At today's EA Summer Showcase, EA director of corporate communications Jeff Brown made it very clear that one game he really wants people to play this year is Army of Two. Likening it to the one of the great films that gets lost among the shuffle of the summer blockbusters, Brown said he hoped gamers would get the chance to see Army of Two amid this holiday season's onslaught of releases. We spent a little time with the game today, and after having played it, we'd like to echo his sentiments. It might be another third-person shooter amid a sea of upcoming third-person shooters, but its unique cooperative gameplay and tongue-in-cheek tone look to be enough to make it stand out.
The premise of Army of Two is pretty simple: A pair of mercenaries for hire travel the globe, shoot people in the face, and blow things up. There's also some sort of betrayal plot going on, but does it really matter? There are faces to be shot, and stuff to be blown up!
At all times in the game, the twosome will be on screen. In single-player, you'll control one of the mercs and the other will be handled by the artificial intelligence. But the real joy of the game is cooperative play. We saddled up with one of the developers of the game and dove right into a mission in China. This particular mission required us to get a hovercraft from one side of a dam to the other--not as easy a task as it might sound. With the doors to the dam shut, we had to climb up to the central control area and flip the switch to open one door, then hit another to fill up the central area with water, and finally hit yet another to open the door on the other side and get out.
Doing this entailed quite a bit of back-and-forth cooperation. With Chinese soldiers everywhere, we'd often have to trade off combat and switch-setting duties. The game uses what is referred to as an "aggrometer," a meter that displays whether the enemies' focus is on you or your partner. It's often a good idea to have one player fire off rounds and draw attention while the other handles the primary task in a more stealthy fashion. Of course, it's also good to team up for certain situations. When you do, you can actually hook into one another, with one player holding up a riot shield to take incoming fire, and the other standing behind the shield-bearer, blindly firing over his head to take out any nearby enemies.
When they aren't shielding one another, the mercs at the center of Army of Two are slapping each other five, engaging in a bit of air guitar, or spouting off some of the most random dialogue you'll ever hear on the battlefield. For lack of a better term, these guys are kind of weird. If they aren't cursing back and forth with their home-base radio contact, Alice, they're discussing the merits of the members of the Wu-Tang Clan. It's strange, funny stuff, to be sure.
The other level displayed at the show hadn't been shown to the press yet. Though brief, it gave us a look at a very flooded Miami. This area showed a bit more of the vehicular combat, again with the hovercraft. One player drives, and the other mans a machine gun to take out any nearby enemy vehicles. And there were, indeed, some enemy vehicles to take out. Handling the hovercraft as the driver is actually pretty easy, and shooting with the big machine gun is as satisfying as you'd expect. Stuff blows up real, real good when you shoot it with this thing.
It's interesting that both the levels shown at the Summer Showcase were water levels, because the water looks fantastic. Of course, that's not the only visual highlight of the game. The character models for the two mercs are really sharp and detailed. They're decked out in these insane suits of armor that look like a combination of a goalie uniform and something from Mad Max. Every piece of these guys looks cool as hell, and some of the animations you get in combat are hysterical. When you're up close to an enemy, you can just press the shoot button and your soldier will do a quick melee attack, like grabbing your adversary by the throat and tossing the poor sucker halfway across the room, or throwing down a Zidane-style head-butt.
Army of Two is shaping up really, really well. The combat has a tight feel to it, and the mission designs are tailored nicely for cooperative gameplay. Everything's more fun with a friend, especially games that are specifically designed to be played with a friend. We only got a small taste today, but that small taste was enough to get us excited. Be sure to stay tuned to GameSpot for more coverage of Army of Two as its November 15th release date draws near.