Friday, March 14, 2008

Army of Two

By Shawn

If you are a fan of death and carnage, we got your game right here.

Since its inception, multiplayer has been at the very core of video gaming.  Hell, it’s the focus most of my reviews pertain too, as I see it as the last true throwback to how video games used to be.  With the increase in hardware, the multiplayer experience has been improved tenfold.  The Xbox 360 console has seen its share of co-operative multiplayer titles in its two year history including the wildly popular Gears of Wars, and the commercially if not critically successful Kane & Lynch: Dead MenArmy of Two continues that success and evolution of the genre while retaining many of the core elements that gamers have come to expect in the next generation. The game has a strange history, being pulled from production two weeks before its original release date after some initial reviews were deemed unfavorable.  After several months back in the oven, EA has released Army of Two on the public and the title doesn’t seem to disappoint.

There’s a single player mode, but realistically, there is no single player.  I’m not even going to get into how the AI is or what they do because this is a game that requires Xbox Live - it just doesn’t say it on the packaging.  With an Xbox Live Gold membership, you have access to both co-op and versus multiplayer modes.  The co-op mode is the campaign which was built from the ground up for two players.  The first levels introduce you to your protagonists (or maybe antagonists depending on who you ask) and from there it’s a whirlwind of bodies, bullets and mayhem. 

The core gameplay centers on the “aggro” meter.  For the uninitiated, “aggro” is short for “aggressive”.  It’s a term coined from massive multiplayer games with game controlled enemies.  If you present yourself as aggressive you’ll draw attention away from other members who either be weaker or be it for strategic purposes.  This concept is simply taken to an extreme in Army of Two.  The more carnage one player wrecks upon the enemy, the stealthier your partner becomes enabling him to ninja any would be terrorists from fucking up your massacres - sound ridiculous?  Reading what I just typed makes it sound even more ridiculous, but the system works well.  The level of coordination between you and your partner is directly tied to the success you will achieve in this title.

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You earn money like any good mercenary does by downing the countless waves of Taliban inspired foes.  You also earn them dolla dolla bills by completing various objectives like blowing up a missile the bad guys stashed in a cave.  This money is then used at the in-game store, where upgrades can be purchased for owned guns like silencers or my personal favorite; the “pimped out” option of gold plating your gun (I’m serious).  You can also purchase additional masks to separate yourself from everyone else online as well as equip different types of body armor.  For the gun nut in you all your defacto models are here like the FN P90, IMI Desert Eagle, M21 sniper rifle and many more.

Duck and cover finds its way into another shooter, but the aggro meter shines in moments like this.  The problem with games that offer any type of tactical co-op experience is that when you take this online, opponents tend to forget this and instead focus on attempts to smack you in the back of your head with the largest gun they can find.  Due to the stealth side of the meter, enemies who fight in this fashion will now find themselves at a disadvantage due to the other team member being invisible. 

There are some other simple multiplayer action moments that just hurt the overall flow of the game, however.  In my play thru of the first few levels, I encountered “Back to Back”, a slow motion shooting sequence reminiscent of “Red Dead Revolver’s” standoffs.  These moments are all scripted, which detracts from the overall fun factor.  Also, the dual sniping is simply retarded and does nothing but piss you off as guys riddle you with bullets while your non-aiming partner struggles to hit a big ass oil tanker.  You can get little makeshift shields from car doors and what not, but it isn’t as effective against the suicide bombers who run up to you and explode a grenade in your fucking face.

Online multiplayer is a 2v2 affair with random enemies spawning during the game.  Both teams are tasked with the same objective and there is a fair amount of strategy involved.  There are only 4 maps available at the initial release, but more downloadable content has been promised.

All in all, Army of Two is a fun title; worth a rental at best.  It’s not exactly reinventing the wheel but I don’t think fans are looking for that anyway.  People want fast paced games with little on the why and more on the blowing the stuff to kingdom come.  If you have a consistent gaming partner this title is a must, as this is how the game is meant to be played.  The in-game store and multiple gun options make playing through at least worthwhile considering the short length of the campaign.

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