Now here's an idea. If more games let you give a team-mate the finger, the world would be a better place. Imagine the fun you could have making Rooney give Ronaldo the cheeky finger in the next FIFA, after the winking wanker refuses to pass yet again and ends up tripping over his own stepovers. We'd actually want to play a FIFA game just for that option.
Army of Two takes team-mate bickering to a new level of insulting behaviour, with your computer-controlled partner able to do everything from rude gestures to swearing if you disobey orders. He might even shoot you if he feels you deserve it. For example, point your gun at an innocent civilian and he'll initially question your motives, becoming increasingly hostile to the point where he threatens to 'drop' you if you refuse to lower your weapon.
Your partner's remarkable reactions and responses give the game an edge over squad-based shooters such as Rainbow Six. In those games everyone carries out your orders regardless, but here he has the balls to point-blank refuse - either because he may feel it's too dangerous, or because he remembers the plan went badly wrong the last time you took charge. In one sequence we had to snipe two enemies simultaneously, which was simple enough until the squabbling began about who would give the order to fire. His argument that we botched the last shot was pretty convincing, and with time against us we had to reluctantly give in. But revenge was sweet when we later shot out a ceiling above our partner's head, burying him in rubble but leaving only his pride hurt.
Of course, to get anywhere Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem must put this apparently mutual loathing aside and work together. In most co-op situations the screen splits into two or three windows, showing what each character is up to as well as an overall view of the action - and you'll need to keep an eye on everything at once for a plan to run smoothly. It's a lot more involving and complex than the co-op controls in Splinter Cell Double Agent.
The opening to one level sees the duo strapped to the same parachute, with your partner holding the cords to control direction so your hands are free to shoot enemies on the ground. One side of the screen shows the characters cosying up together, and the other is the scoped view of your gun - you'll need to bark orders such as "accelerate" and "slow down" via a USB headset to help keep a steady aim. The same teamwork and co-operation is needed for rappelling, where one character pushes off down a wall while the other player has a rope around his waist and must lower him bit by bit. Another split-screen moment finds one character at the controls of a forklift, while the other stands on the fork and is raised above a high wall to open fire on enemies. As in all buddy movies it's even possible to toss your partner an ammo clip, though your aim better be good or you'll be subjected to another volley of abuse.
Despite your partner's self-sufficiency, it's inevitable that he'll take a few for the team from time to time. When this happens you can haul him to his feet, throw his arm around you and walk slowly together - the pair of you also firing your guns using your free hands. A split-screen mini-game also lets you revive your partner, the player in arrest needing to run away from a growing white light in a tunnel while the fit player compresses his chest rhythmically. Don't worry, there's no mouth-to-mouth action.
LINES OF COMMUNICATION
If it's astonishing to witness such advanced computer controlled intelligence, imagine the potential when you team up with another human player either online or offline. A flesh-and-blood player can drop in and out of the game at any time, and we predict a huge increase in headset sales in the run-up to next year's release of Army of Two.