It Takes Two to Tango

Hot off the heels of Army of Two: The 40th Day, I thought I’d take a minute to write a bit about the original Army of Two. I received this game as a Christmas present this year and have put in some time with it, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on it while it’s relevant again.

Back when the original released, I played the Army of Two demo and thought it was alright. It didn’t grab me enough to buy it, but it felt like a competent Gears of War clone set in the present. Reviews of the game ranged from good to mediocre, which wasn’t enough of a third-party endorsement to sell me on it. In that time, the game has gone on to sell millions of copies and spawn the recently-released sequel.

Most people will admit to the game being flawed, regardless of the fun they got out of it. Going back to it almost two years removed from the original release has not left a favourable impression on me. Since the release of Army of Two, both Gears of War 2 and Modern Warfare 2 have hit the marketplace. Both those games are the two biggest inspirations that Army of Two draws from, and both of those games are way better.

When playing this game, everything that draws from other games feels worse here. The shooting “feel” doesn’t have the same weight to it. The impact of bullets makes it feel like my machine gun is a pea shooter. AI for both your partner and the bad guys is pretty dumb. The interface is clunky and not well laid out. The voice-work is poorly written and executed. Even the overall tone of the game left me with a sour taste in my mouth. The idea of two jerk mercenaries fist-bumping their way through Afghanistan was a huge turn-off for me.

Where I do give Army of Two credit is that the game tries really hard to stand on its own, even with all of the other elements it borrows. Right off the bat, the game is tailor-made for two-player co-op, which can’t really be said for either the Gears of War or Call of Duty series. They add in a number of co-op teamwork elements to spice things up, such as the aggro system, boosting your teammate over a wall, the ability to easily trade weapons, back-to-back shootouts and fist-bumping action for a job well done. While I see the potential in these ideas, the executions for all of them left a lot to be desired. All of these team elements felt forced in a “video game” sort of way where you execute a team tactic. As a player, it feels like you execute these team actions because the game makes you do it at this point rather than you do it because it’s the best way to handle a situation.

In spite of my criticisms, millions of people bought the game. Reviews of the sequel have been better, but still not spectacular. I see where the developers behind Army of Two are trying to go, and I hope they eventually get there. However, this first game is at best a proof of concept. If you’ve only played the second game and are considering playing the origin story, it may be best to just pass. As for me, I appreciate it as a Christmas present, but I probably won’t go back to this anytime soon until I find myself out of other games to play.

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