It seems as the day is finally upon us where Electronic Arts (EA) finally decides to grace us with a new, original, creative game; finally sparing us from that long dreary onslaught of iterations. Army of Two is something different, which is a breath of fresh air; unfortunately, that air isn’t quite what was expected. Army of Two delivers on what it originally set out to accomplish, creating a truly co-operative experience. Unfortunately, it’s that same experience that seems to be lacking.
Let’s start from the beginning. The player is given the choice of playing either Tyson Rios or Elliot Salem, two United States Army Rangers. The game opens with a short training mission before shipping the player off to Somalia for an assassination assignment. Once finished, the player is greeted with a cut-scene depicting how through only a few words, Tyson, Rios, and their Commanding Officer Richard Dalton are swayed to quit the army and join the private sector. Thus begins the lackluster story of Rios and Salem as private military contractors and the cultivation of loathing toward them throughout this uninspired tale of military conspiracy and backstabbing.
Acknowledging that stories in shooters frequently are subpar, the player may be able to overlook this mediocre attempt at intrigue. What is difficult is getting past the characters to enjoy the game. Rios and Salem are two of the most unlikable and in some cases offensive characters seen this console generation. This is shown through what the game refers to as “Kudos”; by standing next to your partner and pressing either the right or left trigger the player can express joy or anger, respectively, towards their partner. This sounds like a good idea in theory, however after carving through a battalion of enemy soldiers while still standing amongst their corpses, playing air guitar while shouting “Ladies lift your shirts” is both in appropriate and disturbing. Should this create instant despise towards the characters, probably not, it seems to fit with their almost child-like attitudes towards the murder of others. Yes it is their job, but to take joy in the murder of others demonstrates an individual who has a few mental problems, understandable, but completely off-putting. By creating characters that the player can’t relate with, the story needs to be strong to draw any interest towards the events that transpire.
If the player can manage to get past all of this to the actual game, what they find is mediocre at best. The co-op mechanics that are in place here of some of the best in any game to date; best shown through the aggro-meter, one player can gain the attention of the enemies letting the other move around undetected, and the back-to-back moments, in which the players stand back-to-back fending off attacks from all angles. Unfortunately as much as these moments demonstrate how co-op has become such a brilliant design when done right, they are shadowed by the substandard control scheme.
Army of Two’s control scheme is mediocre at best. There exists some indescribable aspect of it that seems amiss. The standard is set in both third and first person shooters, by not adhering to these standards the game needs to approve upon them; otherwise it detracts from the experience. This is precisely what Army of Two’s control scheme did. It deviated from the standard without improvement, creating a sub par method that lessens the quality of the game.
The only part of the game left to vivisect is the multiplayer, oh and how simple that will be. Once again the main focus is co-op; two teams of two players each face off on a battle field inhabited by hordes of enemies out to kill everyone. It’s a race to objectives while dodging enemy fire, sounds like a great idea and it is. That is until it is taken into account that there are only four maps and three very similar modes to play, E.A. claims that they have more maps and modes on the way, but for a price, and considering how short the single player is (clocking in at about 4-5 hours), a little bit more content included at retail shouldn’t have been to much to ask for. The most grievous offense of all is that multiplayer is region locked, North American players can’t play with European player, European players can’t play with Asian players, etcetera. In today’s age of multiplayer connectivity this is an unforgivable offense.
Army of Two had such great potential. Even with its return to development for a few extra months it sadly fell short of the mark. Here’s to hope that the franchise stays alive for a sequel that can correct all of the mistakes of the current.