Could you imagine a world where privatized military personnel are the norm and countries no longer have national armies? Army of Two willingly takes you into that world and shows you the harsh reality of what it could potentially cause. It also showcases at what lengths some individuals may go to in order to make it happen. EA’s latest installment into the Third-Person shooter genre is not only a unique one, but a troubling conspiracy theory waiting to happen.
The entire concept of the game’s story is that these two guys, Rios and Salem, are Army Rangers tired of getting paid very little money to wage war in scenarios that they may not agree with. So they decide to be discharged and join the private sector of life and make big money doing something they love…killing people. The main objective throughout the story is that the privatized military is trying to have a bill passed that will eventually dissolve the national army and make them the norm, creating a ton of cash for the private sector as a result. Now, Salem has no problem with this, the guy loves money; however, Rios starts thinking outside of the box and that’s when the game becomes intriguing.
Army of Two features several ways to play each game mode and while the game is primarily designed for co-op tactics with two humans, it still plays well with an AI partner. The single-player mode will start off by letting you choose which of the two mercenaries you’d like to be, Rios or Salem. Depending on who you pick, the AI will obviously control the other man in this duo of death. While guns are a very important part of your overall arsenal, teamwork is an even more essential aspect of the game. You’ll have to rely on your partner not only to watch your back, but to heal you, flank enemies and to even step up beside you with a sniper rifle while the two of you take down a couple of guards simultaneously.
While the partner AI does have its flaws, like dragging your injured body about a mile before healing you despite the entire area being littered with bad guys, he’ll also do the majority of things you tell him to do with ease. Commands can be assigned via the directional pad. You’ll be able to click once in any direction to turn a command into passive mode or click it a second time to turn it red which is the aggressive indicator. There are three commands in total that you’ll be able to issue to the AI; advance, hold position and regroup. On top of this, you can hit down on the pad and it’ll give you a small security window screen that shows you what your partner is seeing.
If you expect to just run and gun your way home, you’ll be left dead in the middle of a warzone you probably shouldn’t be found in. Here are the simple summaries of what each command will do. Passive regroup will have your teammate follow you with very little gunfire, while having him follow you in aggressive mode will cause him to take down some bad guys along the way. If you’re asking him to advance, he’ll do so without being noticed or, if you wish, he’ll take the aggressive and try and kill everything in his way. However, if you ask him to just sit tight and do nothing, he’ll do that too. Fortunately, if you’d like for him to just hold position and just fire away to gain the enemies attention, that’s also an option. By having him use this last tactic, you’ll, you’ll be able to have the “AGGRO” meter slide in his direction. This means that most of the bad guys are focused on what he is doing, giving you the ability to flank them almost invisibly.
AGGRO is a huge part of the game and your strategy. Some enemies are very heavily armored in the front, thus a teammate can draw attention while the other sneaks behind to take him down. While this does sound a bit simplistic, it is actually very well implemented and works beautifully. If you or your partner has attained AGGRO for a long enough period of time, you’ll have the option to go into “Overkill Mode.” This mode will allow you to either go into a slow-motion bullet-time effect where your ammo becomes limitless or it’ll allow you to become invisible for 16 seconds so you can scurry around and melee attack some bad guys hiding behind cover. It all depends on who is AGGRO’d and who is the flanker. This is just one of the dual-tactics you’ll have to rely on to move forward in the game. The issue we had with Overkill Mode is that the crosshair will then move too slow whereas outside of that mode the crosshair will feel very wild.
Other tactics that will be important are step-ups, jump step-ups, parachuting and hovercraft techniques. Sometimes ledges are a bit too high up, so you can give your partner a boost to look over. If there are bad guys up top, you’ll have the option to shoot them down and then climb up. Once up, you can pull your teammate up safely. The same goes for the jump step-ups as well. As for parachuting, you’ll be able to take advantage of the Sixaxis tilt functions in order to direct yourself. Tilt the controller left or right and you’ll chute in that direction, lean it forward to increase speed or tilt it back to steady yourself. These decisions are crucial as your teammate will be strapped to you with a sniper rifle trying to take down the enemy below. Steadiness is always key but you don’t want to get popped full of holes either.
