Army of Two: The 40th Day ReviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Jan 12, 2010
Army of Two: The 40th Day isn't so much a complete overhaul of the formula that EA Montreal established in the previous installment, but rather, a game that's tighter all around, with spectacular and diverse set pieces and a much appreciated step away from the Middle Eastern, Blackwater-referencing setting of the original. It definitely isn't perfect, but there's plenty to like here.
- Fluid and satisfying combat
- Diverse and expansive settings
- Deep, if somewhat flawed, weapon customization
- Six-team co-op multiplayer is crazy
- Uninspired story
- Co-op moments are still bland
- Most of the new mechanics are unnecessary
- One very questionable "morality moment"
Army of Two: The 40th Day isn’t so much a complete overhaul of the formula that EA Montreal established in the previous installment, but rather, a game that’s tighter all around, with spectacular and diverse set pieces and a much appreciated step away from the Middle Eastern, Blackwater-referencing setting of the original. It definitely isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty to like here.
Story of Two Contractors
Series protagonists Salem and Rios – two beefy private military contractors – find themselves in the middle of an all-out war when Shanghai comes under attack by a powerful organization known as the 40th Day Initiative. It is up our deadly duo to fight their way through the mass destruction in search of the man behind the devastation, a diabolical ideologue named Jonah, who believes the key to humanity’s salvation lies in mass devastation and death.
Strangely enough, despite the uninspired story, the structure works great, since it’s basically a survival story. Salem and Rios’s primary objective is finding any way they can to make it through the madness and destruction raining down all around them. Sure, they also want to find Jonah and put a stop to the chaos, but the path to do that ends up being much more interesting and engaging than the unsatisfying and anticlimactic destination.
Gears of Two
Combat has received some necessary polishing that enhances the experience established in the previous game. To achieve this, EA Montreal has taken more than a couple tips from Epic and its acclaimed Gears of War series (i.e. slide to cover, curb stomping, “roadie run” cam, etc.), and the result is an all-around satisfying and downright fun shooter.
Aside from a few pop-in issues and some quirky clipping, the game runs smoothly and features some highly detailed and inventive environments and great character animations. Helmets fly off enemies’ heads with well-placed shots, equipment shuffles with appropriate weight and the addition of destructible cover keeps the combat tactically challenging.
Water, Water Everywhere…
EA Montreal put a lot of effort into the game’s new weapons customization system. There are endless combinations, which are great; however, a lot of them went wasted during my time with the game, because I’m glad to sacrifice style for damage and handling. You can also customize character masks and armor too by using an online service over at the game’s official website. Why this feature wasn’t just included in the game is a bit strange, but it works well enough that it’s easy to forgive. All you have to do is synch your gamertag/PSN ID with your EA account, create your mask online, publish it to the game and it will pop up in your custom mask gallery. Ease of use and endless amounts of personalization options is always appreciated.
Most of the game’s new mechanics are interesting ideas that just end up being unnecessary. Sure, you can take hostages and force enemies to surrender, but the situations when you can do this are unnatural and predictable. The mock surrender is one of the better additions, because it’s just so damn fun. Feigning cooperation gives your partner time to flank, or, if you surrender together, you get to do a slow-mo, quick-draw kind of deal that really hits the spot.
The morality moments suffer the same fate as hostage taking, even if a few of the decisions involve solid twists. There is one scenario though that is particularly troubling, since it involves a sleazy Russian operative and a bloodied woman who has been locked inside a closet. The guy tries to bribe you after implying that there’s a good chance that he’s going to rape the woman once you leave. Here’s the problem:
It’s only after you’ve shown your indifference to rape that you find out that all the guy wanted to do was turn the woman into the authorities. (When she tries to escape his custody, he just ends up shooting her anyway, because she turns out to be a KGB operative.) Now, I’m all for provocative subject material, but when it comes to suggesting players dismiss rape in favor of extra cash for weapon upgrades, you’re flirting with dangerous territory.
Getting’ All Buddy Buddy
Thanks to the improved computer AI (for enemies and allies), the single-player is much less frustrating than it was in the first game. However, like the original, playing through the story mode with a buddy co-operatively or playing multiplayer is where the game really hits its stride.
Each of the multiplayer modes offers a unique and thoroughly entertaining experience. By far, the best mode though is the co-op deathmatch, which can be played with up to six teams of two players. When the round starts, you don’t know who your partner is, so for the first part of the match, you’ll have to defend yourself while you try and meet up with your teammate. Once you’ve found each other, you can then give each other ammo or revive one another should one of you take enough damage. The two-man team structure works brilliantly and generates some truly intense multiplayer mayhem.
Fist Pump, Chest Bump, Pat on the Rump!
If there’s one thing you need to know about 40th Day, it’s that it is an absolute blast to play. The story might be lacking, most of the new mechanics feel too “gamey,” and it has one of the more questionable moments in recent gaming, but in terms of delivering adrenaline-pumping, blockbuster action on a massive scale, the game absolutely delivers.