Skull Masks and Grenades
I can’t honestly think of a game that is more deserving of a red sign on the front of the box that reads ‘Surgeon General Warning: This Game May End Friendships, Start Blood Feuds, And/Or Create A Bromance Between Player1 And Player2.’
Never have I played a co-op shooter that managed so many contradictory ideas and yet didn’t offend me enough to make me stop and eject the disk. The loveably hulking hip-joined duo play the air guitar and do fist-bumps when they’re not spraying bullets into droves of terrorists. They prattle about the Wu-Tang clan and gut-punch each other to show their displeasure. At one point they had an intelligent discussion about the pros and cons of a privatized military while gunning down Chinese choppers with giant ‘blinged out’ guns, spackled in gold a diamond.
The combat system is standard cover-based shooting with a few fun quirks, like feign death, agro rating, first aid, and the ubiquitous bullet-time mode. These features, while interesting and potent in the hands of a veteran gamer, are soul-crushing if your partner lacks the ability to communicate or simply doesn’t care for your health and wellbeing.
Agro Rating: It may look like a soft red shield protecting your character from harm, but in fact paints you into a glowing head-to-toe target for the enemy. Agro represents how much damage you’ve inflicted on the enemy, or how much noise your gun makes, and allows the enemy to focus on you instead of your partner. He or she can then sneak behind the enemy and kill them with stealth and precision, but more often rewards your sacrifice as an opportunity to pick up all the ammo while you get turned into a chalk outline in a terrorist shooting range.
Overkill: Or bullet-time can be activated by either player and forces the character with the higher kill-streak to stand up from behind cover, regardless of his wounds or position, and fire with a limitless supply of ammo for a few seconds. This, in so many ways, can get you killed.
Feign Death: A neat trick if you’re caught without cover and your screen is beating red with your own dying pulse. Tap the feign death button and your character keels over, fooling the bad guys. Unfortunately this also turns your partner into the only target on the field, and your down-time can be almost indefinite, so if you choose to take a nap while your buddy becomes a body, go for it.
First Aid: Definitely a requisite and a crutch of the game. If your partner gets gunned down and slumps over, pistol in lap, you can revive him back to his usual fighting form. Unless of course he’s been soaking up the agro and pissing off the enemy while you snipe from afar and sneak around the sandbags, in which case you’ll have to hike into open ground to reach him if he hasn’t been turned into a pile of cherry cobbler. Once you reach your half-dead friend you can drag him behind cover and hold the first aid button. This is also a good time to contemplate the meaning of life, do long division in your head, or map out a good retirement package, since your character will be making meaningless gestures and holistic lay-on-hands motions while the loading bar sinks down. And any bit of shrapnel or stray bullet can restart the healing timer.
How it sits?
Army of Two isn’t a bad game by any means. Despite my own experience which consisted of yelling at my roommate for dying several nautical miles away from me where no med kit could reach, we still ended up playing through the entire game twice. So I suppose a better measure of a co-op shooter isn’t in its innovation, but in how many hours of fist-bumping, grabassing, and gun toting you can sit through.