Review: Army of Two: The 40th Day (Xbox 360, PS3)January 24th, 2010 | Written by Josh Schwartzman | Topic: PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360
Army of Two debuted back in 2008 and brought with it a new tactical form of gunplay mayhem starring only you and your partner. While two players taking on an entire army might have seemed highly improbable, the gameplay worked quite well and the characters only added to the atmosphere that gave Army of Two a breath of fresh air in the repetitive nature of modern day shooters. Improving on this idea was EA Montreal, the team behind the original that revamped the engine, fixed numerous gameplay problems and made the story even more explosive than ever to make Army of Two: The 40th Day a truly significant and admirable sequel.
The 40th Day once again stars Rios and Salem as they take on one of their contracts with the TransWorld Operations (hence army of TWO) private security business. After successfully wiping out a few mercs, Rios and Salem soon find themselves in the middle of a massive war in Shanghai. The story in 40th Day really stands apart from the first game as Rios and Salem are continually fighting for their lives in Shanghai, rather than taking separate missions to locations around the world. The story itself feels like a Hollywood movie, with giant explosions and gunfights spaced apart with 30 second intervals, all the while Rios and Salem spout off their cheeky one-liners about their current situation. It should be much more attention grabbing than the first game and it will surely keep you entertained in longer spurts as well.
For those not familiar with Army of Two, the game focuses on co-op gameplay, meaning you and your teammate must work together to survive. Teamwork is the name of the game and utilizing gameplay functions from other first-person shooters, such as taking out every enemy by yourself or running into the middle of a firefight will surely get you killed, and in a game where numbers are your biggest enemy it is best to be cautious as your first priority. Rios and Salem work well together and they are equipped with various devices and weapons to help them successfully survive the Shanghai war and get back home alive.
Flanking is one of the key strategies to implement in Army of Two and it usually involves one player engaging in a firefight with the enemy while the other player advances to a blind spot to attack the enemy from behind. Of course playing with a human player makes these moments easier, but the computer does a good enough job to not get you killed. Of course, Army of Two still features plenty of double team moves such as back-to-back shooting, where both players line up to each others back and spin around in a circular motion wiping out enemies in slow motion as well as helping other players onto ledges for an aerial view.
Some of the new additions to 40th Day include the GPS, a new device that not only lets you locate the target of your current objective but also helps when enemies decide to flank you as well. Probably one of the biggest problems of the original Army of Two was the lack of a minimap that showed enemies locations or even how many enemies were left (which was hampered due to the fact that you had to kill all of the enemies to advance in certain parts of the game). The GPS does a good job of letting you know just where enemies are holding and preparing to attack as well as where the commanders of each convoy are located in case you choose to go after them first. Locating and taking out the leader of each group plays a huge role in 40th Day and it adds to a brand new feature that can change the entire scope of the story.
A new morality system has been implemented that forces Rios and Salem to make life-altering decisions. While some of these decisions can be as simple as letting some enemies pass certain checkpoints around the city, others are not so simple and can be as black-and-white as letting civilians live or die. Various segments of the game pit Rios and Salem looking into a room filled with hostages and plenty of mercenaries. Using the morality system you can choose to let the enemies kill the hostages or bust in and try to break up the massacre. You can go about this in different ways, such as feigning death while your partner attacks from behind or busting out some dual-sniping to take out everyone in the room.
Depending on which path you take the story will unravel in different directions. For example some characters you meet in the story might not be so keen to team up with you if they heard of you killing innocent civilians while on the other hand some characters might give you access to free weapons or upgrades if they knew you were going to use them to help other civilians down the line. The choice is yours how you want to play the game, however the game really only ever rewards you for being good (as opposed to other games with a morality system built in that gives you something for bending the rules) and since doing the right thing typically nets you more cash and experience needed to upgrade your equipment, the choice is never as hard as the game makes it out to be.
Killing enemies and completing objectives earns you cash which you can use to upgrade your weapons. Upgrading was a big component in the first game and players got to trick out their weapons with various sights, ammo clips, attachments and even gold-plating. While all of these features are back and available for Rios and Salem to own, more new customization features adds only to the level of depth you can add to the game. While customization could be accessed at any time in the first game, for some strange reason EA Montreal thought it was a good idea to have both players be within arms reach of each other before the store could be accessed. A really unusual element that really looks out of place in the midst of all the fighting considering both players will usually be on opposite sides of the screen throughout the game.
Army of Two: The 40th Day also features an online multiplayer, something new to the series, but for a game that is focused on co-op teamwork this component seems unusually out of place. Sure, the two-on-two deathmatches are fun and trying to flank the opposing team can get interesting at times, but there are never enough fun moments to outweigh the amounts of boredom. For starters, the levels are stripped down making them smaller and more confined than in the single player and the weapon customization is completely gone as well. What are left are four players shooting it out in an area no bigger than an average sized office building with generic weapon sets that both teams have to use. What makes things worse is that online play is hampered by slowdowns and lag, adding to a double dose of gameplay that is often unplayable at times. It is a welcome change for those players looking to take a break from the single player, but don’t go into it looking for solid gameplay equivalent to that of the campaign.
For what it’s worth Army of Two: The 40th Day does look good on its own merits. Buildings continually crumble when shot by gunfire, planes fall from the sky and character models look exceptionally well. However, the game is pretty buggy whenever a lot of action bombards the screen at once, and sometimes the game slows to an unbearable crawl that hampers even the simplest task of reloading. While these slowdowns last for seconds tops, they happen far too often to become irritable and are something the developers truly should have noticed before launching the game. The sound is typically the same as any standard shooter; plenty of nonstop gunfire and explosions topped off with Rios and Salem’s witty off-color remarks, which adds some delightful flair amidst the constant scope of war.
There isn’t much more you could have asked for in a sequel than what The 40th Day offers and fans who played the first game will surely realize just how far the series has come in just a couple of years. While slowdown plagues the game throughout, the action never stops and Rios and Salem will continually battle amidst the crumbling cityscapes of Shanghai as they battle with their own morality and try to save helpless civilians along the way. Although the online multiplayer is haphazard and definitely out of place in a co-op styled game, Army of Two: The 40th Day is still an admirable addition to the series and hopefully a positive step into the right direction for any upcoming adventures for Rios and Salem.