Armée De Deux

Now that I’ve finished it, it’s safe to talk about it. That’s my rule. That’s why you haven’t seen a review of half the games from this winter (see previous post for aforementioned rule breaking).

Army of Two isn’t a bad game. At least not in the same way that American Idol Karaoke is a bad game. It’s entertaining, fun to play, has good current-gen graphics and has a fairly interesting storyline.  Army of Two’s problem however is that it just doesn’t try hard enough. Whether this is a direct result of EA putting it “back in the oven” and delaying it a few months to iron out the kinks or if it was actually worse off in the first place will always remain a mystery.

The fact remains that it was a great concept for a game that was unfortunately executed poorly. Let me give you an example. In style, the game closely resembles Gears of War. Third person perspective, lots of swearing, “military” guys kicking ass in a tag-team sort of way. We’re only really swapping aliens for terrorists. Unfortunately, where Gears shines is in things like the cover system, creative camera angles and deeper style. Ao2 has one of the weaker cover systems I’ve seen in a current generation game. Gears, Rainbow and even CoD (which doesn’t have one) put it to shame. You can “slide” towards an object of cover by pressing Y and you’ll grapple on to it in the loosest sense. Pressing Y will also randomly cause you to vault over the object or forward tumble roll towards it. This can happen if you’re already standing near it of course, resulting in equally confused players and AI enemies. You don’t necessarily “look out” from behind cover. Holding the left trigger which lets to you aim, will automatically stand you up and zoom in your sights. I can only assume this was an attempt to save buttons by the developers. It’s a novel concept, but when you’re in the middle of a fire fight with 30 guys surrounding you, standing up and aiming isn’t exactly a brilliant tactic. You’re dead before you can get a shot off. There is an alternative however. Blind firing from behind cover typically produces unworldly results. I’ve scored headshots from 50 yards away by blind firing. This takes realism in the complete opposite direction. No long do you actually need to “aim”, swinging a wild arch of fire around proves sufficient enough. You can imagine my frustration when attempting to “play the game correctly” only to discover it doesn’t really give a shit.

So realism is completely gone. We’ll put that down as a given. Why then, does my super solider need ammo at all? Surely he’s so super awesome to hit people blindly that he doesn’t need actual bullets to do it. Oh no, no, that would be too weird. No you still have to pick up ammo is the typical ways. This is of course, not a law of the universe that’s shared by your partner. At any given time you can tell you partner to lay down cover fire. In doing so he gets the attention (the game calls it “aggro”) of all the enemies allowing you to sneak past or behind someone or something and give it a firm kick in the balls. That’s a great idea, but your partner NEVER runs out of ammo. You, yourself, depending on your gun, usually haave about 250-300 rounds. At 20-30 rounds per mag, you’ve got about 10 mags, give or take. Considering that you’re using your own gun like a fucking bullet hose, you’re always running out of ammo. I spent the vast majority of the game telling my AI buddy to lay down covering fire not so that I could kill bad guys but so that I could sneak around and loot their already dead corpses in peace. At one point I left him firing at will on a hidden enemy, walked away, went to the bathroom, made a sandwich, came back and not only was he still firing, but he hadn’t managed to kill any of the dozen bad guys near us. Useless would be an understatement.

Co-Op is really the only point of this game. It’s single player is so damn short (6 missions???) that it’s hardly worth multiple run throughs except if you’re playing with someone who hasn’t played it before. It’s really the perfect example of what I call a B&B game. Buddies & Beer. It’s the game that you get out when you’ve got 4 or 5 guys over and you feel like blowing some shit up and don’t really care about the specifics. You’re tired of playing 4 player split-tiny-ass-screen Halo and want to try something new. This will keep you entertained for about a 12 pack. Beyond that it’s not worth it any more.

It’s got a smattering of semi-interesting play modes that should keep even the most bored co-op player busy for at least a little while. It is however, kind of pointless to keep replaying the single player missions. After beating the game once you get all the weapons unlocked and all you’re playing towards then is in-game money. The in-game money is used to buy things that don’t make a damn bit of difference… like crappy face masks. Apparently, realizing that changing your mask from “creepy gray” to “creepy green” isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be, the developers decided to entice someone to actually do it by making it an opportunity for achievement points. Oh, and lest I forget the “pimped guns” you can purchase. Ever wanted a gold and diamond crushed AK-47? Yeah, me neither.

In all fairness, I didn’t give the online modes a try. Presumably, that’s where you make the “big bucks” so that you can buy, umm, more masks. I doubt I would have wanted to play with other random XBL users and my buddy Dane (the only person who seemed mildly interested in the game) wasn’t around.

