Army of Two – A lesson in bromosexuality

I went into playing Army of Two expecting a homosexual-innuendo-charged joyride of comedy and gunplay, but not expecting anything special from a gameplay point of view.

Anyone who has played this game can tell where I went wrong with this opinion.

Let me start explaining my opinion by saying that this game is not a bad game by any stretch, I definitely enjoyed it, but I cannot say that it should be held aloft in the sort of way that the original marketing might have had me believe.  It was enjoyable, but there is nothing here that is going to get me coming back to it for any great length of time.

ao22

“You’re fuckin’ dead, bro!”

The first thing that I was impressed by was the aggro mechanic.  Army of Two touted itself by suggesting that your AI partner would work with you in order to draw the enemies’ fire, while you slipped around the back.  Or you would draw the enemies’ fire, while your partner slipped around the back.

On one hand, it works.  You can order your teammate to hold position, advance, or follow you, each time in either a passive or aggressive mode.  Putting him in an aggressive mode will cause a HUD “Aggro Meter” to increase due to him laying down a lot of cover fire, killing a few enemies who are stupid enough to pop their head up from cover.  This allows you to move forward, nearly always unnoticed, able to take the bad guys out with a few shots from the side of their cover.

Of course, if I decide to get overzealous, then those bad guys will focus on me, often when I have left myself unfortunately open, meaning that I have to dive back behind cover under a hail of bullets while my teammate attempts to draw the attention once again.  It’s a generally fun system, and a wonderful way to slowly make your way along the battlefield.

Where it falls down, however, is when you want to be the one laying down the cover, with your teammate moving forward.   Like most game AIs, he will not often go where you would prefer him to, often getting himself into too much trouble, leaving you to rescue him without a partner to provide cover.

Secondly, the larger problem is that while the AI has infinite ammo, there is often just not enough ammunition to allow a user player who is covering the AI to keep up this tactic for very long, meaning that you are often forced to switch to a secondary weapon, letting your AI teammate take the rear again while you scout forward for more ammunition.  Perhaps this is what the game was designed for, but as the AI teammate seemingly had a great deal more ammunition than me, when the roles are switched it feels somewhat jarring, and this is felt even moreso in co-operative online play, where both players feel the sting of the hammer’s click on an empty weapon.

ao24

“We are SO outnumbered, bro!”

A special mention should be made to the enemy AI in Army of Two.  In a million magazine reviews, adverts and game boxes I have seen over the years since the days of Half Life, I have heard that enemies will “flank you”, “work together”, and so forth, and I have no doubt that they do, but I never really saw much evidence of it until Army of Two.  There are two distinct times that stick in my mind, once while assaulting an army base, and another during a “lobby scene”, where I recall focusing on the enemy in front of me, slowly making my way forward, only for a distinct group to sneak to the side of me, where I had already been in-game, and attacked me at an open flank.  Each time I was extremely impressed that they had done the very thing that I was trying to do in-game, and each time it suddenly ramped up the firefight’s intensity.

Now, this may be a byproduct of the layout of the level and positioning of the AI, rather than the AI routines themselves, but it did what it was supposed to do, and I believe that it is worthy of praise.

ao23

“I’m not your bro, bro!”

This game, however, is not without its share of issues, the major one of mine is the very end of the game, so I suppose I should warn you here that the following will be a spoiler.

Still reading?  Good.  At the end of the game, you have a quick firefight with the Big Bad of the game, and end up on a roof, watching the bad guy escape in a helicopter.  What happens next?  Do you, the player, do anything?  No.  You watch, unable to act, as one of the main characters picks up a rocket launcher and blows up this helicopter.

Now, this for me was the biggest anti-climax since my inaction caused the main bad NPC to die suddenly at the hands of another NPC at the end of Fable 2, stopping me enacting my own revenge.  Army of Two has a fantastic dual-sniper system, where you and a partner can both synchronise to perform a sniper shot at the same time, surely a much better method of enacting the final action would be a cinematic dual-snipe using this system, rather than taking the entire ending out of their hands?

Another issue that I had was wanting a lot more of a difference in physical character between the two largely butch, anonymous bodies who the player can control.  The characters themselves were different, one a very frat-boy youth, whereas the other acted more like a grizzled war veteran, but at times I could not figure out which was which, unaided by the blank visages of each characters’ masks.

There are a number of other minor issues, such as the game missing the ability to tell the AI partner to go to a specific battlefield position, but none of them seriously affected the game, and I fully expect them to be in any future installments.

ao2

“Shut the hell up, bro!”

All in all, I would say that Army of Two is definitely worth a play.  It is not an unparalleled co-operative experience, and do not expect a BAFTA-winning story, but instead enjoy the ride while it lasts, as there are a number of elements found within worth experiencing.

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