Army of Two Review
If people recall my E3 coverage from last year, I found myself completely enamored with EA's Army of Two. The game reminded me a lot of Gears of War, and yet it felt like it had a bit more depth to it. Initially planned for a November 2007 release, EA had to delay the game until March 2008 in order to fix some issues and make sure both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions ran the same. Well, after much anticipation, Army of Two has finally arrived. But in the grand scheme of things, it's not what I had thought it would be.
There is a large difference between playing a level or two of a game, and then playing the entire game. Army of Two is not a bad game, but it has a number of issues that prevent it from being great. The concept here is a co-op gameplay campaign where it's two soldiers from an elite military squad sent in to do some of the most grueling contract work imaginable. You choose which one of the two rangers you wish to control, Rios or Salem, but they're both capable of doing the same things, really. Throughout your campaign, you'll assist your partner, and vice-versa. You'll be able to switch weapons, co-operatively snipe a target, assign him to hold, advance, or give you support.
Now, Army of Two features this little system called the Aggro System, where the player doing the most killing and shooting glows red, which in turn attracts all attention to him. When this occurs, the player who isn't attracting attention becomes translucent, and is able to sneak around and take out enemies with stealth. This will come in handy often as you play the game. You can also switch Aggro status by using the D-pad, this makes your partner take on all of the attention, instead.
At its core, Army of Two is a run-and-gun action shooter. You're able to duck and hide behind objects, as well as peak and shoot over said objects. It has the standard control elements you'd expect, except for one critical one, auto-aim. While I generally do not like auto-aim in action games, Army of Two is a game that needs it bad. The cross-hair is extremely small in the game, so aiming takes patience. But because of the intensity of the game, and the amount of enemies that can appear at once, patience isn't exactly what you'll want to practice when you're trying to take out 12 enemies. And no matter what difficulty you play on, the A.I. will almost always make contact when they shoot, which is fine. It's just that a lot of times you'll get hit before you can even see them - they're way too quick to fire. This becomes annoying further on in the game, when ambushes occur more.
Speaking of ambushes, at certain times you and your partner will go into a back-to-back mode where you'll take out a horde of enemies that are coming at you, all the while being pressed up against your partner's back. Moreover, you can also grab objects such as car-doors and use them as shields; this will allow your partner to crouch behind you, while shooting over your shield as you walk forward. You can also help each other by performing a step jump, and pull your accomplice up over a ledge. Lastly, if either one of you gets knocked down with an injury, you run up to your partner, drag him to a safe location and heal his wounds by inserting a tampon into them (common practice with actual soldiers).
You can purchase arms and gears via a weapon shop. You have the choice of Primary Weapons, Secondary Weapons, Special Weapons, and Gear. There's a large number of stuff to buy, such as shotguns, sniper rifles, grenades, automatic rifles, a plethora of handguns, masks, and armor. Unfortunately, there's only three pieces of armor to choose from, light, medium, and heavy - so there isn't a whole lot of depth in that respect. In order to purchase weapons, you'll need to earn cash, which you are rewarded with by completing objectives and missions.
A lot of that sounds great, right? Ultimately Army of Two's execution falls short. The first few stages are fairly enjoyable, but the feeling of redundancy and repetition is quick to set in. You'll soon begin to feel that Army of Two suffers from a lack of variation, and before you know it, you find yourself bored. Much of the game is nothing but taking out waves and waves of enemies over and over again, and the mission objectives are never satisfying either. Additionally, the story is bland, and the writing is about the cheesiest I've heard in ages. With more diversity, Army of Two could've been one of the best games of 2008. But ultimately, its gameplay doesn't hold up to keep you interested long enough. It's a fun action title, and it has its moments when co-op online, but if you're the type who expects more out of your game purchases, then you will find yourself bored quick.
Multiplayer modes include the ability to play co-op online and offline, but other online modes only allow for a mere four people to play with - basically, two teams. The modes are Versus, Warzone, Extraction, and Bounties. So not only does Army of Two's gameplay feel hollow, its online component is quite lackluster, too.
As far as looks go, Army of Two is a pretty good looking game. It's probably one of the very few non-X360 centric multiplatform games that runs flawlessly on the PlayStation 3. The framerate is extremely consistent, as it should be, considering the game's five month delay. Environments are detailed with good looking textures, and the lighting is definitely solid. Character detail is nice, but you don't really see much of them, seeing as how they're covered up from head-to-toe, but at least their gear looks nice.
But there are also some problems. For a game as destructive as Army of Two, there sure is a lack of environmental interactivity. At best, the only thing you can do is blow up a barrels here and there, and those barrels will almost always be placed for a very specific use, so it's not like you're free to blow them up for the hell of it. Shoot at glass, and it doesn't shatter. Shoot at a structure? It won't crumble. Shoot at the gas tank of a truck? Nothing. And since we're on the topic of explosions, the ones in Army of Two are laughably bad. I kid you not when I say this, but they look almost exactly like the explosions from the very first Medal of Honor game on the original PlayStation. All you see is just this low-quality burst of orange, and that's it. Trust me, it's that bad.
The audio continues Army of Two's roll of being average. The voice acting is well done, but the dialogue and the writing is absolutely terrible, as I've mentioned before. There's a ton of profanity, so if you've got little kids around, I don't suggest playing the game around them. Sound effects are pretty good, for the most part, as explosions and gun shots do sound nice. And while you play, you'll hear some banter between the two characters and the enemies, as well as a soundtrack in the background.
Overall, after high hopes, Army of Two falls well short of my expectations. The more I played the game, the more I found myself getting bored of it. It has a lot of great elements to it, such as the entire concept of co-operative gameplay, but it's sorely lacking in execution and variation. Worst of all, a solid online component could've saved the game, but that falls short too, as Army of Two's online is as barren as the rest of the game. It's visually nice, and runs very well, but interaction with the environment is non-existent, and special effects are a joke. While Army of Two isn't a bad game, it's definitely not worth your $60 and tax, so I suggest renting first.
3/14/2008 Arnold Katayev