Wrapping this up, it’s not that Ao2 is a bad game, it’s got attitude, humor, stuff blowing up, but when you get down to the finer points, you get more content out of any number of action movies that have been edited for broadcast TV. It’s over too quickly, it has zero re-playability and without friends around to go through it with you, it’s pretty pointless. I think this will be a trade in, and that concept is something I’m against on principle. It would make a fine rental, but beyond that, don’t bother.


Street Date Bullshit

What good is a street date if I can’t walk into a store and buy a game ON that date? What good is it if the stores themselves don’t physically get the game until days later? Why the fuck would every major retailer state that the “release date” for R6V2 is 3/18/08 when they know damn well that that’s the “shippping date” TO them. Stores won’t have the game until tomorrow, or at the very earilest, some advance copies tonight.

Sure, you can “order” or even “preorder” the game online. I could do that right now. I still won’t have it until tomorrow. The Walmart, Target, Circuit City, EB and Gamestop websites ALL say that the game was released yesterday. When you click to see their inventory however, it’s a completely different story. Walmart and Circuit City say “not available in store”. Target says it’ll be in the stores tomorrow and EB and Gamestop simply list the local stores stock as zero. The kicker is that in some places there are in-store only promotions. Circuit City for example, says litteraly the following:

Rainbow Six Vegas 2 – Preorder Now – Available 3/18/08
Not Available for In Store Pick-up
Limited Edition : Free gamer’s energy kit and fuzzy dice only available in-store.

Well, isn’t that nice. I can go get a copy, travel back in time and get a RedBull and fuzzy MF’ing dice.

Seriously. The street date for DVDs is the day that it’s printed. I Am Legend’s street date was 3/18. Was it in the stores last night? Yup.

Why can’t game publishers play by the same rules? A date is a date is a date. A game comes out on the 18th, then it needs to be in the backroom of stores by the 17th, ready to be put out the next morning.

I called Target this morning and talked to my guy and he told me they didn’t get the UPS shipment last night and that they usually get it by 4pm. To make matters worse, if you buy the limited edition at Target, you get a free $10 giftcard (probably since you won’t get any fuzzy dice), but they only have 20 to give out and they’re not supposed to give them out after 6pm. I know my guy will save me one, but still, that’s complete crap too. Retailers using the gayness of game publishing schedules as a lure is pretty shitty too. “Here, come get free shit if you get it early, which you can’t”. WTF?

… on the upside. I had a chance to finish Army of Two last night. Now it’s all R6 goodness from here on in…. once I track down a copy of course.

Nearly There

I’ve been trying to finish Army of Two for damn near a week now and just haven’t been able to do it simply for lack of time. Yesterday, my day off, I tried at least a dozen times to play, each on being interrupted by power outages (storms yesterday). I’m trying to finish it because I’ll be picking up Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 tonight and I didn’t want anything getting in my way of playing it exclusively. I’ve been bad about my own rule and I wanted to try and avoid breaking it again.

Matt’s Law # 17 – New video games should only be embarked upon after finishing the previously purchased game.

This winter I broke that rule all over the place. Once CoD4 came out, the gloves were off. There were way too many games and too little time. I still haven’t finished Assasins Creed or Guitar Hero 3 on Hard. I usually don’t have a problem putting down a game if it’s lost my interest, I call that the extended version of rule 16.

Matt’s Law # 16 – Video game that are playable after 15 minutes have passed the “15 minute test” and are typically safe to continue being played with a high probability of enjoyment. Games failing the “15 minute test” are subject to mockery and ridicule.

Both the afor mentioned unfinished games have passed my personal 15 minute test with ease. They’re fun games. I just never went back and finished them.

Army of Two has been fun, more fun in co-op mode than single player, but fun none-the-less. Since I doubt I’ll be going back to it outside of a co-op oppertunity, it seemed a shame to never finish it once R6 drops. Sadly, that might not happen. What various reviewers have called “the perfect shooter” is waiting at a friendly neighborhood retail establishment for me. No, I didn’t pre-order it. I don’t do that anymore. I’m talking about Target. Or, if Target is getting theirs tomorrow (as GS and EB have already told me they are… aka: what good are you people?) I’ll begrudgingly go across the street to Wally World because I know they probably have an entire pallet of it sitting, in a shambles, somewhere in their electronics section.

So, if you’re looking for me for the next couple weeks, I’ll be busy whacking terrorist scum.

Matt out.


