Queue in the movie announcer voice. "In a world where the private military contractors help fight terrorism...". Such is the world of Army of Two where Co-Op play rules the roost as you take control of one of two characters in the role of a mercenary fighting terrorism with your best buddy at your side. Army of Two feels very much like Gears of War with gritty combat, a focus on teamwork, and a solid cover system. Both games are powered by the Unreal Engine 3, and even share that famous bell sound when hitting a checkpoint.
Designed from the ground up for the co-op experience, Army of Two sets a new bar for teamwork. Whether it's co-op sniping, lifting your teammate up to an otherwise unreachable place, or dragging your buddy to safety to heal him; Army of Two emphasizes team work and communication. The game takes you around the world from Somalia to Iraq, and from China to Miami, FL. You'll find yourself in tight corridors, and wide open areas. If you get lost, there's a GPS system that conveniently shows you the way to the next objective, or shows different objects in the world to interact with.
To further emphasize team work Army of Two features an aggro system, a term most should be familiar with if you've played MMORPGs. Aggro basically means the AI is focusing on you because you are doing the most damage or attracting the most attention. This is utilized in Army of Two to let your partner flank around and take out enemies why you make a mess of things from the safety of cover. There's a nice little touch here as your character glows red, letting you know you are aggro'd, while your partner will be come partially invisible. The system works fairly well, and does require constant communication; but you really don't need to utilize it until the later levels to survive.
Even the multiplayer modes are co-op based in Army of Two. In most modes you'll have both teams of players racing to achieve the same objectives, earning money in the process. The team with the most money at the end of the round wins. I had a lot of problem staying in a game though, and in fact I haven't been able to complete a single online match in 7 or 8 attempts.
Army of Two is a co-op gamers dream game. With little touches like the ability to trade weapons and friendly banter between players, Army of Two exudes what the co-op experience is. Despite some minor issues with controls, and the lack of drop in/drop out play, I had an absolute blast playing co-op with a buddy.
Since Nick did a good job of summing up what the game is about, I'll go into a little more of what I liked and disliked about it. The Army of Two experience is a lot of fun and quite addictive. The game pulls off co-op mode very successfully, working in a good amount of teamwork and parts that are much more enjoyable with a friend. The way you revive a downed teammate adds an extra layer of difficulty and excitement over other games where pressing a button instantly spawns a teammate back in. The aggro system is a fun twist on the typical shooter, and going into "overkill" mode can be pretty satisfying. Co-op snipe seemed kind of gimmicky, and I don't know why they had to restrict my view to a quarter of the screen for it. Back-to-back mode and parachuting were fun, but seemed to go on a bit long for my taste a few times.
The only real complaint I have about the game enemy variety, or lack there of. These boil down to two types of enemies, armored and unarmored. Sure there are the "martyrs" in one level, and I'm not sure if they are expecting you or if they just generally walk around their own base with explosives strapped to themselves, but they really don't break the mold. At various points I was wishing for more variety than the seemingly endless stream of generic, interchangeable bad guys. Even the bosses are indistinguishable from normal enemies during battle. The vehicle sections in this game, which I'm not usually a fan of, actually did a good job of breaking up the usual grind of things.
One thing that you'll notice facing off against wave after wave of enemies is that for the most part they act rather intelligently. This combined with level designs that are fairly wide means that in some part you'll have to work pretty hard to make sure you don't wind up getting surrounded. Some times it's unavoidable, and you'll have to fall back to using point and shoot skills as opposed to strategically moving between cover.
A few other minor issues: I've gotten disconnected from EA's servers a few times during play, which kicks both players from the game. You can restart at the last checkpoint however (which are never spaced too far apart), so it's mostly just an annoyance. I found the main characters to be fairly unlikable, as a result I didn't care about the story and some of the attempts at humorous banter came across as in bad taste. TheHDR rendering was a bit overused (I've never known it to be so bright outside in the middle of a hurricane), and at some points your virtual iris is focused on the wrong part of the scene.
On the whole, Army of Two does a great job of making a Co-op game that is fun, challenging, and introduces some fresh ideas. I hope some day we'll be seeing more titles like this, perhaps even an Army of Four?