Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Army of Two - Review

When characters aren't insulting each other in Army of Two, the game is insulting the player with it’s dialog. The plot is predictable, from the tired twists to the entirely obvious final level encounters. The game takes few narrative chances though seems to consider itself “edgy” for dealing in real world scenarios. In this game world 9/11 actually happened, and in between insults and non sequitur the game tables topics of foreign relations and military privatization, though fails to come off as relevant or insightful.

Unless you're seriously into the idea of gun porn and "pimping" out weapons with gold and diamonds and fratboy humour you’ll gloss right over the presentation and focus on the gameplay. Taking many cues from Gears of War, Army of Two includes a mostly excellent and automated cover system. The headlining “Aggro” feature of this two man experience is somewhat engaging as long as both players pay attention to and utilize it. When fully Aggro’d you can go into a momentary damage dealing slow moving enemy attention grabbing rage while your partner enters a total stealth state. Shades of these two extremes present themselves while “Aggro” and attention hovers between characters. Having one player go guns blazing while the other sneaks around with a silenced pistol allows this system to present itself to its fullest.

Utilization of Aggro is forced on the players by a few unfortunate gameplay elements. Enemies can target you from behind total cover. Without your partner drawing Aggro away you’re always a target. Camera issues become a problem in close combat. There is a melee attack option which allows for some close quarters kills, though this is somewhat broken since it uses your primary fire button. If you aren’t precisely close enough or facing the wrong way you’ll end up firing past the head of your enemy while they enact their own melee attack and likely incapacitate you.

The other co-op features aside from the Aggro system include dragging downed teammates to cover to perform medic duties, parachuting into missions strapped together, boosting each other up walls, a 360 degree “back to back” shooting gallery mode which occurs automatically at sometimes awkward locations each mission, and a useless system of high fives and head smacks for character building. The healing/dragging mechanic being is a highlight which incentivizes cooperation and forces players to consider each other while making decisions, lest you both die and restart from a checkpoint.

I can recommend this game to shooter fans, with a few reservations. The weapon and powerup system has a bit of depth and should provide some nice options and replay. It’s best to pay little attention to the story while you enjoy some of the better action set pieces, though the campaign is short. While this game works best with a friend, the partner AI is competent and the game can be enjoyed alone. There is also an online versus mode which requires an EA account, and was therefore completely ignored.

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