Army Of Two
The easiest way to describe Army Of Two is an ’80s action movie designed as a game. It features all the things you’d come to expect from a movie like Die Hard or Commando, but in a competent game that delivers fun coop gameplay. The game will not appeal to anyone looking for a “smart” shooter, especially those who enjoy realistic and tactical games. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely tactics here in the game, but nothing more complex than what you’d see in the game that Army Of Two seems to draw a lot of influence from, Gears Of War.
The parallels between the two titles will be apparent (for those who have played through Gears) at the very start of the campaign, where many of the same concepts are here, including the simple yet effective use of basic commands to control your AI partner, as well as a cover system. Other similarities include the need to revive your partner when you’re downed (although, you are able to drag your partner to cover before reviving them), or universal roll/leap button. So is this game merely a clone, or does it bring something new to the table?
What Army Of Two has that other games like it don’t have is its own charms. The most unique feature of the game above all is the ‘aggro’ system, in which there is a meter (or the player himself, by color) that shows how much you or your partner is attracting the attention of the enemy. Watching this bar is crucial to the gameplay, and if you are able to sustain the bar and push it far enough, both of you go into what’s called “Overkill” mode, where everything goes into slow motion, and you are both invulnerable to enemy fire (though this mode can be disrupted by explosions, etc). The player who carried all of the aggro is granted the ability to fire infinitely while walking very slowly, and the other player, being “unseen” to the enemy due to all of the aggro being on the other player, is able to run fast and stealthily to take out enemies. It takes a while to get used to this new concept of keeping attention of the enemy in that way, but it works very well.
The game is definitely all about coop to the very end, including the fact that the only way to progress certain areas is to use your partner to boost you to access different areas, there being two buttons at certain exits/entrances that require synchronized pushing, and even parts where you might have to stay behind while your partner does something else to help you move along. An interesting ability is being able to feign your death, allowing you to recover while all of your aggro is put onto your teammate. Add to that the ‘Coop Snipe’, which allows you both to snipe at the same time, and the ability to swap weapons makes this game very satisfying at times. There is also a fun little ability to either taunt your partner or praise him. An example of a praise would be both of you strumming your guns like guitars, or pounding fists.
Speaking of weapons, you are able to upgrade them throughout different checkpoints in missions, or in the main menu with money you gain from doing missions and completing objectives. Upgrades allow you to increase the amount of aggro you put out, the damage, amount of bullets, etc. There are a great deal of weapons, and you are also able to gain new masks as well, though they do nothing but change the player’s appearance. Later on you unlock both medium and heavy armor, though there doesn’t seem to be any advantage to not using the heavy armor.
The campaign mode is both online and offline, and features the ability to continue checkpoints in both, as well as being able to choose what mission to play (though, only previously completed missions are selectable). While many will think the singleplayer is too short, it feels about the right length for a coop game meant to be replayed over and over. Each mission has a diverse feel to it, and none of them stand out as being too similar. After you complete the game once, you unlock every primary weapon, as well as the hardest mode. Once you’ve played through the game a few times, it becomes more and more about trying to do things faster and more efficient, just like any of the other classic coop games, such as Contra.
Besides campaign mode, you also have a versus mode online. This mode is based around two versus two gameplay, and there are three modes: Warzone, Extraction, and Bounties. They each have different objectives, such as Extraction being based around saving a VIP character. This portion of the game feels bland and uninspired, despite the fact that these gametypes are not the generic deathmatch or capture the flag. It just seems like something that was included for the sake of including it, but I don’t think it really hurts the game at all by being there, as I’m sure some people will end up enjoying it. It is also worth noting that online is region-locked in public games, but private games do indeed work internationally, as I have tested this.
Graphically, the game is fairly good, and runs incredibly smooth throughout. No framerate problems were found whatsoever, and the game has a few nice effects, such as motion blurring. In the options menu you are able to choose from different color palette options, such as ‘vibrant’ or ‘lucent’, though they don’t really affect much. Music in this game is fast and fits very well, and gives you an “action movie” vibe. Voice acting is great, even if the lines can be corny. Sound effects are great as well, immersing you to the point where you feel like a badass in some movie with Stallone or Schwarzeneggar, carrying around huge weapons and blowing up your enemies with grenades.
The controls are simple but effective, but they are not customizable. You are able to choose sensitivity, inverted, or other basic options, but the button mapping is unchangeable, which may be unfortunate for some. The use of LB and RB for weapons or coop actions, respectively, may be a bit weird at first, but after you complete the tutorial you should be accustomed. Hopefully next iteration EA will allow you to have full control, but for now just know it’s great as is.
After playing the game quite a bit, I would have to say the biggest problems are the partner AI and the checkpoint system. The AI system employed with your partner can get ridiculous, where in some cases I was being dragged far, far away from many areas that seemed safer than taking me such a long distance. In a lot of cases it doesn’t seem to be a problem, but when it does it can become incredibly frustrating. The checkpoints are some of the worst placed, and I question why the game developers didn’t just include a quicksave option, or at least include more checkpoints than what they did. The most annoying example of this is in one mission where you must do a sequence that includes pushing a button to open gates, moving your hovercraft, getting out, pushing two more buttons, and finally escaping on the hovercraft, all the while killing enemies in a small area that periodically has more troops flown in. Now, in all this time, there is not one save point. Depending on your skills and speed as a player, you may be doing this area, or areas that are lacking in more checkpoints for quite some time.
Army Of Two adds a lot to the coop shooter genre, and I hope future games take note of some of the additions made, especially something like the aggro meter. The game is cheesy, overdramatic, and has a lot of pointless explosions. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Again, anyone who wants something more shouldn’t bother getting this game, but those who enjoy taking out helicopters with a single sniper, causing it to explode will certainly have a blast with this title.