Army of Two

We spend time in Two's company.

According to Dustin Hoffman, Lawrence Olivier once explained his desire to act thus: "Look at me. Look at me. Look at me." That might not have much to do with Army of Two, but it does get you out of having to read a tampon joke, so there's no point whinging. Tampons are part of Army of Two's health system. Getting people to look at you is part of killing them all so very violently.

"Look at me" is also roughly what whichever of the game's twin protagonists you're controlling would be roaring while trying to accumulate "Aggro" - were he not actually shouting **** and **** and **** and lots of other unprintably brilliant four-letter words that you'll have no trouble guessing. Aggro, as with MMOs, is the concept of drawing the attention of your enemies so that other people can take advantage. In Army of Two, EA's co-operative third-person shooter, you have an "Aggrometer", with a needle that drifts toward whichever of you is seizing the higher profile. When it's spun the whole way to you, you can activate "Overkill" - a 10-to-15-second burst of double damage and unlimited ammo, which leaves your companion free to either stride up to slowed-down enemies and boot them into ragdoll spasms of flying death, or shoot them with a pistol and watch their head jerk as the bullet impacts on the skull.

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Like Gears, you can take cover behind a generous arrangement of concrete blocks, although in practice we spent more time running around blasting.

It's not a very friendly game, Army of Two - but, for fans of Gears of War's relentless brutality, it's definitely one to smack on the watching list ahead of its 15th November release date.

Aggro and Overkill are the thin end of Army of Two's co-op wedge. The game's been designed from the ground up to support a pair of players, and not just in the sense of putting two health packs on the floor. The combat - as violent and almost as graphically sumptuous as Gears, but with less of the emphasis on cover-points and more on enemy-count - relies on a number of tandem action elements to proceed. You can go back-to-back with your fellow shooter to make sure you're covering every angle, or rip the door off a car and use it as a riot-shield while your friend walks along behind you firing over the top - effectively turning you into a sort of armoured car.

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Melee moves are brutal and rather amusing. We particularly like the headbutt.

As employees of one of those fashionable Private Military Companies (PMCs) busily kicking and hoo-ahing their way through Iraq at the moment, levels take you to places like Somalia and Afghanistan. A GPS toggle turns the screen blue and wraps the buildings in white outlines, projecting a sequence of arrows onto the floor to help guide you between objectives, and this also helps you spot booby-traps and other helpful elements. Everywhere the emphasis on co-op is apparent. In the Somalian level we're shown, a simultaneous sniper-round blast on a fuel tank at the far end of a market - an action called "co-op snipe" - blows a pair of adjacent gun-turrets to smithereens and reduces the battle to what's happening on the ground. As you parachute into the Afghan caves level, one player directs the chute and the other fires at the ground; holding steady allows for sniping RPG positions, or tackling a chopper that's abandoning the caves as you arrive.

Destroying the chopper by firing on its rear rotor is merely a bonus objective - a way of earning a bit of extra cash - and from that you can infer that Army of Two's pretty relentlessly frantic - and that you get to spend a bit of pocket-money between levels. The latter feeds into the customisation system. You'll be able to buy new equipment to shield yourself, as well as new face-masks to replace the Michael Myers defaults, while weapons can be customised to countless layers of depth.

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