EA Showcase: Army of Two: Hands-on

Ever since Electronic Gaming Monthly had their big exclusive cover story on this game awhile back, I have been latching onto every morsel of info I could find about it. It’s extremely rare for a developer to create a game with co-op on their mind throughout the entire design process. Sure, there are a good amount of two (or even the rare four) player co-op games out there, but most of the time it feels like they were just slapped on as an afterthought. 

I recently had the chance to have some quality hands-on time with Army of Two, and was not disappointed at all with what I got to see. 

The Electronic Arts headquarters in Redwood is extremely big and nice. From the giant theater (where we got to see how “handsome” Peter Moore’s gamer face in Tiger Woods was), to the big grassy field where we got to see miss soldiers rappelling out of an Army helicopter with boxes of (fake) gold bars (for Battlefield Bad Company). After all of these theatrics were said and done, we were lead to the main show floor where the first station you saw was the Army of Two booth. It consisted of four televisions, four Xbox 360s , and a couch where the player and a developer could sit comfortably killing a bunch of foreigners for money. 

The demo was split off into three parts, and the first part had you starting off in … honestly, I was so anxious to play that I forgot to ask what country you started in. I know that the next part of the demo was set in China and the enemies in the first part looked exactly like the Chinese enemies, so lets go with China! Whatever the location, (which will also include Irag, Afghanistan (HEY!), Miami and more) the demo had you start off on a small platform right next to a river and some stairs leading up to a firefight. Before we went into battle, the developer showed me how the controls worked. You can duck, do a roll, slide into cover, use melee attacks, and all the other standard moves set you’d normally find in this type of game.

My only issue with the controls had to be the weapons selection system. It’s in the style of Half-Life 2‘s weapon selection system, but with one or two more steps that you have to do. I found myself having too much of an issue with this especially during a firefight.

I was told (not shown) before every level (and during save points) that you can buy or select what kind of guns and grenades you can use. You have a slot for three guns, and one slot for your grenades. You can also customize your weapons (add scopes, silencers, etc.), so long as you have enough money for this. Once you pick your weapons, you’re stuck with them in the level — you can’t pick up your enemies weapons at all. Luckily, if your buddy has a weapon that you want and vice-versa, you can switch out weapons with him. So it’s definitely a good idea for the both of you to come into battle with various weaponry just in case (If you’re worried, the weapon you give remains yours no matter what … even if the d**k drops out of the game). 

After I got a handle on the controls, it was time for some action. As we were climbing the stairs, the dev told me to activate my GPS to see what my objective were. The screen turns into a transparent blue and an arrow comes up showing me exactly where I need to go. I had to wonder if this would make the game way to easy, but my mind quickly shifted back to the game as a bullet struck my facemask. I quickly slid into cover and started to shoot without looking, Kill:Switch style. It’s less accurate of course, but a lot safer too. As I was taking fire, by partner went straight for the first objective as seen in the video below:

First thing you’re probably asking yourself after watching this is why is the character glowing red? Good question, Matlock — allow me to explain! On the top center of your screen, you have a meter called the “Aggrometer.” The meter fills up depending on how much action you character is getting into. So if you’re getting more shots in and killing more enemies, you’ll get more of the Aggro. When the meter fills up all the way, your character basically enters Bullet Time and everyone moves super slow, and you’re moving at a normal pace.  

Your enemies will notice this though, and pay more attention to who is giving off more Aggro. While bad for the guy with the Aggro (the more I say it, the more it sounds like a disease), your partner with no Aggro will basically disappear. In fact, you turn transparent while your partner is glowing red. Now this doesn’t mean you’ve actually turned into a ghost, enemies will still be able to see you and shoot at you. But while the majority of the focus is on Aggro man, you can go off and complete objectives or help kill enemies who can’t be killed from the front. 

You also saw a tactic in the video called “Feign Death.” If you’re being shot at, an option will pop up and you can play dead. Any and all Aggro will transfer over to your buddy while you take a quick nap.

After taking out a mini-boss (the guy who could only be killed from the back), my partner grabs a riot shield, and we partake in our first real co-op move. The player with the shield has control of both players, while the player in the back shoots at the enemies. It was very short lived, but I could see where the developers wanted to go with this concept, and I’m really interested in seeing what other type of moves you’ll be able to do.

Shortly after crossing the bridge, the demo ends, but of course, the noob that I was got taken down. I was actually happy because I could check out the various ways bringing your partner back to health would work. Yes, I was excited to have a tampon inserted into me … Yes, tampons was the buzz word everyone was talking about when mentioning this game, but it wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be. As you can see in the video above, it’s not that interesting, and I have to wonder if this mini-game will get old too fast. There will be multiple ways to bring your buddy back to life, and every one of them involves some form of context-sensitive button presses for them to work.

The next level in the demo placed you in a small Chinese village. As you ran into a couple of the houses in the abandoned village, two military helicopters arrived to drop off a load of enemy soldiers. The only objective in this part of the game was to kill all the enemies the helicopters would drop off. While I stood on top of a roof sniping people, my partner was taking out anyone inside buildings. Not much new was shown in this level except two these two small things.

First, if you see a shotgun, run away. They will knock your ass to the floor and it takes several seconds for you to get back up. The other thing that I learned from this level is that AoT might actually have a really deep story line. In every level of the game, you have a third partner telling you your objectives. However, in this level, the main characters you control (Salem and Rios) got into a little shouting match with mission operator Alice Murray. Didn’t catch too much of the transaction (over the crowd and the shooting), but it seemed like Salem and Rios believed that Alice had sent them into a trap on the previous mission. 

Shortly after this level, the last part of the demo was loaded up. Miami, a level never before shown off until this event; famously the home of Tommy Vercetti, Palm Trees, Niero, and Salem and Rios base of operation. Whereas the Chinese levels looked pretty good, the Miami level looked absolutely gorgeous. This section began with me jumping into the gunner seat of a Hovercraft as my partner rides the waves in the streets of Miami. Oh, by the way, Miami just got hit by the worst hurricane in history , and is flooded worse than the disaster of New Orleans. As you’re riding the waves, enemies in hovercrafts are gunning for you as you try to make it to a power station. This part of the game was great to look at, but it felt like my turret gun was way too weak, and I found myself losing interest fast. 

At the power station, it was more of the same with what I had just done on the first level — kill the baddies and follow the GPS to the terminals to activate the power. While on this mission though, another co-op feature was shown. With help from the GPS map (which will also show you where hidden mines and explosives are located at), each of us took aim at an explosive, and my partner started counting down from three — we both had to hit the explosive at the same time. After that, we got back onto the hovercraft and headed for the end of the mission.

All in all, I was very satisfied with what I played. The game will span 40 missions over six levels and should be out on November 13th for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.  

Hamza Aziz