- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2008

Teamwork of the most dangerous kind greets players in Army of Two (from Electronic Arts for PlayStation 3, rated M for mature, $59.99), a video game that presents a virtual taste of the violent life found in the world of privatized military forces.

Think a buddy movie starring government-contracted mercenaries as the game opens, introducing a pair of nail-spitting soldiers, Elliot Salem and Tyson Rios, who live the life of Army Rangers.

The pair eventually follow one of their superiors, Lt. Col. Richard Dalton, to the Security and Strategy Corporation, where they get to travel the world, wear cool masks and wipe out terrorist threats.

Cooperative is the key word in the game, and solo players should openly seek out a pal, either in the neighborhood or online to really appreciate the complexity of the action. During the major missions, the dynamic duo visit Somalia, China, Afghanistan, Iraq, Miami and even an aircraft carrier in the Philippines to stop a stock supply of bad guys.

Enemies are strictly from the “True Lies” call sheet — basically bumbling loudmouths from President Bush’s least favorite countries who want to infect or rain fire down on the infidels.

Surprisingly, the minions of these madmen are tough, shrewd and deadly. Besides suicide bombers and heavily armored warriors, the average thug takes plenty of punishment and bullets before going to his maker.

Only the tactics, hand-to-hand combat and variety of firepower afforded Salem and Rios will stop the threats. Missions can range from rescuing a comrade — even carrying him to safety — to destroying nuclear missiles.

When the boys are not spewing a dictionary’s worth of profanity, they easily can perform such tasks as helping each other climb an obstacle and trading weapons. Additionally, when one man gets hurt, the other can run over to drag him out of harm’s way or administer some quick healing medicine.

One of the slicker moments finds the pair occasionally sharing a parachute as one player maneuvers the chute (by moving the motion-sensing Sixaxis controller, no less) while the other takes sniper shots at vehicles and ground troops.

Most important, a soldier can attract fire and enable his teammate to flank the enemy easily. The Aggro meter monitors progress and turns the soldier glowing red to let the other player know he can, for a short time, move invisibly to take out targets.

This exaggerated buddy film goes to the extent of each player being able to control a soldier to congratulate or bust on the other for successes or failures.

As players succeed in parts of missions, they are rewarded with cash and can visit the nearest weapons dealer for shiny new armaments. Although the variety is impressive and customizable, down to gold plating, most players will find the lack of usefulness with some of the best — a missile launcher lacking enough missiles, for example — will keep them using their originally supplied set.

As stated, cooperation is the key, and players in the same room, unfortunately, are forced to digest the woeful, visually inadequate split-screen layout. Really, the best way to play is online so each person can get lost in the intense graphics of a full-screen experience.

Anyone griping about the brevity of campaigns can move to the multiplayer arena and find two-vs.-two war games within the beautiful-looking locations.

Overall, Army of Two definitely should attract a Gears of War fan or the average virtual soldier with spectacular visuals that expose a gritty taste of the mercenary life in a cinematic setting.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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