Monday, November 2, 2009

Co-op Gaming Moment #47

Army of Two is a game that tests teamwork more than any other cooperative shooter I've played.

Despite first impressions that it might be a deliberately paced cover-based third-person shooter a la Gears of War, it is not at all the same sort of arcade-style shooting gallery where you wait patiently for an enemy to pop his head out, whereupon you pop it off with your rifle. If any part of you is exposed at all, you will be shot. The only real cover is the cover fire that your partner can provide.

I fancy myself a maverick of many games conquered, and even in our Gears of War sessions, my co-op partner and I had operated mostly independently. We perhaps did not come into Army of Two with the right mindset. Too often we would both pay the price when one of us charged ahead too far. We would fail to alternate roles in drawing fire and then wonder why we were both constantly getting shredded. Really, there were no roles and no strategy. The most embarrassing screwup would come when the game called for the usually formidable back-to-back formation. As we spun around in slow-motion in this turret-like stance to combat surrounding rings of enemies, invariably we would end up unknowingly both facing the same direction as enemies pelted us from the other side.

You could say simply that it was a breakdown in communication, but, believe me, when you've got suicide bombers charging from all directions accompanied by the harrowing clamor of machine gun fire and crazed foreign tongues, speech is just not fast enough. You really just have to know each what the other is thinking.

Surrounded by Al-Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan, I think we finally found ourselves on the same page.

They were all over us. Well, in fact I could only see one guy, but I was taking hits from every direction. I tried to take cover, but the enemies in this game are not afraid to rush you. The one dude was extremely agile, more resilient than any Majini, and showed no fear of death as he got right in my face to shoot me. Meanwhile I had no idea where my partner was, but I could tell from the sound of buttons clicking furiously that he was also in trouble. The camera shaking wildly from my panic, I was still trying to dodge the creep on me while struggling to no avail to find a "melee" button to back him off. With no better options and no help coming my way, all I could do was unload my entire clip in his direction, but alas he was just better than me.

As I watched my guy falling dead on my top half of the split-screen, I also glanced at the bottom screen and saw myself dropping from my partner's perspective. Or so I thought. Then the image turned gray and we were greeted with the Game Over message. I didn't understand at first what had happened. I had run out of health, yes, but that isn't usually supposed to be an instant fail. Why couldn't my partner just revive me?

Then I took another look and noticed that there were two bodies lying on the ground of that failed mission. As it turned out, what I had seen on the bottom screen was my partner collapsing at nearly the same instant as I myself had fallen. We had somehow both died simultaneously, and our bodies were now lying right next to one another.

Sometimes, when a mission ends in failure, team game or no, it's easy to place the blame on whoever died first and left the other player too much to take on alone. Here there was no way to even tell who had died first, but the times of death had been so close that in any case it didn't matter.

And it wasn't as if we had both died from a single attack, as sometimes happens when grenades or rocket launchers are involved. There had been no explosion, and though the one guy I was fighting was tough, I don't think even he could have gotten us both that quickly with just a rifle. These had been separate kills, and the timing involved spoke to a perfect synchronicity that Olympic-class diving pairs must spend their entire youths together working toward.

So there it was. Perhaps Elliot Salem and Tyson Rios, Army of Two, had not the fortune to be born as brothers. But, there in that hell that was Afghanistan, they made sure to die together on the battlefield as brothers in arms.

1 comment:

Czardoz said...

It's "back to back," Johnson, not "back to front"!