Army of Two: The 40th Day
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3
Price: £39.70 (Amazon)
Let’s be frank here. The original Army of Two was at best mediocre, and at its worst a poor mans copy of Gears of War. Its co-op mode was satisfying though didn’t capitalise on its clever “Aggro” system, and the less said about the crummy gun customising options the better. So, it’s with no small amount of pleasure (and a good measure of shock, too) that I have to admit that it’s sequel, Army of Two: The 40th Day, is pretty damn good.
Soldiers of fortune Rios and Salem are back, this time cutting their own contracts on the global mercenary stage. However, when a simple job in Shanghai suddenly turns sour, all hell breaks lose as the pair track down the source of their troubles in a tale of terrorist intrigue.
On first inspection, The 40th Day hasn’t changed much from it’s predecessor. It’s still a cover-and-shoot linear action game, and there is still an emphasis on co-operative play and customisation of the mercenaries gear. However, there is an extra level of polish and a keen eye on what makes similar silver-screen blockbusters shine that brings this game head and shoulders above its older sibling.
Firstly, the sense of scale this time around is much greater. As earlier suggested, set pieces this time around are on a par with Hollywood, with airplanes crashing and whole cities toppling around you. It looks and sounds great, and it also helps that Rios and Salem’s brutish banter this time around is funny and endearing rather than just dumb. They’ve become true gaming stars, with writing that believable has them carrying the solid plot along.
Shootouts with your partner are more tactical and more satisfying as a result. The “Aggro” system, drawing enemies away from your partner with covering fire, works far better this time around, thanks both to better level design and a newly introduced GPS enemy tacking system. Battlefields are more open, giving players more choice when approaching fire fights, and the GPS makes co-ordinating successful attacks more a case of timing and planning than gung-ho bromance.
Little new touches, like pretending to surrender to an enemy or the multiple new moral choices offered are great, especially when in co-op with a disagreeing friend. While playing along with a pal is still the ultimate way to experience Army of Two, friendly-AI intelligence has stepped up a notch, making for a far less painful single player experience than before.
Customising your weapons again makes a return, but with mixed results. The introduction of enemy controlled supply crates (acting like timed-challenges) add a welcome change of pace to the genre’s now mandatory upgrade system. But while the many options on offer further bolster your shoot-out tactics, the clunky customising menu turns your bling into a bit of bummer instead.
Competitive multiplayer again fares well in The 40th Day. In all the modes (which roughly include a death match, enemy wave survival, capture the flag and a Battlefield 1943-like objective based mode) you are always tied to a partner, complementing the skills you’ve gathered from the main campaign. They’re all a blast, but may rely too heavily on team work for some to enjoy. You wont survive two-minutes with a “Lone Wolf” approach here. It’ll be interesting to see if it retains a solid player base when titles like Modern Warfare command so much attention.
So, Salem and Rios (for the most part) rise triumphantly out of the explosions around them like gun-toting phoenixes. It may not be as big a jump as that made last year by the Assassins Creed franchise, but in taking a truly flailing IP and completely turning it around, it’s certainly sweeter.