Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Montreal
Release Date: 2007
We live in perilous times, my friends. These days, the game industry is either all about the single-player experience, or the dynamics of (God help us, sometimes massive) multiplayer. Remember back in the day, when it was only about two people? In games like Streets of Rage, Contra and Final Fight, you had to help out your partner every step of the way, or face mutual destruction. These days, we're lucky to get a "cooperative mode" in the games of our choice.
Enter Electronic Arts, who wants to bring those days back, and kick them up a few notches. Enter Army of Two.
As you'd guess, Army of Two is all about two-man military missions. You and a partner are placed smack in the middle of a war being fought by private corporations that have licensed their own armed forces. There is, of course, an unseen political threat that puts the entire world at risk, but before that, you'll have to overcome the perils of not working alone anymore. You'll have a partner to both protect and take into consideration whenever you make decisions on how to best approach a mission. If you're playing with an actual second person, things go easily enough if you're communicating via headsets. If you're going it alone, however, the game starts to truly shine, as EA has programmed advanced AI into your partner.
The AI partner is a hard-nosed smartass, and that's putting it lightly. He'll keep track of your mistakes and demand to take over aspects of operations that you've found too difficult thus far. He doesn't like to shoot civilians, and will take umbrage on you if you do so. He'll remember friendly fire. He can also die, and it's your responsibility to keep him alive. Expect to perform virtual CPR more than once if you're not that great a player.
The partner, however, is an invaluable help in actual combat – in no way is he all complaints and banter. Only with your partner will you be able to invade a crowded and broken multi-level building, while using an alley-oop technique to shoot enemies on the floor above you without taking the predictable staircase. Only with your partner will you be able to execute perfectly coordinated sniping strategies that will cripple defenses in a matter of seconds. As you cycle through the deeds that you perform during missions, you realize that no commando could undertake these sorts of tasks alone – at least, not without great difficulty. This is about teamwork beyond the level of "watch my back." Each operative becomes an extension of the other.
In short, Ralf Jones and Clark Steel wish they were as cool as these guys.
Army of Two should be out sometime next year, and it's really one of those titles you should be watching out for if you want a completely new type of gameplay. Military games are indeed getting stale, but this may be just the jumper cables the genre needed.
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