Army of Two

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2008-03-21


Developer: EA Montreal Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 4, 2008 Also On: PS3 & Xbox 360

It was not long ago that when considering video games, Army of Two was the bee's knees. I remember EGM claiming it as their #1 most-anticipated original IP. There was even enough buzz to spark a Create-Your-Own-Weapon contest. EA Montreal gave the gaming media quite a lot of exciting news about their new project. As a result, like many previous occasions considering EA video games, Army of Two was expected to be a large-scale success.

Following a delay into spring 2008, Army of Two has finally released. With its not-so-gentle-nudge toward using cooperative tactics (with a second human player, for the love of God!), Army of Two and its two lead characters, Rios and Salem, produce many interesting experiences throughout the campaign. As a result, it is a good, fun game to play. That is the absolute most accurate statement I think I can make about the game, because there will be friends that play together in harmony, and these friends will enjoy a very large percentage of the game together. Sadly, however, the game has a handful or two of flaws that can potentially ruin the experience for anyone lacking the patience of a monk in a monastery.

Before I explain more about the game, allow me to first say that my review was written based almost completely on the cooperative multiplayer experience. This is the way that the developers want gamers to play the game, and I felt that it was most necessary to do so. The single-player campaign feels lonely, despite the commands that can be given to the CPU Rios or Salem. Thus, the game is aimed toward people who have others to play with (or Xbox Live/PlayStation Network accounts). For those lacking local multiplayer possibilities, Xbox Live and PlayStation Network fill in the gaps to let everyone enjoy the game's modes.

There are six terrorist-killing missions, each taking place at a different place and point in time. The game's storyline is shoved between levels and told through some very impressive-looking CG scenes. For a third-person shooter, Army of Two's plot is very interesting. It involves a lot of political and military conflict, which one would expect to be full of corruption and back-stabbing. Before the end of the game, Rios and Salem question almost every supporting character's intentions. To keep the smug politicians and gung-ho military men from becoming intolerable, the pair (particularly Salem) provide some comic relief in several different ways. Oh, before I forget mentioning it, there is also a lot of swearing included in the script. A lot. Keep Timmies away from this game.

All six levels provide a lot of chances for friends to use the two-man mechanics EA Montreal has been primping for the last few years. Partners have to use step-jumps to lift their friend up to higher ledges. There are a few parachute scenes, where one player steers the parachute while another snipes and shoots at enemies on the ground. There are several (a few too many) back-to-back sequences, where enemies simply pour from all sides while Rios and Salem spin around shooting in slow-motion. The Aggro system is also pretty interesting: one person can divert the attention of the enemy and maintain it by means of suppressive fire and aggressive tactics while the other flanks or performs an important objective. For a good reason, this is the very first thing introduced when the campaign begins. Without taking advantage of Aggro, it is almost impossible to succeed in any of the missions.

Some objectives are optional, and offer the benefits of extra cash. There are also hidden cash drops in each level, and collecting them is helpful because the cash can be used to buy and upgrade weapons. There are a lot of primary weapons (assault rifles, shotguns), secondary weapons (submachine guns, handguns), and special weapons (sniper rifles, rocket/grenade launchers) to use. Upgrading Rios' and Salem's arsenal is one of the game's best parts. Weapons can be equipped with new barrels, cartridge extensions, stocks, and more. Essentially, anything from a P90 to a .44 revolver can become a pimped-out killing toy (literally).

Unfortunately, this is the proverbial peak of the hill where I will shift the attention from the upward to the downward. As I mentioned before, there are a few parts of Army of Two that are flaws, and there are also some that are good or bad based on personal opinion and experience. As a multiplayer-based experience, the best experience can only be had as it was intended: cooperatively. Even if that happens, though, there are some hurdles for gamers to jump over.

To me, it is frustrating to be annoyed, even a small percentage of the time, with the game's most focused mechanics. The two-man tactics dominate the experience, and sometimes it all feels gimmicky. There are a lot of places to use different two-man abilities, but I feel like they were intentionally spread out to avoid staleness. Step-jumps can be useful (and/or mandatory), but they are not the most graceful or speedy. Thus I often groaned when I needed to nudge my friend to come over and give me a boost. At least getting around the levels is easy. Too easy, though, thanks to the game's GPS system that actually draws an arrow on the ground pointing you in the exact direction. I cannot stand getting lost in a video game of any kind. I like small clues or a nudge. Army of Two's GPS takes you by the hand and basically puts you on a monorail to success.

Army of Two has the production value to impress a lot of people and the exciting gameplay to interest just as many. The basic mechanics work for the most part, but I noticed another small batch of problems. Beside the fact that the enemy models and objectives become repetitive, there are control-related issues. It feels like there is a 10-foot radius around Rios and Salem that acts as a blind spot, because no matter how hard I would try to get them to attack or shoot something within that radius, they could not do it. Instead I would often be forced to backpedal, most likely just a few feet before getting blasted to the ground. This would not be such a problem if the melee attack was effective, but it is not even easy to use. In fact, throughout most of the game I ignored the melee attack due to how long it takes to use and the fact that it often does not even kill its victim. When buying weapons, one should consider how much more effective the weapons will be when they are fully equipped. Unfortunately, Army of Two does not indicate which weapons can and cannot be upgraded. Watch out for the MP7.

Probably the most annoying problem of all is the way that Rios and Salem become black holes when they are on their own doing anything. If a partner goes down, the other has to stand above him and heal him by waiting on an on-screen meter to show the progress of the healing, which depletes if one of the characters is shot. As fleshy black holes that absorb painful bullets and rockets and grenades, Rios and Salem get hit a lot in general. Most of the enemies, even on the lowest difficulty setting, can pick off a flea from a couple hundred yards away.

Army of Two is a good game. It is fun to play with a friend, particularly if the pair playing the game can cooperate very well for six missions of slightly to very-repetitive, objective-competing, terrorist-killing, third-person action. However, it is not quite the great one that I think the world expected. It has a few flaws that can severely hinder the experience for a lot of gamers. It is no surprise to me that there are mixed reviews and so many differing opinions on many different aspects of the game. It all depends on how the game is played, and how much patience can be had getting shot by enemies who had might as well be somewhere in the Andromeda galaxy.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 6.5
Final: 7.5
Written by Cliff Review Guide

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn