When thinking about multiplayer action, images of fast-paced deathmatches usually come to mind in a myriad of different formats, while cooperative play has often been left relatively unaddressed. Electronic Arts fixes that oversight with Army of Two, a game that completely relies on cooperative play.
After loading up some heavy weaponry and slipping on combat masks, the two-man team heads into Afghanistan on top secret missions. The key to surviving these dangerous missions is working together—a and the second member can either be another player or an AI-controlled character who responds to different commands. "Respond" is the most appropriate term, since the partner won't always follow orders like a mindless drone. With user controls split between using a gamepad and issuing orders via voice commands through a headset, players talk to their AI partners as they would people. In one scenario, where the duo gets dropped from a plane using a single parachute, the player shoots while the partner steers. By shouting left or right into the headset, players can order their partners to maneuver into a better firing position.
The AI occasionally throws in a few wisecracks, as the command "go back-to-back" prompts him to spout out snarky lines like, "What is this? An action movie?" Reissuing the command several times will eventually persuade him to go along, so that the two can take on foes coming from all sides. AI characters will also remember when past actions have gone awry and hassle the player when retrying a tactic that didn't work the first time. In one instance, when the two need to simultaneously snipe targets, the player initiates the countdown by saying, "On my mark." The partner can then interrupt by saying, "No way! On my mark. You messed up last time." In some cases, the partner will let the player know when it thinks a plan is a bad idea. On occasion, the computer will flat-out refuse to follow an order, like, shooting an unarmed civilian.
The game splits the screen down the middle, showing different perspectives. When playing solo, one side of the screen shows both characters while the other has the player's point of view. Multiple perspectives will come in handy, especially in certain situations, like when the player operates a forklift while the partner stands atop one of the forks to shoot over a wall. In another instance, the player gives a buddy a boost to peek over something. They can also drag partners out of harm's way.
Different perspectives come into play when a player falls. When one person becomes incapacitated, the other can initiate a CPR minigame. The dying player must run away from the bright light at the end of the tunnel while his friend rhythmically applies chest compressions to help him cheat death. Similar cooperative features include a rappelling game, where one player ties a rope around his waist. The other player makes his way down the cliff while the anchor gradually steps forward to give more rope.
Although cooperation plays a huge role, Army of Two is an action-packed shooter at heart. Players can access a vast arsenal of weapons, all highly customizable. Add larger clips, better scopes, grenade launchers to guns or go for pure aesthetics by pimping pistols with gold trim—then test them at a virtual firing range.
Look for Army of Two on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 later this fall.