• The world is diving into dark times with more and more terrorist and criminal organisations springing up each day than you can shake a stick at. The Military cannot cope, and contracts are being handed out to Private Military Corporations (PMC) just to maintain the balance of order. EA Montreal have developed Army of Two which sees a couple of bad ass ex Army Rangers; Rios and Salem take up a career at one such PMC and shows where one man can be considered dangerous two men can be deadly. In Army of Two you will globe trot with your deadly duo kicking ass along the way, and if all that was not appealing enough… you get the chance to modify your weapons and get paid too.

    Where some games in the past have had cooperative play as a feature or an addition to the game, in Army of Two cooperative play is the game. Army of Two can be played using an AI partner, over split screen… or over Xbox LIVE with a LIVE buddy backing you up. There are three difficulties to choose from; (recruit, contractor and professional) albeit professional mode remaining locked until you have completed the campaign at least once. In addition to the campaign you also have a multiplayer versus mode to boot, where teams compete for the objectives and the cash. Throughout the whole campaign the game has been designed for you as the player to make full use of having another on screen partner. Cooperative moves have been bought into the game (more on that later) and an aggro system implemented which when used properly, will not only provide you or your partner with cover, but will unlock the ability to go into overkill mode or stealth kill mode. You can crawl your way through most of the game without the full use of your partner but you will struggle and I will say… where is the fun, ignoring a system that allows the pair of you to kick ass with style.

    Army of Two is played from the third person perspective and the control setup mapped pretty neatly onto the Xbox 360 controller. The D-Pad offers a number of commands to have your team mate advance normally or aggressively. Another command includes holding a position or hold with suppressive fire and to also cover you following your lead or follow aggressively backing you up under fire. You also have a mini camera view of what your team mate sees and you can use one of the functions on the D-Pad to switch this off should you choose to do so. Normal passive movements only require pushing the D-Pad in a certain direction once and highlights the function in blue, switching that to aggressive needs you to press the D-Pad in the same direction a second time and highlights the function in red which allows you to easily see if you have made a mistake or if your intentions are being carried out as expected. The right shoulder button accesses some of the cooperative features including coop snipe and being able to switch weapons with your team mate and the left shoulder button opens up your weapon inventory allowing you to pick between your primary weapon, secondary weapon, special weapons and grenades. Triggers control your firing and zoom control, and your face buttons allow you to interact with the environment and your partner. Lastly if you hit back you activate a GPS function which highlights objectives, objects you can interact with and also highlights opportunities for the likes of coop snipe. It only takes minutes to understand what does what and add to that the way the game eases you in with a pretty slick tutorial, by the time you are expected to hit the ground running you “should”… have remembered all the functions by this stage.

    Army of Two

    Beginning your experience with Army of Two has you choosing between the two available characters. This pretty much comes down to personal preference but I opted for the cocky and younger Salem having Rios as my backup. This choice having been made you then have the ability to buy new gear and weapons before the start of each mission and also have the second chance mid mission. Buying weapons cost money and throughout your campaign you will earn money for achieving objectives allowing you to pick your weapon or weapons of destruction.

    But it does not stop there and the level of customisation available in Army of Two is pretty darn tasty. You can take your standard P90 and change out the barrel allowing for a more destructive weapon. Add a suppressor and you can reduce the aggro you cause with the weapon and go in silent. Other weapons allow more freedom including adding a shield to the front of you weapon, a larger clip to save on reloads, attachments including shotguns and grenade launchers and modifying the stock of your weapon to increase accuracy stats. You can go quite mad here with this piece, and have a lot of fun at the same time. Without doubt though the craziest piece is pimping out your weapon choice and this allows you to be running around with a shiny metallic finish to your weapon and often stylised with graphics. It is slightly barking… but still all the same there if you want that extra finishing touch. Just to finish on this piece, not all of the weapons shown are available to buy straight away and will stay in a locked mode until you reach certain portions and/or have made purchases on lower tiered weapons/weapon upgrades.

    Weapons aside money can also be spent on gear and in the main these include the choice of masks that your character wears throughout the campaign. Everyone should have noted that the gruesome twosome seem to be constantly wearing pimped out hockey masks and you can either go with what you start with or dip into the gear section and using an example, choose a clown look to name but one of the choices. Each character has different masks to choose from and you will only see the selection on offer for the character you chose to run and gun with. But for the achievement sake (man of many masks)… you need only collect all the ones on offer for your chosen character at $10,000 a mask, and therefore does not mean you have to play the entire game twice/spend twice the amount of money using the other character in order to tick off this achievement.

    Army of Two has been designed to maximise the benefit of having a cooperative partner and as previously mentioned, has a number of moves that Salem and Rios can perform. Cooperative snipe is one of these functions and allows you to both to snipe at the same time with you calling the shots. This function does have to be noted as something that is not freely available and you will find your AI partner constantly saying “nope, can’t do that” if you are trying to coop snipe in situations that does not fit the purpose. Activate your GPS if you think you can utilise the move as coop snipe opportunities are highlighted on your GPS. Another cooperative move is back to back and this happens automatically when you hit spots where you are outgunned. Time will slow down and Rios and Salem will stand back to back allowing you to spin in a circle and shot the bad guys in style. You are also able to heal a fallen team mate in what is essentially a stylish way and should the fallen team mate be you, healed in turn by your partner. This in motion in action is superb as while you drag your team mate away from danger or be the one getting dragged, you as the injured party can keep firing from the prone position, while your partner doing the dragging can also fire. It’s new, feels very cool and great to see in action.

