The first Army of Two game was a solid shooter with excellent weapon customization and some interesting, albeit sometimes overly complex cooperative mechanics (like the co-op snipe that was a bugger to learn and you never used again). Unfortunately, these solid features were buried under a variety of technical issues: terrible AI (both friendly and otherwise), repetitive gameplay, and a questionable ‘bromance’ element that was one drink away from an awkward morning. There was a really good game there, you just had to look really hard, so the big question is whether or not The 40th Day fixes the problems that plagued its predecessor.
For the most part, it has. The co-op has become much more integrated into the gameplay, and the game is now fun for those with or without friends to play with. Those that fall into the latter category will be happy to hear that the AI has been greatly improved. There are no more ‘hold three buttons down and count down from three to do this’ moves, and now you can jack into your AI partner’s camera to easily see what they’re seeing. The AI looks to have finally completed Mercenary Training 101 as I was actually having trouble overtaking Rios (I always play as Salem) in kills, and that’s saying something since I consider myself to be quite the badass when it comes to shooters.
Playing with a friend is still the game’s biggest selling point, though I do have a major problem with it: the weapon customization. Say both of you need to upgrade your weapons, pimp them out, whatever. You have to take turns doing this because there’s no way to split the customization so you can get it done in half the time. Borderlands did this and did it well, so I’m not sure why this is a problem. Other than that, the co-op is really well polished and even the relationship between the two characters is tracked. If you hit your friend, your bond goes sour. Likewise, when you give them a pat on the back or a secret handshake, it improves. This new feature was no doubt inspired by another new addition to the game, the morality decisions, and would you look at that, that leads me to my next point.
Morality is a big thing in gaming right now; making choices between good and bad is all the rage with developers as gaming tries to ascend as a medium. I’ve noticed there are games that throw it in there just so they can say they have it, and then there are a handful of titles, like Mass Effect for example, that actually make the effort of making the choices difficult. If you’re not sure which choice is the right one, that makes it interesting, and fortunately Army of Two manages to pull that off. Yes, the good choice and the bad choice are blatantly obvious, but the way they show the outcome of your decision is actually really neat. At one point I had to choose whether or not to let this poor woman die. Being the awesome guy I am I decided to let her live only to see in the cut-scene that followed my decision that she was an assassin.
For all the innovation this game brings with it there is a serious problem that not only effects my overall enjoyment of the game, but hurts its replay value tremendously as well. That issue is the inability to skip cut-scenes. I cannot believe that in 2010 there are still new releases that don’t follow this rule that’s really basic. Always let the player skip the cinematic, no matter how amazing it is, because if I die I don’t want to have to start back at the previous checkpoint only to have to watch it again. Another problem with reverting back to the last checkpoint is if you spent a few minutes customizing your weapons at the beginning of the level, than you die, you lose all that progress and are forced to customize your stuff again. Dealing with this when you’re playing split-screen is especially annoying.
This game is head and shoulders above the original in terms of polish and level design. The environments are very detailed and there’s quite a bit going on if you stop and look around. Some levels have some really cool things going on that sadly most people wouldn’t notice. The Zoo level, for example, has dead animals lying around that you can use for cover, burning corpses of civilians strewn about, and popable balloons. These little details really do make the environments much more realistic and fun to explore. The levels are designed to work much better for co-op, allowing you finally to make full use of the game’s Aggro meter to flank enemies, and there’s a good variety in the levels to keep them feeling fresh.
Multiplayer has been given quite a few new modes, including Co-op Deathmatch, Control, Warzone and Extraction. Deathmatch, as the name suggests, pits you and a friend against another duo (think Resident Evil 5’s Versus mode, only this time it’s fun). Control is basically King of the Hill, and Warzone gives you an assortment of objectives to fight over. You may have noticed a new trend in gaming where you fight off waves of increasingly more powerful enemies until the time is up? Halo 3: ODST, Gears of War 2 and Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 all have it so, naturally, Army of Two does as well. In it, you and three other players defend against waves of enemies that get progressively stronger until you’re ready for extraction. It’s definitely fun, though not terribly original.
Overall, The 40th Day, which is an awful name by the way, is actually a great game. Is it as much of an improvement over the original as we might’ve hoped? Not really, but there is a ton more content including a hefty arsenal of weaponry for you to pimp out and an expanded multiplayer that makes this game well worth playing.