The wait has ended – I stayed up until three in the morning last night, playing Army of Two (Xbox 360, PS3) with my brother; only quitting because the sun was rising outside his east-coast apartment (I’m in LA). We’ve been looking forward to AoT for months, seduced by the potential of a truly cooperative shooter ever since playing the coop levels in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. Gears of War is a favorite of ours, as is Rainbow Six: Vegas, but neither actually requires a partner: if you’re good enough, your partner can just hunker down somewhere and let you clean house. In AoT, this just isn’t possible.
The main reason you have to work with your partner is “Aggro”. Lame name aside, Aggro is basically how much attention you’re attracting from the enemy. As you fire towards bad guys, your “Aggro-Meter” builds and you begin to glow red and every bad guy on the map starts shooting at whatever scrap of cover you’re cowering behind. Meanwhile, you’re partner is all but forgotten, able to run right up to enemies and take them out; this of course causes his Aggro to rise, allowing you to move up while the enemy focuses on him. It’s a simple mechanic, but it vastly changes the gameplay – especially when one of you is Aggro for several seconds and you are able to activate the “overkill mode”. In this mode the Aggro’d player effectively becomes a turret, dealing huge damage, while the other player gets a speed boost and near-invisibility – key for getting the one-hit melee kills. It’s an effective mechanism for bringing teamwork into combat.
To further bolster teamwork there are obstacles that you’ll need help to overcome, such as walls that you boost your partner over and doors that require two switches to be activated simultaneously. A special provision for sniping in concert with your partner is made, although this “Co-op Snipe” mode is only needed for a few select areas. Also, certain points in the game trigger “Back to Back” mode, which gives you several seconds of slow-motion to fire at opponents in all directions. This is fantastically fun, and thankfully not overused in the game. However it’s area-specific implementation makes it feel like a gimmick instead of a special move.
Because cooperation is so critical, Army of Two just isn’t the same when playing alone. Still a solid shooter, the game satisfies, but doesn’t impress the way it does when you’re working with a friend. Part of this is because the characters you’re playing as aren’t people you’re going to care about – they may show glimmers of heroism, but then quickly remind you they really want cash. They will shoot hundreds of people, and then do air guitar to celebrate the victory. Despite this, the game is fun – a testament to the allure of co-op gameplay.
In the end, I’m glad to have this game. I haven’t even touched the multiplayer yet, but the idea of two-man teams has me excited. It’s not a perfect example of a game, but it’s a very solid shooter and one of only a few games to offer a truly cooperative experience. If you want more information, there are plenty of reviews out there; they tend to hover around the 80% mark – which sounds about right to me if you’re considering both single and multiplayer modes. However, if you assume the game requires another human, tack another 10% or so on there to give it a solid 90% rating.
Image is from this Gametrailers.com thread, which is actually a review!