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Army of Two Review
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Mar 04, 08
|» All About Army of Two on ActionTrip|
It's safe to say there's but a handful of decent single-player titles out there. More and more development studios focus on multiplayer-oriented gameplay and with Microsoft's Xbox LIVE and Sony's PSN now in full swing, features like co-op and online play are usually considered a must for a majority of action games. EA's Army of Two rests on that very principal and from our experience it's obvious that the game's multiplayer facets have been a top priority for the development team.
How do you steer this damn thing?
Trust me, this massage never fails.
Ao2 does feature a single-player campaign, which follows the story of two mercs named Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem. They both work for a Private Military Contractor and are sent on a variety of missions, which involve taking out key military targets, assassinating some of the world's most dangerous terrorists and so on. With Rios and Salem (especially, Salem) it's all about earning cold, hard cash. Being patriotic or good-goody isn't really their thing. When an appropriate fee is involved, however, no task is too treacherous.
You'll be traversing from one warzone to another and there will be plenty of hostiles along the way. No matter where you go, you'll always have a companion by your side. There's very little room for any stealth maneuvers, so it'll mostly be about shooting or blasting your way through in order to reach the main objective. Clearly enough, when it comes to gameplay mechanics and overall design, Army of Two is primarily a two-player experience. Initially though, we decided to try out the single-player and see how the friendly AI handles itself in battle.
The real drawback of Ao2 became apparent during the first mission. The developers didn't invest a lot of time making a smooth and trouble-free single-player ride. Quite simply, your companion doesn't always do what he's supposed to, if he's controlled by the game's AI. He often gets confused when ordered to advance or hold his position. Also, the game was designed so your character frequently requires aid from his teammate. Trouble is, the teammate makes weird (sometimes even baffling) decisions in mid-combat. For example, when you're critically wounded, you won't be able to move, so your partner has to drag you to a safe location and restore your to health. In co-op, this system works just fine; this unfortunately, is not the case with the AI-controlled teammate. In that respect, the sheer stupidity of the AI is laughable at times. On one occasion, my character was mortally wounded, but luckily was behind cover. He was safe until his partner arrived to the rescue. Instead of just healing my avatar right away, the teammate started dragging him out in the open and straight into a rain of enemy bullets. Brilliant. The AI was actually trying to find another suitable hiding spot, but failed to recognize that we were already perfectly safe.
Another problem with Army of Two is that most gamers will be able to complete the main campaign in roughly ten hours, possibly less (when they're playing alone, that is). There's a mere six missions to go through and you'll be done with those in no time at all.
Regarding the storytelling, there's not much to enjoy. The main plot is fairly predictable and not all that exciting. Granted, it's adequate to keep you going through the campaign, but it rarely offers any interesting twists. This wasn't much of a surprise given the overall length of the campaign. What's more, as far as the mission structure is concerned, the game seldom goes beyond the mundane caught-behind-enemy-lines-must-shoot-everyone-to-survive kind of set up.
Okay, it's not all bad. There are rewarding features you get to toy around with, such as the game's weapon upgrade system. There's a decent choice of firearms to purchase and tweak before heading into battle. Customizing firearms is actually a cool part, since it does have an impact on how weapons perform during the mission.
There's also the so-called Aggro system, which balances the gameplay. When foes focus attacks on one character, that character automatically accumulates Aggro, drawing attention away from his companion, who can then take the opportunity to take out targets more easily. It's a system that works rather well. In multiplayer, however, this feature could go by unnoticed, particularly for more experienced players.
Regardless, Army of Two really gets going once you find someone to play it with in co-op, either online via Xbox Live (or PSN if you're playing the PS3 version) or through the game's split-screen mode. Players may also enjoy the multiplayer arena, where there are 4 maps and three separate game modes available - Extraction, Bounties and Warzones; each is fun in its own way and makes you want to return to the game after each match and try out different tactics against your enemies.
Looks nice, sounds nice, fun co-op, excellent multiplayer, gives you a chance to experiment with different tactics;
Main campaign is too brief, some features in single-player are almost useless in multiplayer, single-player experience weighed down by poor AI, slightly mundane level design.