It’s hard to describe Army of Two. It’s a co-operative shooter with a few gameplay buffs. It was made by some chaps down at EA, published by EA and the servers are from EA. So you can well imagine how much it sucks. But it doesn’t. It’s not a breakthrough title into the co-op genre world, it’s not some big giant epic fantasy game and it doesn’t do anything new. But it’s so blatantly does all this that it creates a strange sense of ‘this is pretty rad’… most of the time.
In Army of Two, you can play as either Salem or Rios… I think… two big fat army blokes who are contracted by some guy to go kill some dudes. Except they’re not two big fat army blokes and the ‘some guy’ (SPOILER) turns out to be the real enemy (END SPOILER). I bet you read that spoiler anyway, not much of a spoiler though. Salem is the big bloke and Rios is the small, puny little ‘Scout’ as I call him. There’s not much emphasis on the contrast of the characters, but there shouldn’t be, but there’s a heavy subliminal message which must have stabbed a knife in the back of ‘Captain Subtlety’.
There’s a strong message in this game. Stronger than Mike Tyson, Chuck Norris and the Power Rangers put together and it’s sprayed everywhere. It underlines the main plot like a piece of string coming off another piece of string, and it’s always just slammed in your face. This… ‘plot device’ as the top writers put it, is the fact that ‘the military can’t get their jobs done’ and ‘Private Military Corps RULE!’. It is literally sprayed everywhere, from just little chatter from Rios, a little dossier on one of your villains and even the god damn newspapers floating on the ground… yeah… Captain Subtlety must be turning in his grave (except he can’t, he’s dead).
The game encourages you to think on your feet, like a soldier, you and your partner (whether AI or a friend or yourself with a pad in each hand) have to work together to survive. It’s a bit like Left 4 Dead the fact you can’t work alone, otherwise you’re fresh meat. That being said, all the enemies take 5 shots to kill and you take three hundred thousand quad-rillion trillion shots to kill. You upgrade your armor through the game and some of the enemies have special riot shields to guard them. The only way to get past them is to use a little trick called aggro.
Aggro is when you go out on the field, take your man-bra off, dance around to Iranian pop music and let the enemy take hits on you. While this is going on, your partner (or even you if you’re not wearing the bra) can sneak around and take the enemy from behind… kill them that is. It’s a new type of gameplay device that actually works nicely, until you die. While drawing attention from the enemy you’re obviously going to get shot in the head multiple times, even with three hundred life bars, you’re going to die. That’s when some quick mechanics come to give you a hand.
‘Feign death’ is handy, when it wants to be, a quick tap of the X button when near death, makes you fall on the floor in a heap like you just fainted. It diverts all of the enemies’ attention on to the other partner, although this can only be done once. A handy thing to do is to just fall asleep after taking heavy aggro, let your partner hide behind cover, regain your health and then switch aggro places. It’s also quick to do, at a touch of the D-Pad, your partner can leap behind cover, go on his own little run around, take aggro or take out a different weapon.
All these gameplay touches make the experience enjoyable, and the set pieces simply add to this. You’ll go to China, Ukraine, Miami, Afghanistan and visit every continent on the planet… except Africa… EA can’t afford that. A set piece which I can still imagine is the aircraft carrier, in which Salem and Rios have to take back a missile carrying aircraft carrier… while it sinks. The last bit is Salem and Rios having to rush up the aircraft platform, as the ship sinks and gravity pushes all the stuff downwards into the sea or your face. Pretty spectacular stuff.
I started off by saying that Army of Two does nothing spectacular, it built a few new gameplay mechanics and made co-op the main face of the game. It’s plot is as thin as English pizza, and some of the customization options are vastly absurd (you can ‘bling’ up your guns… but not in terms of weaponry), it wears thin on the AI ground and some of the loading times can be annoying. But, for all it’s flaws, it holds up as a fun and indulgent shooter. It didn’t shock any critics back then, and it won’t shock you now.