Army of Two
There's only one thing more popular in games development at the moment than co-op gameplay, and that appears to be the use of Unreal Engine 3 technology. Yes, just like Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Army of Two manages to combine the two in a short-lived but fun title that's heavy on multiplayer thrills accompanied by polished graphical excess, Epic-style.
It's also perhaps the most homoerotically charged videogame of recent times, as two bulky men get to grips with each other in all manner of macho-fuelled situations that would challenge all but the most sexually secure of individuals. It is what it is - a fun-fuelled co-op game that tries out (and mostly succeeds with) new two-player concepts, all accompanied with a very cool, arcade-style graphical approach that makes this a genuinely attractive game. Oli Welsh's original 7/10 score is bang on, and you can't help but get the idea that like Skate, EA has generated an interesting new game that will only get better when the inevitable sequel hits.
It's ironic that while Army of Two doesn't feature any Unreal Engine branding, its style and feel are probably the most reminiscent of Epic's own UE3 showcase, Gears of War. The refresh rate and update are super-smooth, rarely deviating from 30 frames per second, and all the trademark Epic special effects are present and correct. I'm reliably informed that Army of Two is actually EA's second stab at using the Unreal tech, and in terms of cross-platform performance, it's a much more accomplished attempt than the previous Medal of Honor: Airborne which dropped frames like a bastard, especially on PS3.
However, in the case of Army of Two, both Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are essentially like for like. As is the norm, there's slight deviance in terms of lighting effects, but for the most part, the two games are basically the same. Certainly there is no gameplay premium that one version enjoys over the other. However, the screenshot comparison gallery throws up an interesting situation. The Xbox 360 version of the game runs at full-fat 720p, complete with anti-aliasing, while the AA-free PlayStation 3 version appears to run in a border, with only 1217x685 of actual resolution being displayed.
We've seen this sort of thing before - most notably in Incognito Inc's Warhawk and Calling All Cars, which feature adjustable borders that can be scaled to compensate for the overscan area in any given display. However, Army of Two is locked at the reduced resolution and - certainly on my review copy - it cannot be altered. Now, here's the funny thing. The PS3 is actually delivering a downscaled version of the original 720p image, actually reducing the image by around 10 per cent, rather than simply rendering natively at the smaller size - a trick often used to keep speed up. The question is, why?
In all honesty, we can't say for sure. The best we can come up with is that it's an attempt by the developer to smooth off the graphics to emulate the full anti-aliased look of the Xbox 360 version. The question is, does it really matter? Will you even see it? On my screen, connecting up the PS3 via component made the side borders disappear immediately, obscured by the display's overscan area exactly as Army of Two's developers no doubt wanted. However, via HDMI, it was a different story with the borders in full effect. Mileage will vary from screen to screen, regardless of the connection you might use. Certainly I've yet to see any Internet outrage so it looks as though the developer's gamble may have paid off.
It's an interesting situation, but just as the Incognito Inc games allow the user the opportunity to scale the overscan borders, so should Army of Two. I'd rather put up with a few more jaggies rather than potentially 'enjoy' up to 10 per cent of my screen area occupied by an empty blackness.