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Army of Two

Not for loners; EA's co-op shooter re-emerges with extra aggro

The first (and last) time we saw Army of Two was in a dark room over a year ago. We were shown the basics of EA's co-op shooter, a few gung-ho one-liners and the most impressive water effects we'd seen at the time.

The demo had our tin-masked protagonists running up the side of a massive sinking aircraft carrier, dodging jet planes as they slid off the deck. All the while, the demoing developer was barking out orders - and even bantering - with his AI partner using some super-advanced voice recognition. It was bloody impressive.

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Now, over 14 months later, sitting in EA's gigantic glass-filled UK headquarters, the wow factor isn't quite as strong as it was at E3 2006. Visually, it's not looking quite as impressive as our initial behind closed doors demo, and the maps we're seeing (and later playing through ourselves) are nothing like the epic scale of the gigantic, vertically tilting aircraft carrier.

Two's Company
What Army of Two lacks in shininess though it now makes up for this in gameplay, something we didn't get to see an awful lot of last year. The big PR promise is that it'll "re-define co-operative games", which while we don't quite agree with from our initial playtest, it's looking very promising for gamers who like to work together.

You plays as employees of one of those private military companies (PMCs) that are all the rage these days, making your way through war-torn Somalia and Afghanistan offering your well-shined guns for hire, and hoarding some loot along the way. EA Montreal has convened with real life mercenaries to come up with the story and gameplay features, and at this point it's far more interesting than another 'elite military group' or 'one man super-marine' shooter.

Shooting, ducking behind cover and blind firing over scenery is all very reminiscent of Gears of War, although once you pick up the controller yourself you'll see Army of Two actually plays a bit differently. The cover system doesn't lock you onto the side of walls like Epic's shooter, which makes movement more fluid, though shooting is slightly more cumbersome as a result.

In certain sequences co-op moves - which we glimpsed briefly in our last preview of the game - are almost demanded in order to survive the 30-man attack force scattering onto your position. Manoeuvres like back-to-back shooting - which puts you into slow-motion and lets you spin around like twin ballerinas - couldn't be initiated any easier with an A-button prompting the action on screen.

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The other move we've seen before, co-op sniping, is a bit more context sensitive than the above. In certain sequences you can activate the move and have your screen split into three, one portion showing your character and the other two displaying your crosshairs.

You're then required to time your shots to take out a pair of enemies or other two-shot target, which not only encourages teamwork beyond shooters like Gears or Rainbow Six: Vegas, but stops elite players tearing through the level on there own as well.

Voice recognition - although we're assured it's still in there - was unfortunately missing in action.

The third, and most worthy example of the co-op moves we played happens when one guy bites the dust. Once you're down you've got three minutes for your teammate to come a resuscitate you, which involves timed button presses between the two of you and an erm, tampon to absorb the blood (that's one of the merc advisors' tips, that one).

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