Speaking of getting shot full of holes, the arsenal of weapons made available to you throughout the game is also quite bountiful. There are a total of 12 primary weapons, ten secondary weapons and seven special weapons, all of which can be upgraded and customized to your liking. Upgrades will range from different styles of barrels to shields and even to pimping out your gun to bring in more AGGRO. Though some guns are limited with their upgrades, leaving you only the option to "pimp" the gun out. The "pimp out" feature is definitely creative as it will cover your gun in platinum or gold in order to draw more attention to yourself. It may sound a bit foolish, but some of the guns actually pull off this look with style.
Upgrades and weapons can be bought from the main menu or during gameplay at certain mid-mission points. Some of the weaponry is pricey, so you may find yourself just picking out a favorite gun to go with and maximizing the upgrades to use throughout the game. Outside of weaponry and the potential for upgrades, you’ll also be given the opportunity to select different styles of body armor as well as having the chance to buy different styles of face masks that the two main characters wear.
If you’re wondering how you’re going to be able to afford all of this, you’re not going to have much trouble with your finances. You’ll be able to use money you’ve earned during campaign play as well as money made during multiplayer matches to buy weapons and armor. In the campaign portion of the game, you’ll be given primary objectives that are worth big money like eliminating a terrorist leader or escorting an important VIP to safety. You’ll also be supplied with secondary objectives such as taking out some bodyguards or uncovering certain information. You’ll even be given secret objectives that you have to figure out for yourself. These are usually just briefcases lying around that happen to disclose flight patterns of nuclear attacks or black market arms dealings going down in the near future. Either way, you’ll be given more than enough opportunities to rack up a bank account worthy of Wallstreet.
As for the online play money-making, you’ll be given three modes to choose from: Extraction, Warzone, and Bounties. Extraction will have you escorting VIPs or POWs to safety for some serious cash, while Bounties will give you certain targets to eliminate while watching your bank account balance increase. Warzone is somewhat a combination of the two while giving you further objectives like defending or destroying something else within the level. There are a handful of maps for each mode and EA has said that they will support the multiplayer aspect by releasing new maps to the community as time progresses. If you’re now wondering how the game handles online, it is actually above average. There is very little lag to worry about and the online play will help you realize why this title shines as a co-op gaming experience. The true downside for the online portion of this title is the rare occasion where your objective will actually disappear from your GPS. This leaves you wandering around aimlessly trying to find it.
We’re sure you’re now wondering how good you’ll look in that new facemask and armor, right? Well, the game itself looks phenomenal. Both Salem and Rios are big, rugged guys that are fitted with a lot of tattoos or battle scars. The duo have great in-game detail and their animations are nearly flawless. On top of the superb character design, the environment looks just as great. The gas tank and barrel explosions are quite visually appealing.
EA tried for a cinematic approach with intermission cutscenes and they happened to pull it off. You’ll probably be more excited to witness the next rendered event than you are to get to the next mission. This is all brought together due to the great job the voice actors do with the characters. Not one piece of dialog will feel rushed or forced, it all just flows effortlessly. It actually feels as though the conversations within the game are things you’d witness on TV or just hear outside in a public place. We give EA two thumbs up on this portion of the game because it couldn’t have been done any better than it was.
As for the other sound effects within Army of Two, you’ll be nothing short of impressed. The sound quality the gunfire, ricocheting bullets and explosions emit are all done incredibly well and are very effective. The background music is fitting and the overall sound aspects of the game in general are great.
Army of Two just happens to be a solid experience whether you have another person to play with or playing alone with an AI partner. Despite the flack that EA receives, this is a quality game that should warrant a play-through via rental or just buying the game. The multiplayer experience definitely adds to the game’s short length.