    Another move is when parachuting and again while this happens as part of the game there will be occasions where you are the one strapped to your partner and able to do all the shooting and then other times where you are guiding the parachute and trying to keep it steady allowing your partner to get his gun off. Yet another slick move is the ability to crouch down and boost your partner to an area you could not normally reach and allow them to sneak over the edge and dispatch all the bad guys before they climb up and then lean over to pull you up. Cover in a fire fight is usually a nice thing to have and in Army of Two one of the cooperative features includes being able to rip off a car door or pick up a riot shield and while you hold the mobile shield have your partner crouched behind and shooting over the top. The shame here is that the AI partner cannot operate the shield and means that if you want to be the shooter… then you need a living and breathing partner by your side or on LIVE.

    But… and by far the best cooperative feature in Army of Two, is the aggro system. This allows you to draw the enemies fire or setup your partner to draw the fire and for you to move around in stealth. Certain enemies cannot be taken on head on and as such makes the cover and drawing fire system essential. This in practice has you set up your partner into an aggressive hold pattern and constantly firing, allowing you to sneak around looking slightly invisible/unnoticed and allowing you to target the enemies “as such” soft spot. In real terms this means sneaking around the back of the enemy and taking him down from behind (no sex puns here Ed!). Aggro can also trigger overkill mode and stealth allowing for another slow down moment in time and wreaking havoc with extra damage bonuses and achievements to boot. This is simply done by killing a number of enemies back to back with your aggro bar maxed out, or ditto, with your partner having hit their threshold. The aggro system works really well but you should note that if both of you are laying down fire then the system will not work as best intended and enemies will lay down fire onto the nearest threat and/or the guy with the biggest gun – which could be you. So practice this system and pay attention to the way it works to maximise the benefits.

    Moving away from cooperative play, weapons, gear and what not, it really is worth mentioning that the enemy AI in the game is very intelligent. Army of Two has no dumb-ass, stand still to be shot terrorists in this game. If fired upon they will seek cover, work as a team when attacking and will try at best to flank your position. There were many occasions where I needed a third set of eyes transplanted into the back of my head and I really have to commend EA on a clever piece of programming to make my task that bit harder, but all the same more enjoyable. I have grown tired of games where your enemy can be right in front of you only to stand there and ignore you as if blind, and equally had grown tired of enemies that would run at you in standard formation just begging to be mown down. Army of Two makes you work for your kill and as such makes you feel proud having made your way through each situation.

    Aside from the campaign which can be played in the various ways i.e. using an AI partner or a friend, Army of Two features a, versus mode for Xbox LIVE Multiplayer. You can choose to jump into a quick match for both ranked and un-ranked matches or choose some custom settings before jumping in. Achievements wise, and as a heads up… you should opt for ranked matches as the achievements for MP are based around this. Multiplayer is quite fun although I will say it took me several attempts to connect to a game without being dumped back out to the versus mode menu and I am not sure if this is down to the old EA hosting games problem as we have had in the past? Versus is played via a two versus two man team, and teams will compete for various objectives. These can include securing and escorting a hostage, taking out a sniper, or taking down a helicopter to name a few of the choices that pop up. The system here is basically; (a) a race to beat the other team to the objective and (b) staying alive in order to complete the objective. As with the campaign you are able to revive a fallen team mate and buy weapons from green marked zones while in mid game (your GPS will highlight these spots). Now… while I did enjoy playing through some multiplayer games I did find that I spent most of my time with my GPS turned on so I could see where the hell I was supposed to be going and this took away some of the visual content. Other than that, the maps are very nice, but limited in numbers to choose from… and it is just a shame that the number of players able to jump in and slog it out – also limited. Versus mode ends up feeling like a bolt on/afterthought and I am still undecided as to if this game actually needed it? Jury is still out on that one…

    Looks wise EA have done a pretty nice job, and there is certainly plenty of sheen to the game. Cut scenes are very neatly done and superb in presentation (seeing is truly believing). In game modelling is also of a high standard from surroundings right through to the important features such as the character modelling. All looks good in this department and is pleasing to play a next gen title that looks next gen. Audio again in the main is feast for the senses albeit it weapon fire a little samey from weapon to weapon and left me feeling that I did want a bit more bang for my buck there. That said and from an overall standpoint, on a whole Army of Two looks and sounds brilliant.

    Closing out… Army of Two quite frankly is a superb game and one I have had masses of fun with. I have still to finish the game, but then that would be my fault as I have constantly replayed certain levels (and I mean, replayed a LOT) rather than just going from A to B to C so to speak. The cooperative system that EA have put in place works, and looks superb in action. Add to that, the fact that the enemy AI is intelligent and is not just going to roll over and die, and the fact that you can spend just as much time modifying weapons as you can do playing the game, the package as a whole is a very slick piece of work. I found very little fault with Army of Two and as already mentioned, in the main these problems as I see it, lie with the versus multiplayer setup and not with the game itself. I had waited a long time to play this game, chomped at the bit to get my hands on it, and have loved every minute spent on it since. Highly recommended!

    Score: 9/10

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