I know it’s not necessarily news worthy, but it’s not something I do every day so I felt the need to mention it. I actually bought new shoes on Sunday. This is astonishing because A) I don’t spend money on myself for anything other than video games and B) I hadn’t gotten a new pair of shoes in 4 years. The last time I was at the New Balance factory in Boston was the last time I got any. So, with parts falling off, leather falling apart, holes in the sides, I decided to retire my shoes in the shoe grave yard known as the “back of the closet”. I went over to Kohls since they were having one of their “we’re having a special sale, but really it’s the sale we have every weekend to trick your wives into coming in every weekend” sale. I ended up with two pairs of Sketchers. Actually, they’re those kinda in-between shoes/sneakers/loafers shoes.

The first ones are all black and I figure might be dressy enough to wear while I’m working a wedding or at the very least a corporate shoot. The tred on the bottom is a little funky, almost like cleats, but it’s soft rubber so it has some good support.

The second ones are a bit more casual. They’re actually the ones I’m wearing at the moment. Medium brown with maroon stripes down the sides. I figured I could wear them with jeans or slacks or even shorts. They were the most comfortable, so I figure they’ll be my every day wear.

Like I said, it’s not like you guys care what I have on my feet, but for me, picking these dumb things out took over an hour. I hate spending money on myself, but shoes are one of those rare things that no one else can pick out for you. Shirts, sure, whatever. Pants, yeah, that’s fine. Shoes… umm, no, I’m going to need to try those on. It doesn’t help that my feet at super crazy wide (4E) so finding shoes that are comfortable is a friggin chore.

I like’em.

Flogging Molly

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite bands on the planet. Flogging Molly stopped in Houston as part of their Green 17 Tour. I first saw Flogging Molly shortly after their first album release back in college. They were in Savannah and played this tiny little crappy club called The Velvet Elvis for a crowd of what couldn’t have been more than 50 people. They were fantastic then, getting the Guinness soaked crowd of art students to put arms around each other and sway to old Irish drinking songs. That was 7 or 8 years ago, I’m not entirely sure, it all kinda blurs together. They were fantastic that night and they were equally fantastic Tuesday night. Bigger crowd this time. Actually it was a sold out show of a couple hundred, downtown in a converted warehouse at a place called simply enough Warehouse Live.

I met up with my buddy Dane downtown at a bar called The Homeplate which is right next to the ballpark and directly between the park and the club. We were able to grab a quick bite to eat before hand and park for free instead of playing $20 to park a block closer. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get right to the club at 7:00, which was when the doors opened, but it didn’t end up making any difference since the opening act came on late anyway. I always like to be early for shows like that so I can be up closer to the front railing. I don’t care one way or another about “the pit”, if I’m in the middle of it so be it, but being “in front” of it seems to work out better than being behind it. It’s also to avoid what ended up happening last night and getting squeezed in behind so huge guy who I can’t see around. I know I’m just average height so I like to find some place with a good line of sight and being behind some 7’2″ guy without a shirt on doesn’t really do it for me. So we moved up to a small landing to the left of the stage, directly in front of the bar. We were to the side a bit, but the extra 4 or 5 feet off the ground provided a fine vantage point.

The opening bands included The Cherry Cokes, a Japanese Irish band (yes you read that correctly) who sung completely in Japanese but the crowd didn’t really seem to mind. The melodies were familiar and that was enough for most people. They were actually rather good, even despite the language barrier. The second band was, ummm, interesting. It was the Reverend Payton’s Big Damn Band. A 3 piece consisting of drums, washboard and steel guitar. I liked it, but I think it wasn’t what the crowd was expecting. It was more of a punk/hillbilly thing than music you could sing along with. Some good guitar picking from the Reverend though.

Then it was time for the main event. Everyone (including myself) got refills on their Guinness and prepared for what was going to be an awesome show. They came on about 10:00 and the place lit up. There were a couple slower, more somber songs mixed in here or there, but for the most part it was a rocking show. I was glad the people around me were into it, it’s always a shame when you get stuck next to people and they stand there with their arms crossed looking pissed all night. I’ve been to shows like that before and it’s not fun. Those type of people come out to shows simply for something to do. Tuesday we were thrown in the mix with a good bunch of folks who were there for a good time. Multiple times throughout the night everyone put their arms around their neighbor and sang at the top of their drunk ass lungs. I completely enjoyed myself.

It had been such a long time since I had seen a show that it was just what I needed. I love going to concerts and this was a good one. I’m glad my buddy Dane was able to come. He’s a (new) big Flogging Molly fan and I’m glad he got to see them live.