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Army of Two is a game I’ve wanted to play for a while now but never pulled the trigger because I heard that playing through it solo isn’t worth it. But when I saw it on eBay for around six bucks, I figured I would give it a shot. Developed and published by EA, Army of Two was released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in March, 2008. For this review, Jeremy and I played through the 360 version on an Xbox One. Army of Two is a third-person shooter that places a big emphasis on cooperative play, requiring two players to work together to accomplish objectives and defeat enemies.
The story revolves around Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem, soldiers in the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment. In 1993, they are tasked to work with a private military contractor from the Security and Strategy Corporation to assassinate a local warlord in Somalia. After completing the mission, Rios and Salem join the SSC and work as private contractors. They are sent on various missions over the years and in 2003, they’re sent to Iraq where they rescue one of their former squad mates shortly before he’s killed when his helicopter explodes and they stumble onto a conspiracy involving the SSC and terrorists. The story is okay and some of the cut scenes are awesomely action-packed. The voice acting isn’t anything spectacular but it gets the job done and there’s some humorous lines and banter peppered throughout the story.
Army of Two can be played solo or cooperatively with another person and before you start the campaign, you must choose the difficulty, with Professional being locked at the start, and your primary character. Rios and Salem play exactly the same. You can walk, run, vault over obstacles, crouch, take cover, shoot from cover, blind fire, and interact with things in the environments. There is no snap mechanic so once you get behind an object, you’re in cover and they can blind fire with ridiculous accuracy. You can bring up a GPS which allows you to see objective locations, proximity mines, and arrows that point to where you need to go.
The game places a big emphasis on cooperation and many objectives must be completed by both characters working together. They’ll have to open doors together, give each other boosts, push buttons, and pull levers. Then there’s the co-op actions during gameplay. Throughout the story, you’ll be forced to go back-to-back with your partner and fend off enemies. You can team up and snipe targets together and you can acquire items to use as shields so you can walk into combat zones with one player holding the shield and the other behind him shooting at enemies. Some chapters have you base jumping and/or parachuting where one player steers the chute and the other will have to shoot at enemies. You can also show enthusiasm or disappointment for your partner’s actions.
Army of Two employs an aggro system that requires both players to work together to be successful in combat. Aggro is a system where one player draws the enemy fire making the other player basically invisible, allowing him to rush or flank enemies without being seen. Aggro is acquired by shooting and basically gaining the enemy’s attention. There’s an aggro meter that fills up as you acquire aggro and when you acquire enough, you can activate Overkill mode for a limited time where the gameplay slows down and you do double-damage. During Overkill, the player with no aggro can quickly run around and the player with all the aggro can’t crouch for some reason which is kind of annoying. If you’re out in the open, especially if you’re the one with aggro, you become an immediate bullet magnet so you should always be in cover. Cover plays an essential role in combat and if you’re not behind cover you’re guaranteed to die. If you want to move to a different location in the middle of a firefight, there’s a good chance you’ll get shot on the way there unless your partner has all the aggro so you need to communicate often and know what you’re both doing and where you both are located. The enemies never seem to miss if you’re exposed and you can die quite easily if you don’t stay down and get behind something. If you’re about to fall in combat, you can always feign death to trick the enemies into thinking your dead. If you take enough damage, you’ll fall and must be revived by your partner before you die. He can drag you to safety and heal you but if you die, you both must restart from the last checkpoint.
While you can play solo, we would highly recommend you play with another individual because the friendly AI is very incompetent. At one point I fell and needed to be revived and my AI partner dragged me towards enemies, I’ve seen him run out into the open where the bullets are flying instead of taking a safer route to flank enemies, and sometimes he just won’t take cover when necessary. He requires a lot of babysitting and it can be frustrating at times. When playing solo, you can issue commands to your AI partner like advance, hold position, and regroup, and you can decide if he should acquire aggro or not. If you command him to acquire aggro, he’ll do it but he’ll usually lose health because he doesn’t know to stay down every now and again to regenerate health. You can activate a camera to see where your partner is, what he’s doing, and if he needs help. He will shoot at and kill enemies and throw grenades but you can’t rely on him to do anything very intelligent. It would be nice if you could command him where to move but you can only tell him to advance which means he’ll run forward to where the enemies are and usually take damage. The enemies aren’t very bright either. If your partner has all the aggro, you basically become a ghost and you can get ridiculously close to enemies and they won’t spot you. Aggro or not, they’ll often run right past you on their way to cover or run around aimlessly for no reason. They’ll shoot at you, use weapon emplacements, snipe you, fire rockets, and throw grenades and the enemies become more grenade-happy the further you get into the campaign. Some of the tougher enemy types require the proper use of aggro since you have to shoot them in the back to take them down. The idea here is one player draws their fire while the other gets behind them.
