This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee tries to cut down on the gay jokes while reviewing Army of Two.
I'd be the first to admit that in my reviews, I tend to go straight for the gay jokes too much. Somehow a burn becomes doubly funny when you imply that the subject also likes it rough from men with hairy bums. I've honestly been trying to cut down on them lately, but Jesus, look what I've got to work with. Two inseparable muscular men, one big and grizzled, the other young and spunky, running around in gimp masks, knocking down big missile erections, plainly sexually uninterested in the only woman of their acquaintance, and despite ostensibly making a lot of income as contractors, they can only afford one parachute between them, which they're a little too eager to share.
OK, I've promised not to make a big thing of this. Besides, the gameplay's more like a recruitment video for private military contracting than an endorsement of the bumming lifestyle. We're quickly and frequently reminded that the military is shit, and so is everyone in it, while mercenaries are unstoppable immortal badasses, who make tons more money, and like it rough from men with hairy bums. No! Bad Yahtzee! I meant to say, "and you get to wear funky skull masks like it's Halloween every day, except that it's you giving out the candy, and the candy is bullets."
It's your standard mix-and-match present-day military shooter plot. You start off killing Al Qaeda suicide bombers in post-9/11 Afghanistan (in a bit of ripped-from-the-headlines gritty realism that falls on the border of tasteless), and before long you've moved on to the rest of America's favorite punching bags: first the Iraqis, then the Chinese, and finally their #1 hate figure, other Americans. If you don't see the standard double-cross plot twist coming, then you probably need help dressing yourself, but let's not dwell on it. We're not here for storytime, people; let's talk about all the sexy violence.
The major selling point, the one right there in the title, is that you're assisted by an NPC partner. There's more to it than that, obviously, because if there wasn't, I'd have to tactfully break it to EA that they were beaten to it by every shooter made in the last five fucking years. The major difference is that you have to pull the little levers in your partner's head to make him hold position, regroup, advance, or whatever, and to the game's credit, it's pretty intuitive. It's just that sometimes messing with the little levers causes something to snap inside his noggin. On a couple of occasions, he froze up and just stood there while the enemy turned us both into bullets-and-hamburger sandwiches. And then there was the time I was standing by a door while he went to push a button across the room, and I accidentally pressed the button to regroup, and he ended up endlessly running back and forth like a sheepdog with a piece of shrapnel in its head.
Actually, there were quite a lot of things QA should probably have picked up on. Having grown tired of my AI partner's insect-filled brain, I tried playing co-op split-screen with a friend. In one shootout sequence, there was an elevated holdout position that I gave him a boosty up to as part of a cunning higher-ground strategy, but since my friend had trouble understanding that enemy bullets were something to be avoided, he was taken down. When this happens, you basically can't move or get up until your partner comes over to stick a healing foot up your arse, but since there was now no one to give me a boosty up to where he was, all I could do was hop impotently up and down like a skull-faced bunny until his bad case of idiocy proved terminal.
So it's a buggy game, but not without compensating factors. There seems to be an issue with the difficulty curve, in that there isn't one. Gameplay consists of a linear succession of samey stop-go shootout playgrounds, and your characters can absorb so much damage you'd think they were written by Frank Miller or something. Health regenerates fast, enemies are reluctant to advance, and even if you do get taken down, you'll be A-OK as long as your partner gets over to you at some point in the next year or so, which isn't always guaranteed, but still, it makes me wonder why they felt they needed two people for this.
I don't feel Army of Two makes the most of the whole "two" thing. All you need the other guy for is distracting the enemy so you can run up and shoot their buttocks off, a job which could be done just as well by a scarecrow or a loud noise. And even that's never really necessary, except when they wheel out the enemy wearing impenetrable bullshit armor on everything except his bum, which I suspect are only thrown in to give the other guy a contrived and flimsy reason to be there, like the ledges that require boosties. So all this company needs to do is strap some fireworks to a stepladder, and they'll only have to pay one set of wages.
I was being facetious earlier; I don't really get a gay vibe from Mr. and Mrs. Skeletor. They remind me more of a pair of eight-year-old boys running around the schoolyard kicking girls in the shins. The option exists to pimp out your guns with funky paint jobs and bling, and if that idea appeals to you, then give yourself a nice saltwater douche, because you're officially a cunt. It's just a little bit tacky to combine juvenile power fantasy with real-world politics, but I don't want to beat Army of Two with that when there's perfectly good bad game design I could beat it with. It's repetitive and broken and nothing you haven't seen before. If you can play Gears of War with one hand and Splinter Cell with the other, then you don't have to play Army of Two. And make sure you film it, because that's a pretty impressive talent you have there.
Becoming increasingly willing to renounce women: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
On reflection perhaps it's for the best that someone named 'Tyson' shows absolutely no interest in women
Next week: more stuff you foreign bastards have probably been playing for months