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Army of Two
Platforms: PS3 & Xbox 360 (Version Reviewed: Xbox 360)
Here's a quick checklist of items you'll need to enjoy Army of Two: a copy of the game, a PS3 or Xbox 360 console, a good screen, a decent sound system, an Internet connection, Xbox Live or PSN membership and a friend.
The last one is important. As you might be able to tell from the title, Army of Two was designed from the beginning as a co-op shooter. You can see it in every aspect of the game, from the control system to the game mechanics to the way the missions are designed. There's not a moment in the game where the two playable characters, Rios and Salem, aren't working together. Play it as you would a normal 3D shooter and you'll die. Recognise that it's all about teamwork, and you won't just survive - you'll prosper.
That's because Army of Two takes place in the murky world of Private Military Contractors, or mercenary corps. By the end of the first mission Rios and Salem have decided to throw in life in the US Army for a more lucrative career working for one of these companies, and it's from here that the game throws you first into Afghanistan, and then into Iraq. Handed objectives by the company, it's up to you to take out terrorist leaders, destroy enemy weapons and generally riddle anything that moves with bullets.
Perhaps I should add here that Army of Two isn't for those with a hatred of violence or a liberal conscience. While it has a coating of dark, almost goofball humour, it's a game whose references to 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan may get too close to the bone for some. The violence, meanwhile, is unrelenting and at times pretty gruesome. If Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down are the touchstones for many of today's military shooters, this one feels like a cross between Rambo, Commando, Team America: World Police and Friday 13th - maybe it's the hockey masks that does it.
Moral objections to the side, the game puts co-op play at the heart of everything it does. The central mechanic is what EA calls the aggro system. It's an idea pinched from MMOs, where the warrior characters attract all the hostile attention so that the weaker magic users and archers can blast the enemy from a safe distance.
Here, shooting at the enemy or moving offensively towards them attracts their attention, and the game's aggro meter sways your way. The more aggro you get, the more your partner is free to do his thing without hostile interference. Say there's a gang of hostiles behind a bunker. If you sit behind cover but lay down a carpet of suppressive fire with your primary weapon, they'll focus all their attention on you, giving your partner the chance to outflank them and shoot them from behind.
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