Army of Two Review
Hit the co-op battlefield.
March 4, 2008 - In his farewell state of the union address, President Eisenhower warned of the dangers of a private military force, reasoning that corporate troops for hire would undermine the safety, security and standing of our armed forces. Eisenhower didn't know just how prophetic his words would become, especially given the state of the world today. Companies like Titan Corporation, Triple Canopy and Blackwater have hired their military services to the highest bidder, dropping into hotspots for missions while undermining the image of the armed services. It's this backdrop that's the concept behind the latest action title from EA Montreal and EA Games, Army of Two. As you can tell from the title, the game places a premium on co-op play, and while the single player experience is fine, it's co-op play where this title really shines.
The story of Army of Two takes place across 16 years, centering on Elliott Salem and Tyson Rios, two battle-hardened former Army Rangers that join the private sector as mercenaries for hire. Following their former commander Dalton to Security and Strategy Corporation, or SSC, Salem and Rios are dispatched across the globe to "take care of problems" in warzones while raking in large sums of cash. However, as time goes by, both Salem and Rios start to notice that a number of leaks and secrets seem to coincide with their missions as well as a bill in Congress to fully privatize the military. Trying to get their heads around what's going on, Salem and Rios fight their way through battlefields in a tale of betrayal, conspiracy and revenge.
In a single player match up, you select either Salem or Rios to take through the six story driven campaigns, with the computer controlling your partner. While you might think that guns are primarily going to help you survive, the real tool in your arsenal is Aggro, a system that is based around how forceful your soldier is being in combat. If you throw grenades, continually shoot enemies (or even blind fire in their direction) or cause explosions, you swing aggro momentum in your direction, which will in turn make every soldier focus their attention on you. That might seem like a bad thing, especially when you're glowing red to indicate how aggressive you're being. However, there are definite advantages to pulling aggro. First of all, with all of the attention on your soldier, your partner will turn transparent, indicating that they can sneak around and flank rival soldiers without them knowing it. The other advantage of aggro is that if you maintain that state, you move into what's known as overkill, a bullet time inspired place where you do twice as much damage and are able to fire unlimited bullets or sneak around completely invisible for about 16 seconds, performing melee strikes like chokeslams or kicks to the stomach.
Aggro also serves to drive home the point that you can't do everything within the game by yourself. You'll need to become accustomed to doing things with your partner, because going into a firefight pretending to be invincible is a sure one-way trip to a body bag. Instead, players will need to learn how to best use their computerized partners to advance to a spot, then holding their position and laying down fire support so that they can regroup when all enemies have been eliminated. Players can dictate the posture of these commands (aggressive or passive) with what's known as the partner order wheel, controlled by the direction pad, which will affect how vigorously players use these tactics against the enemies you face. Getting a grasp on this will be key when it comes to eliminating the three kinds of troops you face: blue highlighted troops are basic grunts that are easily killed, while red are higher up officers that put up more of a fight. Gold troops are heavies that are just as armored as Salem and Rios, and require your flanking techniques, because they can only be damaged from behind.
A fierce air arm wrestling bout ensued...
Much more than flanking or taking positions, players will also rely on their partners for a variety of moves, such as step lifts to get to out of reach areas, medical attention and being dragged to safety when you're injured, and even forming an almost unstoppable turret-like formation known as Back to Back, where you blast your way out of being surrounded by enemies. Players will take to the seas in a hovercraft, with one soldier driving while the other is blasting incoming enemies from a turret, while some missions drop you from the skies via parachute; one soldier controls the cute, while the other snipes targets on the ground. There are even sections where you'll pull doors off derelict cars or grab riot shields, protecting both soldiers while your partner fires over your head. Clearly, there are a number of elements where you'll need to depend on the man next to you to accomplish your goals.
There are a large number of objectives scattered throughout the game, such as eliminating specific targets of interest. You'll also be tasked with secondary objectives, such as finding specific items throughout the environment. What's more, players may stumble upon briefcases with secret information that are placed around each campaign, such as plans for incoming attacks or nuclear plant designs. All of these will result in additional cash that will be deposited in your bank account, which can be used to purchase and upgrade new weaponry.