"Co-op isn't the mode; it's the game." That’s what Army of Two's producers told us before we sat down for a bit more playtime with the upcoming shooter. What they meant is that they've built a co-op experience first and then added the game around that. We didn't learn much more about the story than we did with our first hands-on preview, but we got a feel for how a closer to finished version of the game will feel, and with the game coming out early next year, it should be nearly done.
The game was tough, which is only fair because you'll have a partner the whole way through. The two mercenary heroes, Salem and Rios, play like the serious top-tier killing machines that they are. But they're based in the real world. There's only so many terrorists, militant psychos and political targets that they can gun down before they're overcome by a hail of bullets from a gold plated automatic weapon if they try to go it alone (yeah, we ran into a warlord with one, in one of the early levels).
They have a host of tricks to use and the biggest is a device called the aggro-meter. It's an on-screen gauge that shows which of the two mercenaries the enemies are most concerned with. As we went through basic training, it was explained to us: If you're shooting the most bullets out of the biggest gun, your enemies will concentrate on killing you. If your partner is shooting the biggest gun, your enemies will shoot at him. If all of the aggro is focused on your partner, then you'll turn partially transparent and be able to walk around mostly unnoticed by everyone else while they concentrate all their firepower on your buddy.
Besides the aggro-meter, the game uses some tried and true tactics, like having one player drive the vehicle and the other shoot. But it also has quite a few original ideas too. You can lift your partner over a high wall and have him shoot out the ankles of enemies standing at the top. Once he's up, he can pull you up after him (although this trick can only be done in specific locations).
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