Army of Two is Electronic Arts' answer to the growing desire for cooperative play, a game that is essentially one giant coop mode, with some flawed single-player strapped on for the lonely and friendless. While the third-person shooter has plenty to say about the privatisation of armies and the inherent monetisation of war, the real message here is that shooters have gotten stale and Army of Two's bag of new tricks is here to shake things up.
More good than bad, more blue than red, I still found Army of Two to be quite a mixed bag.
* Aggro: The most aggressive person in your two-man team doesn't just attract attention, he glows red, allowing the non-dominant shooter to sneak around nearly invisible head butting people to death.
* Customised Weapons: Use money earned in missions to buy new weapons and add stocks, silencers, grenade launchers, shields. You can even pay to have them dipped in gold.
* Drag and Heal: When you or your partner go down the other can drag the injured player to safety and heal him. While being dragged, the injured player still gets to fire off his weapon at approaching foes.
* Coop Shield: Rip off a car door or find a riot shield and one player can carry it as portable cover while the other player gets cozy behind him to fire off his gun, forming a two-man, bullet-proof death machine. The shield holder can also use it to bash someone to death.
* The Parachute: There's not nearly enough of it, but on occasion you can drop into a level by parachute. One of your control the drop while the other picks off enemies with a sniper rifle. It's great fun.
* Back to Back: At times in the game you can go back-to-back with your partner and orchestrate a ballet of death in slow-motion with temporarily powered up weapons. Unfortunately, you can't trigger these events, they only occur at set times in the campaign.
* Idiot AI: This is not a game intended to be played on your own. If you rely on an AI to be your partner expect him to get stuck, lost and occasionally to drag your bleeding carcass back and forth in front of machine-gun firing enemies for a few minutes before deciding where exactly to heal you.
* Online Coop: While playing the campaign online or off with a friend is fantastic fun, you can't just drop in. Instead you have to start off with a partner. A mortal sin for a game so coop-centric.
* Glitches: Call it an AI problem, call it a graphic problem, but games shouldn't allow half of your team to get stuck in the backdrop. At one point I needed to use a grenade to "free" my partner from a railing.
Army of Two brings so many new things to the table that it's almost possible to overlook the atrocious AI, almost. Fortunately, the campaign is a relatively short affair and online gaming, be it in coop or versus mode, promises to be quite a bit of fun. I've never been a fan of small team shooter match-ups, but Army of Two doesn't just make it work, it makes it sing.
Buy it for the chance to head butt your enemies to death in a custom mask, keep it because you're not going to want to give up on the ability to drag and heal, distract enemies with gunfire and use car doors to block bullets on the move.
Army of Two, developed by EA Montreal, published by EA, released March 5, for $US 60. Available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, reviewed on Xbox 360, played to completion.