Army of Two PS3 / Xbox 360

Army of Two PS3 / Xbox 360
Army of Two has a misleading name — it is not about the army at all. In fact, much of the game is spent mocking the military. It is instead about private military contractors — the corporate mercenaries, like Blackwater, currently running wild across Iraq or, occasionally, winding up in handcuffs back home for massacring civilians.

The fact that Army of Two is the product of EA’s Quebecois branch makes this premise no less controversial but, unfortunately, they declined to include any real analysis about the privatisation of warfare. Which is a shame — the sadly cancelled TV series Jericho, with its Ravenwood private army, proved there is much dramatic meat to this subject matter.

Army of Two has some plotting about corrupt politicians and PMC corporations but the planned critical take on independent military contractors largely takes a backseat. As one developer told the press, "we’re not trying to make any kind of political statement.” So, as you travel through Afghanistan and Iraq, those Islamic suicide bombers you’re shooting might as well be Super Mario’s Koopa Troopers. And because you’re killing for cash, you can pimp out your gun with bling and gold plating.

It is, however, very much about the "two.” Following in the enormous footsteps of Gears of War, Army of Two is a drop-in co-op game (computer AI handles your partner if you’re all by your lonesome) that could even be seen as a throwback to arcade classics like Double Dragon — games where solo play simply wasn’t much fun and would get your ass beat.

Army of Two’s co-op play adds strategic juice — instead of the ol’ run’n’gun, you can send your partner off to attract fire while you flank the enemy from behind — and a new spin on the usual multiplayer death matches. Seeing as how Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Xbox Live and the Wii have made gaming a social activity, this is a refreshing addition that greatly enhances an otherwise average shooter.

So, enjoy the testosterone-fuelled adrenaline rush, just try not to think too much about politics and morality. After all, that’s how real military contractors make it though day. (EA Montreal/Electronic Arts)