Army of Two: The 40th Day Review
developer: EA Montreal
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Jan 10, 10
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Co-op games evolved in the past few years. EA had some good ideas in that department and Army of Two was an attempt to really make the most out of cooperative gameplay. The game failed on a lot of its promises, mostly thanks to an under-written story, simplistic and generally uninteresting level design, on top of other issues. We weren't too happy with the brief main campaign either; not to the frequently unresponsive friendly AI. You might say it was just another average shooter.
In this game, the two merc heroes, Salem and Rios, are back and they are as trigger-happy and as bad-ass as ever. They head out on an assignment and soon find themselves in Shanghai, a city suddenly overwhelmed by... I have no idea who or what. Oh yeah, it was overwhelmed by a huge mercenary army, I think. Through it all they remain their old cheerful selves (yes a variety of chummy salutes between the two mercs is still in the game - we wouldn't want to play without that, now would we).
I've no idea why we're here. Just shoot at everyone!!
Hey, kid wanna watch us maim?
The qualities of Army of Two: The 40th Day are apparent nearly from the get-go. Players are easily lured into an ambience of a convincingly depicted war-torn Shanghai, as a sharp, very-well polished shooter comes into view. The gameplay mechanics take a bit of practice, but nothing you can't handle I'm sure. The only thing you need to watch out for is when dashing towards cover. It's easy to jump over a wall by accident, because you need to press the 'A' button in order to step into the safety of cover quickly. Pressing the 'A' button more than once makes you leap over the cover. Like I said, it's nothing you won't be able to circumvent with practice.
The game is focused on cooperative gameplay, allowing players to experience missions both locally (using split-screen) or online. At times, The 40th Day feels like a top shooter, putting you through some truly intense moments. Shootouts don't always present the same scenario, giving you and your partner ample opportunity for different tactics every time. To make things a bit more challenging, the players are hurled into various hostage situations that also call for diverse strategy. Marching onto the scene, guns blazing, usually results in a bloodbath and hostage bodies lying everywhere. Watching the Aggro meter (a.k.a how much you're attracting enemy fire) is a must. For every killed hostage, gamers are given penalties for bad morality. These situations have a different outcome if you end up saving the hostages. For example, one of the players can start a fake surrender and walk slowly towards the enemy, while the other circles around and approaches the baddies from a more adequate angle. It's a cool facet and it makes the gameplay more exciting.
Although this part of the experience can lead to quite a few exhilarating co-op moments, the game handles difficult moral choices somewhat clumsily. Each choice you make results in a comic-book-like cut-scene that depicts the consequences of your actions. There's a scene where you encounter an endangered White Tiger and if, for instance, you let it live, the subsequent cut-scene shows how the animal attacks a petit shoplifter. While these seem cool in a way, my real beef is with the moral structure of the main two characters, who, regardless of your choices seem rather indifferent towards everything. So, are they supposed to be heartless mercs or good guys? I don't know, because half the time I couldn't tell. Being a cruel, malevolent merc, sometimes triggers a positive outcome and vice versa. What you end up with is a vague picture of the protagonists and a fuzzy backstory, devoid of any consistent moral values. In other words, it's kind of useless.
To summarize on that, EA Montreal's shooter won't keep your attention with a mind-blowing narrative. Whatever they wanted to convey was poorly executed and will often leave you puzzled.
A few things were improved including the visuals, presentation, as well as level design, players use cool weapon customization options to improve their chances on the battlefield, it can be a decent co-op game and a fine shooter if you are prepared to ignore some of its flaws;
Short (again), somewhat clumsy take on moral choices, story is not very engaging and often confusing, occasional AI bugs, some weird moments caused by the game's cover mechanics, lag issues in online multiplayer, improvements over the original are miniscule.