Army of Two
lead designer, Chris Ferriera, has a dream. This dream came to him when he was playing Perfect Dark Zero
with some mates. A dream that games can be approached in a co-operative state with a real sense of co-ordination. A dream that if you are taking on a mission, you know that your buddy is with you all the way, and all your attacks are truly synchronised on the battlefield.
Because of this dream, Army of Two
is something Ferriera is calling strictly a ďco-op gameĒ. Doesnít sound too amazing when you first hear the term, but when I sat down to play the game it became apparent just how much difference a few slight tweaks to a familiar game genre really makes.
The game itself plays very similarly to Epic's Gears of War
Ė hardly surprising seeing as EA is using the Unreal Engine 3 to bring this game to life Ė but thatís not really much of a bad thing, as the rest of the game is very much its own. The art style is larger-than-life, with options for pimping your weapons.
The story features two mercenaries who are thrown into the Middle East by the smell of tons of cash, and from there the two find themselves in circumstances that raise serious issues around the methods of Private Military Contractors and the ex-soldiers who undertake the jobs they offer. It all comes with a comedy layer that sheds some light relief on an otherwise dark subject matter.
Comparisons with Epicís action blockbuster really do stop with the third-person perspective and the control mechanism. Army of Two
has some interesting quirks to the shooting genre that feel fresh and inviting. Playing with a friend or an AI partner, you must do everything as an efficient unit, be that when securing a particular location, running into a battle zone using a car door for cover (while the other person fires cover shots) or even when sniping - where you can see your zoomed-in view along with your partnerís so you can co-ordinate long-range shots.
Thereís no room for mavericks here Ė the introduction of the Aggrometer means that if you run off doing your own thing youíll likely die without the support of your friend. The Aggrometer is a swing-bar that tells you which player currently has the enemyís attention. You can use this for tactical play, with one player running off and distracting terrorists away from a mission goal, which the other can then complete without getting fired at.
The flipside to this is that you have to be aware of your friendís health status and quickly get the job done so you can get the Aggro sent your way again. If your partner dies, youíre both knackered. Either that or they can play dead, automatically sending the enemy in your direction. Make sure they donít do that out of spite if you tend to ignore your buddy, because do it out of spite they will. Itís not a nice experience. Not that Iím a betrayer or anythingÖ