to play this title with a friend than by yourself, thatís for sure. But if youíre not really in the mood to battle the story mode then you can do two on two battles via multiplayer. The three multiplayer types in Versus mode: Warzone, Extraction and Bounties. The main objective is to finish the match and be the team with the most cash at the end.
Warzone, which is my favorite of the three, is where you team up with a partner to face another two-man team in a race to complete as many objectives as possible. This can vary from taking out snipers to taking out helicopters and everything in between. The thing that makes all three types difficult is the presence of bots that are native to that map. Personally they can get annoying at times as they will kill you. They are not push overs.
Extraction is basically where each team has allies that are downed on the maps. It is your job to get as many of them off the field and to the extraction points. You also have to keep your opponents for doing the same. The Bounties mode is where you have to wipe out as many high-price targets by the end of the match before the other team does.
While I think Army of Two is a pretty solid game. It isnít without some major issues. The most important of all of these issues is the instability of its online servers. Donít get me wrong EA has had a few titles that havenít totally tanked as far as the online aspect goes, but for the love of all that is holy in gaming, they need to jump on the Xbox wagon and use Microsoftís servers like everyone else. There is nothing more frustrating than getting ready to win a match and the connection dying.
The other issues are in-game glitches. The most evil of all occurs when you get downed on the map and you land on an elevated surface. No matter what your partner does, real or AI, youíre stuck up there. It is impossible to yank you or your buddy off of there. This shouldnít happen in any title. Being forced to let the enemies kill you or restarting the level because of this kind of glitch is not cool. Another incident I had is where my partner was downed on a railing of all places. He was unable to move at all even after being healed. Using my trusty RPG, I shot him off that railing, healed him only to have him magically end up back on that railing. So not cool.
Also sometimes your AI just turns straight stupid. I vaguely remember having to do the last half of the final level several times because my stupid AI partner thought it was cool to drag me halfway across the map THROUGH the enemies to find a place to heal me.
The graphics of Army of Two are perhaps one of it finer points. Itís no Call of Duty 4, but it looks pretty darn good to me. Both main characters are shown right of the bat on the Main Menu in solid looking character models. When I first saw the Main Menu screen I knew I was going to like this title graphically, and I wasnít disappointed to say the least. This is one of the better looking titles this year.
Everything from the explosions to the level designs was well done. There are several cutscenes throughout the campaign that was pretty close to movie quality. One of my favorite levels both for its gameplay and its visuals is the aircraft carrier. Youíll see what I mean when you get there.
The sound quality of Army of Two is superb. The biggest thing I look for in a title as a gamer is the voice acting and the music. Both of these will either make or break a game. The main voice actors deliver a performance that is very believable. But forewarned, there is cursing involved frequently. I do like it when the AI shouts out when he is down or taking too much damage. The sound effects for all the guns are very well done and very believable.
Army of Two has a pretty solid story which takes you across 5 countries and one aircraft carrier. I would have liked to have seen at least another level but, you take what you can get. The true gem of Army of Two is its Co-op modes via local and online play. I had a chance to play with several friends and this is one of my favorite Co-Op titles since Gears of War.
The online Versus mode was actually pretty fun in-between the lag and disconnect spells. As I mentioned above, I really liked the Warzone mode. With the added bots, it makes for a tougher challenge all together. Army of Two retails for $60 dollars and I would gladly pay it in a heartbeat.
With a style that is one part Gears and one part Rainbow, Army of Two is without a doubt one of the coolest titles Iíve played in some time. This is definitely a new take on the third person co-op genre and I think that EA did very well on it. Despite the glitches and the online issues, Army of Two is a pretty solid title. I highly recommend Army of Two to anyone looking for a new challenge or something to play with your buddies. I highly advice picking up Army of Two whenever you can.
When one man is not enoughÖgrab a friend. Iíll be looking for you on the battlefield.