We just finished playing through Army of Two (or Ao2) on the Xbox 360 and have decided to write a joint review together to share our mutual experiences, likes, and dislikes. If you are someone who dislikes knowing anything about a game before playing then skip to our quick final thought and impressions at the bottom of this review. We don’t plan on spoiling anything but a certain amount of disclosure is necessary in order to truly convey our thoughts on Army of Two.
Game Overview: What is the game about?
You play as Elliot Salem and Tyson Rios, the Army of Two (or Ao2), in a co-op third-person shooter with a focus on cooperative and coordinated strategies, somewhat like Gears of War. Players join up with either the game’s built-in “Partner Artificial Intelligence” (PAI) or other players (like a brother, friend, roommate, or someone on Xbox Live) “to fight through war, political turmoil and a conspiracy so vast it threatens the entire world.”
The game starts out back in the early 90’s (about 1992) when Salem and Rios are still in the Army Rangers. At the beginning of the game player 1 is prompted to choose which character they wish to control. When playing co-op the remaining character is assigned to player 2. When the game starts both players are together in what doubles as their training and a tutorial for the player to learn the basics of the game and the controls. After the tutorial the duo is sent on their first mission together and the story begins to unfold. Throughout the game you play side by side with each other completing missions as mercenaries working in the private sector all while passing through the years until 2009.
Weapons and Money – Herein lies the meat of the game. As you play and complete primary and secondary objectives you are awarded with hefty sums of money. It will quickly become addicting to upgrade, trick out, and “pimp” your weapons with all that hard earned cash. Between each mission and often mid-mission players are prompted with opportunities to buy weapons. There are a lot of weapons to choose from and dozens of upgrades ranging from barrels and silencers to mounted grenade launchers; and yes, even the bling bling of gold plating just to piss off your enemies that much more. Epic customization for a shooter game.
You will quickly feel a connection with your characters and establish an understanding as to why they risk their lives – the guns are so dang cool! You will never feel as though you have no drive in this game.
Aiming and Controls – As a third person shooter the game can feel somewhat awkward at first until you get used to the aiming. Once you become proficient and adjust the sensitivity to your liking you will find that getting headshots can be a very effective alternative to the unavoidable spray and pray. Similar to Gears of War, Ao2 allows for players to blind fire when ducking or peaking out from cover. You’re going to waste a lot of bullets this way, but sometimes it’s the only way to survive. We highly recommend you learn to zoom in for a more accurate shot whenever possible.
Co-op Strategy – The title isn’t kidding. This game is all about the co-op gameplay. If you’ve read reviews from other sources the common trend is that the game is really not as enjoyable when you play alone with the AI. Lucky for us we don’t have that problem but we can sympathize with those that do. Speaking purely from the perspective that will find this game most enjoyable, we think the strategies and co-op moves rock. Here are a few that we have enjoyed:
- Aggro – At the very very beginning of the game players are lectured on the basics of aggro. The player hated the most is the one who is going to be shot at, it’s really that simple. Using this simple system, the game presents players with many opportunities to engage in somewhat complex situations where enemies have you pinned down with turrets or heavily armored enemies. The use of the aggro system to allow one player to sneak into a more tactic position is mandatory – and fun! Get yourself hated enough and you can enter overkill mode making your ally nearly invisible and able to run around on a killing spree.
- Back to Back – Throughout the game Salem and Rios find themselves surrounded (It’s scripted this way) and must go back to back, in slow motion, obliterating enemies in insurmountable odds. It’s a very clever little system and quite exhilarating.
- Dragging an injured player – It’s inevitable that one of the two will find themselves wounded and unable to get to safety. A healthy player can drag an injured player back into cover where they can administer first aid. The player being dragged can provide fire and shoot while sliding to safety.
- Swapping Weapons – Run out of ammo? Have your partner toss you his spare!
- Co-op Snipe – Eliminating both guards at once can have its uses. Enter co-op snipe mode and initiate a countdown where both players can eliminate targets simultaneously.
Throughout the game Salem and Rios are truly a dynamic duo. Constantly bickering back and forth and showing their… affection… for one another in the mini-cutscenes is hillarious and endearing. The gameplay is truly memorable, and that’s the most important thing of all.
Graphics and Sound
Running on the Unreal 3 engine, the game is beautiful. The guns are detailed and sound amazing. Salem and Rios are incredibly detailed and show off all the changes to armor and guns when upgraded. The environments are well crafted and immersive. Water effects are really spectacular – Like Dx10 or better as Graev points out. Explosions look, feel, and sound like explosions. Animations are a tad redundant on the enemy AI but you have to look closely or even care for that to bother you. Overall, the graphics are really nothing to get overly excited about as new or ground breaking, but the fact remains that the game looks great.
Online mode allows up to four players, two on each team similar to the co-op structure of the main campaign. Both teams compete over objectives on the map such as assassinating a VIP or destroying an objective in order to earn the most money for their side. At the same time, players are also be forced to deal with the opposing team in order to secure their objectives. With money earned during the missions players can access weapon hubs where they can buy upgrades to their arsenal for that particular mission. Unfortunately nothing from single-player carries over.
Going online with a “guest” on Xbox Live is really reasy and fun. The minor downside has been a slight lag and drop in frames when playing This was expected. Many console games on Xbox Live release with some lag and eventually patch out the problem. It’s not bad enough to deter from online play, however slightly annoying. This and the lack of options and game modes can be frustrating. We both wish the multiplayer was about more than the money because we love death matches and capturing flags and such. But, the game is all about money after all. Online play is definitely not our favorite aspect of the game because the single-player (or rather, dual player) is so engaging.
The Bad: Nitpicking at its finest
It’s tough to really find something wrong with this game. Aside from a few very random and difficult to duplicate bugs (such as when Graev found himself stuck on top of a barrel while incapacitated, thus unable to be dragged by Keen, or when Keen gets frustrated that his character’s crosshair won’t peak out from cover) there aren’t any blatant issues. The biggest downside to Army of Two is that it ended so soon. We would have really liked to see a longer game. Coming in at a mere 6 missions, the total time played was about 5 hours on one difficulty. With 3 difficulties there is some replay-ability but the game was so much fun that we wished for more. Unfortunately that’s becoming a standard for games like this when a multiplayer is provided. Developers must find themselves not feeling obligated to provide a longer gameplay experience.
Army of Two is an incredibly fun adventure with two very memorable main characters. The weapons, gameplay, graphics, and most importantly the dynamic fun that comes from playing with another person really makes this game worth the buy. We both agree strongly on this one sentiment… if only it had been longer!
“This is now, by far, my favorite console shooter. I haven’t had this much fun shooting terrorists and privately hired insane mercenaries in a long time. If I can convince Graev, I plan on playing through many times with an assortment of weapons. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys this sort of thing, but make sure you have someone to play with you.” – Keen
“I enjoyed the game a whole lot. It could have been made better by a longer single-player experience and better online options, but all the same, very entertaining.” – Graev
Our Final Score: 3.5 / 5