Army of Two Review - IGN (2024)

In his farewell state of the union address, President Eisenhower warned of the dangers of a private military force, reasoning that corporate troops for hire would undermine the safety, security and standing of our armed forces. Eisenhower didn't know just how prophetic his words would become, especially given the state of the world today. Companies like Titan Corporation, Triple Canopy and Blackwater have hired their military services to the highest bidder, dropping into hotspots for missions while undermining the image of the armed services. It's this backdrop that's the concept behind the latest action title from EA Montreal and EA Games, Army of Two. As you can tell from the title, the game places a premium on co-op play, and while the single player experience is fine, it's co-op play where this title really shines.
The story of Army of Two takes place across 16 years, centering on Elliott Salem and Tyson Rios, two battle-hardened former Army Rangers that join the private sector as mercenaries for hire. Following their former commander Dalton to Security and Strategy Corporation, or SSC, Salem and Rios are dispatched across the globe to "take care of problems" in warzones while raking in large sums of cash. However, as time goes by, both Salem and Rios start to notice that a number of leaks and secrets seem to coincide with their missions as well as a bill in Congress to fully privatize the military. Trying to get their heads around what's going on, Salem and Rios fight their way through battlefields in a tale of betrayal, conspiracy and revenge.

Army of Two Review - IGN (1)

Click here to watch the video review.

In a single player match up, you select either Salem or Rios to take through the six story driven campaigns, with the computer controlling your partner. While you might think that guns are primarily going to help you survive, the real tool in your arsenal is Aggro, a system that is based around how forceful your soldier is being in combat. If you throw grenades, continually shoot enemies (or even blind fire in their direction) or cause explosions, you swing aggro momentum in your direction, which will in turn make every soldier focus their attention on you. That might seem like a bad thing, especially when you're glowing red to indicate how aggressive you're being. However, there are definite advantages to pulling aggro. First of all, with all of the attention on your soldier, your partner will turn transparent, indicating that they can sneak around and flank rival soldiers without them knowing it. The other advantage of aggro is that if you maintain that state, you move into what's known as overkill, a bullet time inspired place where you do twice as much damage and are able to fire unlimited bullets or sneak around completely invisible for about 16 seconds, performing melee strikes like chokeslams or kicks to the stomach.

Aggro also serves to drive home the point that you can't do everything within the game by yourself. You'll need to become accustomed to doing things with your partner, because going into a firefight pretending to be invincible is a sure one-way trip to a body bag. Instead, players will need to learn how to best use their computerized partners to advance to a spot, then holding their position and laying down fire support so that they can regroup when all enemies have been eliminated. Players can dictate the posture of these commands (aggressive or passive) with what's known as the partner order wheel, controlled by the direction pad, which will affect how vigorously players use these tactics against the enemies you face. Getting a grasp on this will be key when it comes to eliminating the three kinds of troops you face: blue highlighted troops are basic grunts that are easily killed, while red are higher up officers that put up more of a fight. Gold troops are heavies that are just as armored as Salem and Rios, and require your flanking techniques, because they can only be damaged from behind.

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Much more than flanking or taking positions, players will also rely on their partners for a variety of moves, such as step lifts to get to out of reach areas, medical attention and being dragged to safety when you're injured, and even forming an almost unstoppable turret-like formation known as Back to Back, where you blast your way out of being surrounded by enemies. Players will take to the seas in a hovercraft, with one soldier driving while the other is blasting incoming enemies from a turret, while some missions drop you from the skies via parachute; one soldier controls the cute, while the other snipes targets on the ground. There are even sections where you'll pull doors off derelict cars or grab riot shields, protecting both soldiers while your partner fires over your head. Clearly, there are a number of elements where you'll need to depend on the man next to you to accomplish your goals.

There are a large number of objectives scattered throughout the game, such as eliminating specific targets of interest. You'll also be tasked with secondary objectives, such as finding specific items throughout the environment. What's more, players may stumble upon briefcases with secret information that are placed around each campaign, such as plans for incoming attacks or nuclear plant designs. All of these will result in additional cash that will be deposited in your bank account, which can be used to purchase and upgrade new weaponry.

See, Salem and Rios carry three firearms and a collection of grenades into battle. The primary weapon is frequently a machine gun or a shotgun, which is used to eliminate large groups of enemy troops with their range and power. Secondary weapons are typically pistols or sub-machine guns that can back you up if your primary gun runs out of ammo. Finally, special weapons are used to cause significant damage at a distance, and include sniper rifles, RPGs and Stinger missiles.

But while all of these are deadly, you can easily upgrade these with new items, such as swapping out the barrels, adding protective shields, adding larger capacity cartridges or magazines for guns. All of these augmentations will increase or decrease the stats of each weapon, but perhaps the most significant change is the pimp out option, which will turn your firearm into elaborately gold or platinum plated pistols with diamonds and other embellishments. These blinged out weapons heavily jack up your aggro and catch enemy soldier's attention; after all, when's the last time you saw a gold plated AK47 or a platinum Dragunov on a battlefield? The same could be said for those enemies, who are quickly drawn to this sight.

While the single-player experience is fun, there are a couple of hiccups that hamper the play overall. First of all, while having a large number of guns is appealing, the upgrade system is a bit skewed. Some only offer the pimped out option, while some aren't nearly as useful as other ones, such as only being able to carry two RPG shells. As a result, you'll probably find yourself picking your favorite firearm and sticking with it instead of dabbling with some of the other weapons. Secondly, the single player campaign is pretty short; it can easily be defeated in about six hours or so. While you initially start with two difficulty levels and unlock a third, there's very little reason that you're going to return and replay the single-player campaign, especially because you'll collect most of the weapons on the first play through. Only real completionists will return and attempt to gather all of the gear, firearms and upgrades available in the title.

