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.