Review – Army of Two: The 40th Day

Army of Two: The 40th Day Offers Fist-Bumping Action Galore; Devastating Scenario

Army of Two was a flawed, but novel game. The idea: work with a friend to defeat an enemy. Fight together, rely on each other and kick some ass. The game was short, however, and featured dumb AI and a story that was criticized for handling its material poorly.

Army of Two: The 40th Day takes place during a fictional situation. Salem & Rios, the titular characters, are hired mercenaries and former US Rangers. They find themselves in Shanghai, China on what appears to be a standard mission in which they set up several tracking beacons and get ready to grab a beer. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned as a group called The 40th Day, made up of mercenaries acting independently, attack Shanghai, bringing massive buildings crashing to the ground with missile strikes. The game sets out to improve upon the flaws of it’s prequel, and it does so remarkably well. Army of Two: The 40th Day isn’t a perfect game, but it is a damn fine shooter.

The 40th Day doesn’t have much of a story to follow. A group of private military contractors attacks Shanghai and Salem & Rios attempt to escape the city. They don’t try to discover what’s happening or find out who’s responsible. They just want to save their asses and maybe save some civilians along the way. The 40th Day features some unique gameplay elements that help the story feel like more than just a shooter. For instance, there are civilians scattered throughout the game who have been taken hostage by The 40th Day, the paramilitary group. Salem & Rios can choose to save the hostages or not. Saving hostages rewards Salem & Rios with positive morality and money to help in their journeys. It also can make their missions easier by saving people who can help them along the way. The scenario for saving hostages is always fun to execute. Typically, you can either take a hostage or a partner can, and The 40th Day operatives will either drop their guns or wrap their arms around the hostages themselves, making a shot to kill them difficult. It is rewarding to grab a Corporal around the neck and make perfect headshots to drop his compatriots and save the hostages.

In addition, The 40th Day includes some unique scenarios in which NPCs help you out along the way, such as one, in a hospital, where a young kid wearing a battle helmet recovered from a dead soldier, leads you out from the basement where he was stealing supplies for his parents. There are numerous situations where you have to make a decision that either you or your partner can complete. For instance, there is a scene where you come upon an open weapon locker only to be confronted by an anxious security guard who threatens to shoot if you take the weapons. You have to decide if having the choice of weapons makes more sense than letting the guy do his job. Each of these “moral” decisions is followed by a neatly detailed cut scene done in a comic-book style that shows the results of your decisions. In this case, letting the guy do his job leads to him selling the weapons to The 40th Day mercs, which makes the fight harder for you later on.

The developers at EA Montreal obviously wanted to craft a game that took into account the difficulty decisions facing two armed men trying to flee a conflict zone. While not brilliant or revolutionary, the “moral” choices do help the situation feel more grounded and makes your presence feel important when the story follows you trying to escape.

The gameplay in The 40th Day features all-out shooting. The 40th Day successfully implements a good cover system, enabling Salem & Rios to turn over tables and hide behind them. They can shoot over their heads, break off certain in-world objects to use as shields, and can work together to eliminate an enemy using strategic cover and teamwork.

The centerpiece of The 40th Day are the guns. There is a vast plethora of guns in The 40th Day, and they can be customized thoroughly. The game offers four weapon slots – a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, a special weapon and grenades. The primary weapon is typically an automatic weapon, the secondary is a pistol while the special weapon slot enables Salem & Rios to equip either RPGs or Sniper Rifles. In-game you can select the “weapon customization” option to use your funds to purchase new weapons and to upgrade your current weapons. You can purchase everything from camouflage to scopes to bayonets and more. There are a ton of options that make every gameplay experience different. The selection of weapons and customizations is vast and fun to tinker around with. Likewise, the weapons work really well. The sniper rifle is appropriately powerful while upgrading your automatic weapon to a 100-shot barrel-drum from a 30-round clip makes all the difference in the world.

Upgrading and purchasing new weapons is necessary because in The 40th Day, hordes of enemies will come at you. A typical level will see you and your partner finish off somewhere between 80 to 200 enemies. Scattered here and there, at crucial junctures, are special enemies who require a unique tactic to defeat them. After a while, you will discover that Salem & Rios’ unique abilities to mock surrender and fake death are incredibly helpful and very satisfying to use. When cornered by a flame-thrower wielding, heavily-armored mercenary, I faked my death to turn the heat off of me and to then surprise the enemy from behind. There are numerous instances where these types of tactics could be used, and they made each fight unique and allowed the game to never feel too repetitive. In addition, you can draw enemy fire by shooting wildly and standing in the open, allowing your teammate to flank and surprise the enemy. The 40th Day features unique tactics that really do add to the game by making each scenario play out differently.

The 40th Day looks good and sounds great. Salem & Rios make some pretty funny wisecracks and really do feel like buddies because of their reliance on each other and their constant discussions about past scenarios. The graphics, fueled by the Unreal engine, look good. They aren’t the sharpest visuals of the generation, but they do the trick to convey the size of the event, with burning, falling buildings all around, papers scattering in the air, civilians running around screaming, and headshots being appropriately bloody.

Finally, The 40th Day offers the ability to play either with a friend in your room or via Xbox Live or PSN. It also offers a single player campaign in which either Salem or Rios is controlled by the computer. The co-op gameplay works beautifully because you have two (hopefully) very intelligent and engaged individuals controlling the characters. The single player isn’t as good as the co-op simply because the AI teammate sometimes plows ahead without your approval or picks up a shield when you don’t want him to. The teammate AI is sufficient enough to provide a rewarding single player campaign. However, this is a game that is meant to be played and replayed with a friend. If you don’t have a connection to Xbox Live or PSN or if you just don’t have someone to play with, The 40th Day is still a fun experience, though it’s not on the same level as the co-op game. The 40th Day also includes several multiplayer options, the most of which is Extraction, in which you face off against waves of enemies. It isn’t available to everyone yet – only those who pre-ordered the game, but in several weeks (one month after release) it will be available to all.

The 40th Day is a vast improvement upon the original and is a fun, action-packed and surprisingly interesting shooter. Salem & Rios are likable characters and the ramifications of your decisions in game are fun to watch play out and make the situation feel somewhat grounded in reality. The action is fast and furious, and even though it only spans five chapters, they are lengthy and worth tackling more than once because of the different approaches you can take and the different weapons you can employ. The 40th Day is a great co-op game.



8



+ Shooter action is furious, excellent

+ Morality decisions carry interesting consequences, stories

+ Salem & Rios are likable characters who make some pretty funny wisecracks


– Single player campaign isn’t as strong as playing through it on co-op




* Army of Two: The 40th Day was played on the Xbox 360.