The campaign is actually quite short. You can beat it in about five hours. You’ll complete various objectives like destroying things, assassinating specific enemies, retrieving information, and other typical shit. There are primary objectives and sub-objectives to complete and most of them reward you with money. You have the option to access a shop at certain points where you can purchase weapons and gear. You can buy primary weapons, secondary weapons, special weapons, armor, and masks. Not only can you buy weapons but you can also by weapon attachments like cartridges, barrels, shields, stocks, front mounts like grips, shotguns, and grenade launchers, and you can pimp your weapon which affects its aggro. The weapons have different stats and the attachments affect these stats so you can experiment with different weapons and attachments to see what works best for you in different situations. Weapon attachments for each category must be purchased in order which really doesn’t make any sense. For example, in the front mount category, you have to buy the grip before you can buy the shotgun, and you have to buy the shotgun before you can by the grenade launcher. Why? The weapons you purchase are the only ones you can use during missions but you can swap weapons with your partner. You’ll also bring grenades with you and enemies will often drop ammo when killed.
Army of Two will take you to a decent variety of locations. You’ll travel to Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and China, you’ll liberate an aircraft carrier, and you’ll blast your way through the Miami airport. Some missions allow you to utilize a hovercraft where one player drives and the other is the gunner. The environments funnel you where you need to go but most areas are wide open with plenty of objects to use as cover and sometimes there are multiple paths that you can take, perfect for flanking. There explosive objects like barrels and tanks you can shoot to kill multiple enemies at once and littered throughout the chapters are briefcases that reward you with money when acquired. Enemies will be on guard or patrolling and sometimes they arrive by helicopter. In the larger areas, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by enemies if you don’t stay close to your partner and the enemies will often advance on your position so you should you always keep your eyes peeled.
We do think Army of Two looked pretty good for its time, although texture pop-in is frequent and some textures are noticeably blurry. The bullet decals look great, smoke and debris kick up when bullets rip through objects in the environments, and bodies will ragdoll when killed. When it comes to the audio, the sound effects are pretty good. The weapons are loud and sound satisfying to shoot and the explosions are booming. I also enjoyed the sound of bullets hitting rocks and stone and listening to them break and/or crumble during firefights. The protagonists and NPC’s will shout during combat and the action is accompanied by a decent soundtrack. The music has an intensity to it that helps to emphasize the action. On the technical side, the game ran very smooth, at least on Xbox One. The frame rate was solid most of the time, with a few dips and stutters here and there and we saw our characters get stuck in the environments a couple of times but we never encountered any serious bugs.
We actually had a lot of fun with Army of Two. It’s a bit on the short side and the AI is pretty shit but overall, it’s a fun action-packed experience. We can’t say the plot was very immersive or anything but the dialogue was occasionally humorous and some of the cut scenes are just awesome. This is one of those games where we would highly advise you play with a buddy. You can beat the game solo and it can be enjoyable but the friendly AI is so incompetent that it can become irritating. The co-op actions are cool but don’t really add anything to the experience. Most of the time, the game feels like a typical cover-based shooter with aggro being the standout feature. It basically forces both players to work together during combat. If you try to just run into situations by yourself, there’s a good chance you’ll get blown away. In many ways, Army of Two kind of reminds me of Kill.Switch. Take cover, take aim, take over. That’s basically how this feels except you’re doing it with a buddy.
We would recommend Army of Two to fans of action games and third-person shooters. There is a multiplayer component which we didn’t get the chance to try but we should mention the servers were shut down some time ago. It’s a shame the campaign is so short because the gameplay is fun, the action can be intense, and we would have loved to see more. The multiple difficulty modes, weapons and weapon attachments, and briefcases are some incentives to return. You can acquire Army of Two for pretty cheap and if you have someone to play with, you’ll be in for a great time, even if it won’t last very long. Definitely check it out.