Army of Two: The 40th Day Hands-On Preview Part TwoBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Dec 15, 2009
My first hands-on encounter with EA Montreal’s macho shooter Army of Two: The 40th Day was back in September, and at the time, I came away quite impressed with the improvements that had been made to almost every aspect of the original game. And after spending quite a bit more time with the game recently, I came away feeling pretty much exactly the same way.
For those unfamiliar with the previous installment in the series, Army of Two tells the tale of two beefy private military contractors named Salem and Rios. They get paid to kill terrorists and they absolutely love it. Beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot you need to know. This time around, the dude-ly duo is thrown into the middle of Shanghai during a devastating city-destroying series of attacks brought on in the name of the massive military uprising, the 40th Day Initiative.
The sequel opens with Salem and Rios meeting up with a fellow contractor just prior to the catastrophic events that kick off the game’s story. The tutorial level also introduces two of the game’s new features: taking hostages and the morality system. In my previous preview, I described one hostage encounter, and I’ve included it here since it sums up the system quite well:
“A second later, he had taken the enemy hostage, and we were in perfect position to start the negotiations. As we moved ahead, the remaining three guards noticed their wandering pal’s current predicament, and they reacted accordingly. After they all dropped their weapons and fell to their knees, I was able to move in and tie them up. This not only prevented us from having to waste ammo and risk our lives, but it also gave us access to special weapon upgrades that we have not been able to access had we blasted our way onto the scene.”
The morality system is also introduced in a predictable yet understandable way in this opening level. These moments will let you and your teammate to decide the fate of a particular encounter. The first one is your basic “kill someone and get bonus cash or let them go” fare, but the game will include several variations that won’t be quite so clear cut, forcing players to think a little before simply making one-sided gut reaction.
And then there’s the actual combat. From the moment you engage in your first firefight, you’ll instantly feel the improvements that have been made to the combat system. And while it’s rather obvious that EA Montreal borrowed quite heavily from Epic Games’ Gears of War series (a new cover system, the game’s own version of the “roadie run,” the curb stomp, etc.) it makes the game supremely more enjoyable to play than the previous installment, and that’s the important thing.
The game is also built around some rather spectacular set pieces, and fighting your way through/off of a collapsing skyscraper during the opening level is just the beginning. But just remember, as tempting as it is to want to watch as Shanghai explodes and burns all around you, you’d better keep your eyes focused on the swarms of baddies who want nothing more than to liquefy your face with bullets. Speaking of bad dudes, the enemy AI has received some much need improvements (i.e. they no longer just run around you, punch you in the face and then wait to die), and should you find yourself without a buddy to play co-op with, the partner AI appears to be far more manageable this time around too.
Army of Two: The 40th Day is shaping up to be everything the first game should have been, and quite a bit more. We’ll have to see how the final package comes together when the game is released Jan. 12, 2010.