For this weeks Cost of a Coffee we (Matt and Andy) decided to challenge ourselves, and make use of the various January sales going on around the country, to see what console games we could get for less than the price of a latte and a mocha from a well known hot beverage provider. We also thought we’d try to make it all scientific like…
1. Drink Purchase – pick an establishment located in suitable proximity to the game selling store to ensure the beverages maintain optimal consumption temperature whilst traversing between sites. Order one small mocha and one large skimmed milk latte with sugar free caramel shot, and obtain receipt for proof of purchase.
2. Ambulation – head to the game selling store being careful not to spill beverages on route.
3. Game Selection – enter game selling location and peruse the pre-owned section looking for titles that fulfil the selection criteria whilst consuming tasty beverage. The game must be:
- Less than the total price of the beverage order;
- Potentially entertaining;
- A game that has not been played by either of the experimenters before.
4. Game Purchase – the selection was reduced to four potential titles in Call of Juarez: The Cartel; Shellshock 2: Blood Trails; Army of Two; and Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. Army of Two was selected due to the co-op mode and the potential for entertaining “dude/bro” dialogue throughout the game.
5. Price Confirmation – Army of Two cost £3.99, and with £2 used on the GAME reward card, the total came in at £1.99 spent on the title. The mocha was £2.45, whilst the skimmed milk latte with sugar free caramel shot was £3.00, giving a total of £5.45. The game was successfully bought for under the cost of a coffee (or two).
Army of Two is a third person shooter featuring a pair of protagonists plucked from the US Army Rangers and thrust into the ranks of a PMC. The game supports full game co-op locally via split screen, sadly online co-op is no longer possible as the servers were shut down in August 2011. The local co-op session, using top/bottom split, worked well through the tutorial section but once into the game proper it was difficult to see what was going on (publishers, please stop using top/bottom splits for local co-op), and where the action was. Thankfully after the first frenetic back-to-back battle (more on this shortly), the game crashed and we decided to play some good old fashioned ‘pass the pad’ co-op.
The game introduces a few lovely features that we haven’t seen before (or since) in third person shooters. The back-to-back sections allow you to fend off waves of enemies from the middle of an open space. Sadly these are scripted, as being able to use this feature freely would be a fantastic addition to a game where enemies spawn frequently and randomly. Then there is the concept of ‘Aggro’, as measured by an ‘aggrometer’ (being science-y, this is should be pronounced AGG-ROM-EATER, though the game refers to it as THE AGGRO-METER making it feel much less intellectual, like the dialogue). The character who poses the greatest threat (i.e. most heavily armed, firing more aggressively, closest etc.), or who is currently pissing off the enemy the most, glows red and draws their fire; this allows the co-op partner to flank the enemy. What is not particularly well explained (or at all, in fact) during the tutorial, is how to use the co-op partner control system and overkill mode. Once we worked out that we could order our AI ally to hold position or move forward aggressively, instead of just following us around like a glowing red puppy, we advanced at a significantly enhanced pace; until that point, the ability to high five your partner if you’re happy or slap them in the face if not, was being used heavily for negative reinforcement. Weapon upgrades are a fun and necessary addition, as the first weapon you play with has all the impact of a pea shooter on a concrete wall; the trouble is earning the money is a grind and all you really want to do is unlock the minigun.
The game was good fun and kept us entertained for three hours before we caved in and switched it off, which is 6 times as long as the coffee lasted. By that time we had only just started the third mission, which is testament to the length of the missions; a little bit too long in fact.
Army of Two was great fun for a few hours and at that price, who could argue? We came away with the feeling that there were some really interesting mechanics that with a little bit of polish, could make for a fantastic game (and possibly did in the two sequels). The tutorial section seemed comprehensive when we played through it, but many game mechanics were poorly explained when they cropped up for the first time in game, meaning it was hard to use them to full effect without taking your eye of the action to read the pop-up and your hand off the DualShock to scratch your head. The least forgiving part of the game was the disconnect between clever, cover based, third person squad action which encouraged you to push forward slowly, and the enemy that rushed headlong at you from all directions. Still, if you have a few quid, some friends around, and you don’t fancy that skinny caramel latte, we recommend giving this game a try.