Army of Two
It was gonna be either terrible or great.
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A good friend of mine served in the British Army earlier this decade. Not long after finishing his tour of Iraq and his eventual discharge from his public duties, he was offered a chance to join a private military company. These firms, like the now infamous Blackwater USA, are private contractors, working under the cover of the flag in foreign countries, often doing jobs that militaries don't want their own troops doing. Why would you be willing to risk your life on behalf of a faceless corporation in a faraway land? In a word: money.
Rios and Salem, the foul-mouthed, testosterone-fueled, dollar-starved stars of Army of Two are not all that dissimilar from my friend. Their military adventures, which you'll get a taste of at the start of the game, are brought to an abrupt close as the world turns a lot uglier in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. EA Montreal hasn't strayed far from the headlines for source material, leading to inevitable accusations of opportunism.
The game handles the premise with more subtlety than I thought it would. I'm not sure if that says more about EA's handling of such a delicate matter or the pitiful state of the storylines found in many current shooters. The characters grow as you make your way through the 10-or-so hours it will take you to play through the game, demonstrating how they come to appreciate the potential for abuse that exists in the mercenary machine that signs their paychecks.
Away from the political commentary is a sturdy game that can't help but leave you wanting a slightly more deft touch. From the character controls that don't quite nail it to the mandatory overuse of the global positioning system that directs you through each level, it seems as if the game needed those last few touches to make it great.
That takes time, of course, and for EA this was a project that already saw its allotment expand at the last minute. Reviews of the game were on their way to servers last autumn when EA abruptly announced that it was keeping Army of Two in development longer. Thankfully, that time was put to good use.
At the time, a major criticism was the AI, which plays such an important role in a game built around co-operative play. Online play with a friend is the most natural way to experience the game, but I found the relatively less hospitable voice chat in the PS3 version I reviewed and the laggy network performance to be more bother than they were worth, and I ended up playing through most of the game with only the Cell watching my back. I wasn't disappointed.