At first I thought this game was going to have little to no story whatsoever. The player is thrown into the action with little introduction. From what I had heard of the game before playing it I wasn't expecting a huge story either. I was surprised to find a rather intriguing story.
The game follows the fortunes of two Soldiers Rios and Salem. At the beginning of the game they are soldiers in the US army. Tired of following orders that get them into situations rather more deadly than they would like they take an offer from a man called Dalton to join a private security company called SSC. During this first mission the player is introduced to Clyde, another mercenary who is in charge of the mission. From the off the two heros are given cause to hate the very deadly and arrogant Clyde.
The heroes come into good fortune through misfortune, the war on terror in full swing gives SSC plenty of work. As the story progresses Our heroes find themselves uncovering a huge plot which will affect the entire US army. Having discovered the plot the Heroes are duped and framed for a murder of a prominent Senator. This leaves them on the run and having to decide wether to vanish with their fortune or do the right thing and go back and take down the plotters.
The story is told in cut scenes and also plays out to a certain extent in the actual game itself which is to be applauded.
The debate opened up here about the ultimate aims of a company that profits from human misery is actually very deep for a shooter. I wasn't expecting it at all. The tone is a little off however, Rios and Salem seem a little unlikely as guys who would do the right thing. With their Gears of War style grunt look, that suggest more muscle than nervous tissue.
Army of two uses a third person perspective. There is no stick to cover mechanism which makes it feel more like a run and gun game than Gears of War. There is plenty of cover, and you can duck behind it pretty easily, there is just less incentive to do so than say in Gears or Uncharted.
The title of the game is Army of Two and it does make a big play on just that, the game is meant to be played with two co-op players or with the games a.i. partner. There are a whole host of what feel like shoehorned mechanics to emphasize the two person motif.
The first is an aggro meter which basically goes up the more you aggravate the enemies. If both players shoot at the same time then it stays the same. If one player shoots and the other does not then the non-firing player will change color to blue and the shooting player turns red. Not entirely, just a translucent tinge. This means that the a.i. will practically ignore the cool player and concentrate on the hot player. This can be used to tactical advantage to sneak up on emplaced guns and flank enemy positions. It becomes a necessity to use when playing with the a.i. partner.
Secondly there is a mechanic where the two players stand back to back and everything goes into bullet time and enemies come from all around. These sections trigger by themselves at set points in the game, and while fun don't really add that much to the game.
There is also certain moments in the game where two guards can be taken out simultaneously by sniping at the same time. When co-op snipe is initiated both players choose a target and headshot them together. This means that the alarm isn't raised and less enemies attack you in the next section.
There are larger armored soldiers who are only vulnerable to bullets hitting them in the back, which means that one player must attack them from the front to draw their fire while the other flanks them.
There are also areas of the map where both players have to press buttons to simultaneously lift heavy objects together and use each other to vault up to high areas.
Ultimately all these gameplay mechanics feel tacked onto the gears of war style maps. There are a succession of mostly open areas where a set number of enemies reside and you must kill them all or most of them to proceed. There is even a familiar for whom the bell tolls sound when all enemies have been killed in an area.
There are what seems like little airlocks, which are really to hide the joins between two levels loading.
Weapons are bought from between level menus with cash you accquire for completing missions and in game objectives. There are a few objectives that are optional in each mission, such as destroying a certain truck or person. Also there are collectible laptops and suitcases with intelligence which is paid for by the SSC if collected.
There are a few times when you are parachuted into an area, sometimes you drive the chute, other times you shoot at enemies from the chute, both of you are tied to the same chute.
On a few occasions you rescue a person and have to carry them out of the area. They can be picked up and put down while you clear the area of enemies.
If one player is killed then they fall to the ground wounded, the other player then has about thirty seconds to come and administer first aid. If this is done then it's back to the fighting otherwise it's back to the last checkpoint. This is fine when playing with a friend, when playing with the a.i. partner it can be a lesson in frustration.
On one occasion i died at the edge of a map behind a large crate, the a.i. circled three sides of the crate, but was unable to get to my position to save me. That is an extreme example which happened only once, however, there are many times when you scream in frustration at poor decisions the a.i. partner makes when hauling you to cover to heal you.
You also have to save the a.i. if it gets killed. You have several commands to give it however, you can make it move forward aggressively, hold position passively or follow you like a lap dog. This give you the option to allow it too attack aggressively but also keep an eye on it's health and order it to retreat to safety when it's getting pounded.
There is a section where you get to drive a hovercraft, which is fun, though it does feel a little tacked on and feels very like the similar section in Perfect Dark Zero. Also there is an on rails section in a monorail car.
The a.i. in this game takes a target and sticks it to it's head. Having both enemy a.i. and partner a.i. The enemy a.i. is pretty standard, they take cover, use gun emplacement, run at you shooting when you get too close. Nothing new, and fairly effective in large numbers. They make no effort to flank your position or anything clever.
The partner a.i. is actually reasonably good. Though I have to qualify that it is once you learn to allow it to fight and then reign it back when it's taking too much damage. Once you have that balance and really learn how to control it then it does a good job. It will annoy you and if you want a good experience from Army of Two then play it online with a real human partner.
Enemies are a variety of soldiers, and armored soliders. There are enough character models to provide variety, but you will know all the models well by the time the game is over. There are also some exploding enemies, which is a personal hate of mine, in the form of arabs with bombs strapped to them.
Boss fights are present in that in most missions there is a certain person that has to be stopped. When you meet up with them they have more health than the normal soldiers but they don't really do that much different other than having bigger guns than the usual soldiers.
The game does have some nice environments. With the story ranging around several countries including Iraq, Somalia, China and Hurricane torn Florida. There is a rather good shoot out on the deck of an aircraft carrier which was well designed. The levels all felt fairly accurate to the real world. There were some areas which felt like box rooms joined by endless corridor. But for the most part the levels felt like areas modeled on real world locations.
Graphics are good, there is little frame rate drop and everything seems to be running at around 30 frames a second for the most part. The game uses unreal engine. It's not doing anything new or pushing new boundaries, but it isn't doing anything wrong either.
Sound is satisfactory, Music and effects are as you would expect from a shooter.
The checkpoints are for the most part excellent, you do only have one save slot which is really not the best option. The checkpoints are sometimes a little unfair around the later levels but not that annoying.
I found the menus functional and clear, however when starting a game the most common options should be under the gamers fingers. You shouldn't have to scroll through menus to start the game at the last checkpoint you played from. If you weren't paying attention it could be easy to start a new game rather than start at the last checkpoint, its an unnecessary frustration. And one save slot is a stupid idea really.
I came away with 340 points over 5 days play, playing a couple of hours each day. I played on the contractor difficulty which is the highest you can play on without completing the game to unlock the hardest difficulty. The remaining achievements are for shooting a certain number of people with each gun or using melee attacks. Also whilst at the highest aggro level. In short they would need a little bit of effort spent on each one to target a specific weapon and use it until the achievement pops up. There are also multiplayer achievements.
Multiplayer is present for those who are interested, It took too long to find a game suggesting that the multiplayer isn't the busiest. Co-op is fun if you have any friends that are playing it, or like talking to strangers for 10 hours.