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LONG BLOG

My First Review: Army of Two (3/12/08)

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I wrote this review and posted it on GameFAQS.com on 3/12/08. This was my first written game review and first lengthy article that I had written in 2+ years. I'll have more up soon...

Army of Two:

Many games include some type of co-op. Most classic games offer only a single player mode with one more body added into the mix. Others offer more depth to playing with another person or group of people by including special abilities or attacks that can only be used when there is more than one player. Army of Two is a combination of the old “run 'n gun” co-op from classic games, mixed with a bit of the newer “think before you leap” style of gameplay. By combining these two gameplay styles, AoT excels in some areas but lacks in others.

Originally supposed to be released in late 2007, EA decided to delay the game at almost last notice in order to fix up some gameplay elements and improve the HUD. While many of the great concepts originally planned for the game were removed, I cannot compare the current retail version of the game to one that was never released. The review of this game is of what is currently available and what it might offer latter on via DLC. It is not being compared to an earlier version.

Plot: 7/10

The two characters you'll be playing as are Rios and Salem, who start the game by dong missions for the Army but quickly learn of a less restrictive and more profitable job by becoming guns for hire. The plot is painfully predictable but you'll be able to ignore most of the dialog pertaining to the story and still be able to enjoy the game. Cut scenes in between each mission do help to tell what little story there is but are fairly good looking and help break the tension by adding slapstick humor. The plot won't grab your attention, but it also won't turn you away.

Graphics and Sound: 8/10

The Unreal 3 engine is at works yet again and does what you would expect out of it. Metal objects look fantastic and are detailed but cloth, skin, and most world objects are lacking in comparison. A smooth frame rate for both off-line and on-line helps make the action in the game go by quick and seamless, but most things still have that “shiny” texture to them that other games using this engine do (Gears of War for example). The locations you'll visit are varied and will keep your attention from wandering most of the time. Animations for Rios and Salem are great and help add to the feeling that you're a trained militant who knows what he's doing, though be it a bit cocky at times.

Sound effects are good, but compared to other shooter-heavy games released in the past couple years, AoT does little to impress. The music in the game is hardly noticeable, but when it does blast in it fits the mood of the game and helps to get the adrenaline pumping. Voice acting is one of the spotlights for AoT. The voice actors for Rios, Salem, and other characters are top notch. They may not be dramatic and are predictable as the plot, but they are not overly cheesy. You'll hear Rios and Salem verbally bashing each other with sarcastic remarks that will keep you laughing throughout the game.

Gameplay: 9/10

AoT is built for co-op with an added versus and single player gametypes seemingly thrown in as an afterthought. While playing single player, the AI controlled partner is fairly good at doing his job and will be helpful most of the time. Controls to command your partner are basic, are not overdone, and can be used to communicate via co-op mode in place of a headset. Occasionally though the AI will try to heal you in the middle of a firefight while getting shot at and cause you both to die, or will drag you too far away and waste your time getting back to the action. It will sometimes also be over aggressive by chasing enemies clear across the map.

The cover system in AoT is a bit different then other games released in the past. Instead of pressing a button near a wall to lock yourself against it, AoT simply understands that you are behind something and will automatically switch to blind fire when close to cover. Your back never goes against a wall, you don't slide around side to side, and you don't preform an action to get to the next point of cover. This might seem lackluster at first, but being able to quickly maneuver behind cover and aim at enemies is well worth the simplicity.

The one thing that sets this game apart from other shooters is the aggro system. Most mmorpg players are familiar with gaining “hate” on an enemy to allow other players to do damage and heal without the worry of taking damage. AoT does an excellent way of explaining the aggro system in a short video when first playing the game and again during the tutorial level. Basically, one of the two players gets the attention or “aggro” of the enemies while the other player sneaks around and takes them out from behind. A meter at the top of the screen displays which one of the two players has aggro and how much. The player with the most aggro will start flashing red around their body, while the player with no aggro will start to fade and become transparent, helping the player judge quickly who has aggro during a firefight without looking at the meter. When one player gains enough aggro for a certain amount of time, either player can activate Overkill mode. Overkill will give players in aggro mode the ability to charge in like Rambo, while players trying to flank the enemy will nearly disappear from their sight. Pimping your guns by adding gold plating and intricate designs can help gain aggro while adding a silencer will decrease your aggro gain and make it easier to flank the enemy.

Upgrading your arsenal can become addicting and will offer more than one or two playthroughs in order to purchase every upgrade for every gun. The detailing on most of the weapons when “pimped out” is stunning. Having a SAW with gold plating on its sides and intricate designs on the ammo container might seem odd at first but will look awesome and does fit into the context of the game.

Aiding to the co-op style gameplay are co-op maneuvers. The most used one will end up being the Step Jump, which allows one player to boost the second one up a wall to take out any enemies, then pull the first player up to the same level. This can be tricky at first because the player giving the boost will determine how fast and far up the other goes. There is a Back to Back sequence you'll preform throughout the game that makes everything go slow motion to help dispatch waves of enemies. A hovercraft is provided during a couple missions but becomes a hindrance more then a help. It controls like a brick submerged in a pool of syrup and the mounted machine gun does too little damage against enemies at higher difficulties.

Replay: 7/10

Multiplayer versus is not very fun at all. Not being able to use the upgrades you purchase during story mode is a disappointment. Instead, you can purchase new gun outfits ala Counter-Strike to help win the next match. A few well placed grenades though can make one team dominate over the other quickly and makes it hard to catch up. The lobby system is horrible because it is over simplified and is missing the most basic of options, like saving your team to play against more then one other group, so you'll have to re-invite your friend to play again after the matches are done. Also when one of the players in the match leaves it makes everyone leave, causing large amounts of time being wasted because of one person. Interesting idea but they should have put more thought into the versus mode.

Not including the versus type matches, you could play through the multiplayer co-op in one sitting for about seven hours. With three difficulty settings it'll take around 15-20 hours to complete them all. While upgrading all your guns and mask types could take longer than that, replaying the same missions multiple times will only last for so long. If EA can add DLC to the co-op portion of the game it'll help in the overall replay value.

Final Recommendation: 8/10

Having a game made for co-op is certainly a pleasant surprise in the mass of single player and multiplayer versus games. AoT looses a couple points for being repetitive but gains others for being one of the best co-op action games currently available on the Xbox 360. If you have a friend or want to make one, put in Army of Two and enjoy!
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About Lurfadurone of us since 3:26 PM on 07.03.2008

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