With this theme as a backdrop, you take on the roles of Army rangers-turned-hired-guns Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem. A third-person-shooter eerily similar in style to Gears of War, the game puts you in control of one of these flame-painted-hockey-mask-wearing, home-made-armor-sporting "badasses." The similarity to Epic's cover-heavy shooter isn't a bad thing really, as the disheveled Gears-like environments that my highly detailed character model ran through all looked fantastic. And visuals and basic third-person-shooter mechanics are really where the similarities end.
The crux of the gameplay that actually links your characters' collaboration throughout the entirety of the game in a meaningful way is the righteously named "aggro" system. An "aggrometer" at the top of the screen reports which team member is currently gathering aggro by attacking enemies and thus being targeted by them. The player who's gathering aggro builds up a red glow and draws lots of enemy fire.
Just below the overarching collaborative gameplay function of the aggrometer are Army of Two's most satisfying cooperative moments: the awesome buddy moves. EA Montreal did a great job with making the controls for these context-sensitive segments incredibly natural. When my human-controlled partner picked up a heavy shield, all I had to do was run up behind him. My character automatically latched onto his best bro's back with one hand, and the camera angle switched to give me a more helpful sideways view. It was essentially like manning a turret while my partner drove an armored vehicle, as I could fire over the shield on enemies while avoiding any damage.
Other than these context sensitive moves, there's your standard array of turret-equipped tanks, hovercrafts, and tandem-bicycles, all requiring the collaborative efforts of you and a friend. A non-context-sensitive buddy feature, the co-op snipe mode, is usable at any time and equal parts radness and practicality. It gives both you and your partner a tri-way split screen, with the top half showing the world at large, and the bottom half split further into two, showing each of your scope views. Even death sequences require you to work together, stopping your partner's loss of blood via the previously revealed tampon wound insertion, or administering some friendly CPR--both with button-pressing minigames.
For players wanting to go it alone, there's the option to play with an AI-controlled partner, though I didn't get to try this out. Ferriera said you'll be able to issue partner commands with the D-pad or via microphone to advance, follow, or hold position, and then build or minimize aggro. But with all the communication required to get through the game, why waste the chance to make a new BFF? I kind of wish the developers played up the required intimacy between the characters more a la Blades of Glory. As it is, Rios and Salem crack cheeseball jokes and make references to the Wu Tang Clan during fights, which is pretty goofy. Luckily, whether you actually think these stereotypical bad boys are as cool as the devs do won't matter--just get ready for some serious bro-time.
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Army of Two retails November 13 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.