Army of Two: The 40th Day is like a summer blockbuster popcorn film that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire experience. Every five minutes buildings are collapsing, bullets are whizzing past your head, and planes are crashing left and right turning Shanghai into a modern day warzone. The second co-op experience from EA brings back the camaraderie of the original duo with a more in-your-face storyline and some improvements to the design. There is still a lot to be said for a game that focuses on cooperative actions, and nothing else does it quite like Army of Two.
Salem and Rios are back, but instead of globetrotting around the world this sequel takes place entirely within one city. Thankfully that doesn’t limit the appeal of the vistas. Levels range from rooftops, to abandoned malls, to one of my favorite scenarios in a game to date: a war-torn zoo. Seeing the carnage the attacks have caused in such public places is definitely an eye-opener, plus it conveys a sense of really being in the middle of a massive conflict. I will admit that most of the story feels tacked on and cheesy, much like a summer movie. The focus here is clearly on making things go boom.
Story aside The 40th Day retains most of what made the original what it was, which can be viewed as both a good and bad thing. The co-op experience is where the game shines. I stress this right up front, if you are not intending to play this game with someone else, I highly recommend only renting it. If you know what you are in for, you will be pleased with what this sequel has to offer. The game packs a punch right out of the gate. You are quickly thrown into the tutorial where you readjust to the controls, pick up your gear, and get right to the action. This opening also introduces you to one of the new mechanics in the game, moral choices.
The new trend in gaming is to make you feel emotionally attached to your decisions. In The 40th Day this comes into play about once per level. You are faced with a decision that will benefit you immediately, but also be considered morally wrong. When playing co-op either player can make the decision, it just depends on who hits the button first. Amazingly some of these choices can be rather difficult, and even when you choose the “moral” option, things don’t always turn out for the best. I like the new aspect, but also feel like it didn’t get used to its full potential. There are really only a couple areas where the decisions really affect other events within the game.
The returning features have also been improved starting with weapon customization. You can now opt to customize your weapons during any point in the game that you are not engaged in combat. The same standards apply here with new barrels, magazines and of course the ability to deck it out with gold plating. Again while this is a nice feature I really didn’t feel like the upgrades did much outside of cosmetic changes. Sure I loved having a solid gold shotgun and a zebra-striped assault rifle, but their performance change was minimal at best. Purchasing masks has also been eliminated in favor of allowing you to choose or create custom masks from the main menu. Again this is solely a cosmetic change, but still a welcome one.
The biggest change to the mask system though is the new GPS feature. Your mask has been upgraded to allow you to not only see your course of action, but to also tag targets in the game. The whole overhaul of the GPS is much more intuitive this time, and tagging enemies comes into play during combat scenarios where enemies will take cover, and the new hostage feature. There are points in the game where enemies have hostages and it is your decision to save them or not. Using your GPS you can tag the officer in charge, and then take him hostage causing the other enemies to surrender their weapons. Take a grunt hostage and things change drastically. I actually really enjoyed this aspect as it added a new layer to the game.
Another cool upgrade to the gameplay is the mock surrender. Here if enemies spot you before you get a shot off it will give you an option to act like you are going to surrender. From here you can quickly draw your pistol and take down unsuspecting enemies, or even have your partner snipe them from a hiding place. These types of interactions along with the hostage mechanic bring some strategy and interesting mechanics to the table, but can also be avoided altogether for those simply wanting to take the run-and-gun approach.
The aggro meter makes a return and really doesn’t feel too different from the first game. You can still go nearly invisible when your partner lays down the covering fire. Funny enough the overdrive modes found in the first game seem to be completely missing this time around. Back-to-back makes an appearance, but again isn’t quite as featured as it was in the original. The other big drawback as I mentioned earlier is that the game simply falls flat when trying to play it solo. While the AI is improved, there are too many times when my partner would go off and get killed, or fail to save me when I was down. The idea of relying on an AI partner to get through the game is definitely not what this series was designed for.
The campaign will run you around 5-7 hours depending on your skill and difficulty, but it is worth playing through twice to see the decisions and earn extra cash to pimp out your weapons. Once you finish there though some new multi-player action has been included. Standard deathmatch makes an appearance and now allows for up to 12 players. You also have Control which is essentially territories from Halo.
Warzone reminds me of Killzone 2 where the objective changes on-the-fly once the previous objective has been completed. This was probably my favorite mode as it keeps things fresh and exciting throughout the match. The final mode is currently only available to those that pre-ordered the game and of course members of the press. This mode is called Extraction and is basically Horde from Gears of War 2. You will fight wave after wave of enemies with up to four players. While this seems to be the new trend of things to include, it always ends up enjoyable so you won’t find me complaining about extra fun packed into my game.
The graphics in 40th Day are actually quite extraordinary. The levels are nicely constructed and detailed. As I mentioned the zoo level is truly one of the most impressive vistas I have encountered in a game. While the game all takes place in one main city, each level has a personality of its own. The frame rate keeps a consistent rate most of the time and the detail on the characters is remarkable. Audio is equally impressive featuring some great voice work and music. As you may have heard Nolan North is now the voice of Salem, and it is somewhat displacing to hear Nathan Drake spout some of these crude lines. Still you cannot fault his performance. Everyone else does a great job and the sound effects are top-notch as well. The 40th Day is a powerhouse when it comes to presentation.
Army of Two: The 40th Day is certainly not trying to disguise itself as the next great single-player action experience. This is a beefed-up version of the original game, and still stands as one of the most impressive co-op shooters available. If you have a friend to play with this is one of the best experiences you can have with this type of game. But if you intend to fly solo this is definitely not the game for you. The campaign is short, the helper AI seriously has some faults and the game just wasn’t designed to be played alone. When you work together however, it is one exhilarating experience after another from beginning to end.
Review copy provided by publisher.