What's more, the co-op portion of Army of Two really drives home the point that this is a game designed to play with a friend. That's not to slam the partner AI in any way; it will do what you need it to do for the most part and help you through most missions without major incidents. However, the AI will perform some stupid mistakes here and there, such as dragging you large distances to what it determines to be "safe cover" before healing you. This will sometimes have the effect of pulling you through dangerous enemy positions and leave you open to more grenade attacks that you can potentially defend against. What's more, it won't always take advantage of the stealth provided to it when you draw aggro, and will sometimes charge blindly into the middle of battle, swinging the momentum its way and leaving it open to be quickly injured or even killed.

Army of Two Review - IGN (3)
Finally, some co-op actions that you would typically expect to give to your partner seem to be either minimized or completely unnecessary. For example, the Back to Back sections that I spoke of earlier are automatically triggered instead of decided upon, which makes it feel as though the game is holding your hand, especially since you receive unlimited ammunition during these moments. What's more, if you compare the "co-op call wheel" as it's known in the game, there's only two commands there: co-op snipe and swapping weapons. There are very few moments where you'll actually need to get your AI controlled partner to co-op snipe within the game, which is disappointing because it reduces the challenge.

What's worse is that there's practically no reason to ever swap guns with your partner unless you want to see what firing their weapon is like -- you don't get extra ammo, and you don't need to acquire a different weapon unless you made a poor choice. Furthermore, while you can cheer your partner or hit them in the head, there's no need for this feature to even be included in the game. The AI won't keep track of the number of times you give them props or pound them, and will sometimes slip into an animation loop of constant headbutts or air guitar solos. It makes this feature stand out more as something that was initially intended, but wasn't fully implemented.

Fortunately, you can avoid many of these issues if you play with another gamer, and at least Army of Two gives you multiple ways to experience the game with a friend. You can play via split screen if you're on the same system, or you can establish a private co-op game with a friend or a public game with anyone who's online. Once you play with someone else, especially with someone who's played before, you see how the game is supposed to work, and you can intelligently maneuver through the battlefields without significant issues. What's more, you frequently find that you come up with new tactics to address game situations, ones that the AI would never think of. That's where Army of Two shines.

This feeling also carries over to the multiplayer arena, where players can take on opponents in one of four maps and three separate game modes: Extraction, Bounties and Warzones. Extraction randomly spawns VIPs or POWs on the map, and you're tasked with carrying them to a safe location. Bounties gets you to eliminate targets, such as gang leaders. Warzones combines these two, while throwing in additional objectives that you have to either defend or destroy. Accomplishing these objectives will give you cash, and the player that acquires the most money at the end of the time limit wins the match. What's more, you can use the cash that you earn during a match to purchase new weapons, so if you don't like the loadout you start with, you can always gain new firearms. Not only will you face off against your opponents, you'll also fight against computer generated enemies, which will definitely add an extra level of complication to each match.

One issue that we picked up on, which happened randomly, was that it's hard to perform step jumps in the middle of a match -- players will just fall down instead of lifting their partner. Another problem is that some objectives will simply disappear regardless of the GPS, making it difficult to find the target you're looking for. All that said, multiplayer is still a ton of fun and will probably be the one thing that will extend the life of the game significantly, especially since EA plans to support the title with additional maps and modes in the future.

One thing that stands out with Army of Two are the visuals, which look incredible. Both Salem and Rios come across with huge character models and sharp details, from the top of their protective face masks to the tattoos and scarred battle armor. These characters look great, but that isn't solely restricted to the main characters. Enemies are just as large, and animate as smoothly at Salem and Rios do. Environmental textures are clean and nicely done, and with the exception of the random render pass here and there or texture rip, the game runs quite well. Many of the explosions that wind up rocking stages, from the fuel cans you shoot to the planes you destroy, look very good, and if you're looking for a visually striking stage, the sinking aircraft carrier is eye catching indeed.

Incidentally, there are few, if any, visual differences between the 360 and PS3 versions of the game. Both run at a smooth framerate, and any visual issues that you see in one version are the same in the other. The only differences that you will find is the inclusion of achievement points in the 360 version (the PS3 version does not feature accomplishments at all), and the addition of Sixaxis functionality in the PS3 version of the game, which actually works pretty well. Moving the controller up and down gets your character to reload his firearm, and during parachute sections, you can use it to steady your descent or move back and forth. It's pretty solid.

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The sound for the game, on the other hand, is excellent. Be warned, however, that this title is definitely for adults, with a variety of curse words frequently dropped in conversation. However, the dialogue is delivered extremely well, with all of the main voice actors delivering their parts believably. The sound effects for the various guns are excellent, and while the music that's there is more of a backdrop for the action, it's also well done. Aurally, Army of Two is a great game.


As a single player experience, Army of Two is a fine game -– one that manages to provide a fun, engaging time despite its length, AI issues and elements that don't seem fully implemented. However, it's really co-op play and multiplayer where the game stands out, and these two modes will most likely keep you playing for a long time. Considering that the game has been designed with this style of play in mind, it works very well, and players that want to take on the life of mercenaries will most likely enjoy its story and multiplayer battles.

Army of Two Review - IGN (2024)


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