When Army of Two was released back in March 2008, the title was greeted to a mixed response from reviewers and gamers alike. Following on from its success, the inevitable sequel was announced, thankfully named Army of Two: The 40th Day, rather than Army of Two 2 - unless soldiers dressed as ballerinas take your fancy...
Army of Two: The 40th Day is set a number of years after the original game’s story, when a group of PMCs cause havoc in the city of Shanghai. Our two returning protagonists: Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem get caught unaware whilst on a routine mission, and are forced to work together and to try and get out of Shanghai alive.
The game’s campaign lasts between six and eight hours, which sounds fairly short in comparison to other games currently on the market though, thankfully, this is one of those titles that is worth a second playthrough. This is down to the game’s moral choice option, a feature visible at the end of each chapter, which allows players to make a positive or negative decision that determines the outcome. Whilst this is often a choice between executing an important figure or letting them go - where the outcome isn’t necessarily ground-breaking - some choices have some pretty shocking consequences that will touch the soft spots of even the toughest of players. Unfortunately, the campaign can get slightly repetitive as players find themselves clearing out enemy after enemy in very similarly-designed missions in almost identical battlefields and environments.
In a similar fashion to the first, players are required to work together to overcome enemies and obstacles. Possibly the most used feature within the game is the Aggro Meter, an aspect that has been improved from the original and is now available to activate at any point within the title via pressing the intended arrow on the D-pad twice. The aggro meter determines how much aggro Tyson and Elliot are taking during the battle, with the player taking the most aggro becoming the enemy’s priority target. This then allows for the fellow protagonist to pick off enemies unnoticed. Other co-operative features include a step-up/pull-up move - which allows Tyson and Elliot to reach higher places; back to back – allowing the players to use each other as cover as they attack enemies appearing from each side and healing – where if one player is injured, the other can cure them.
One of the most satisfying new features is the inclusion of a cover system, which works very similarly to those evident in the likes of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. Players simply walk up to a wall or object and the protagonist takes cover against it. Despite the fact that it’s a feature that’s evident in almost every third-person shooter, it’s been incorporated well into Army of Two: The 40th Day and very often works to the player’s advantage.
Co-operative play is supported locally in split-screen and over Xbox Live, either with friends or ‘randomers.’ However, the online portion of the title is possibly the game’s biggest flaw. After many attempts at getting into an online game, being prevented from doing so due to the “connection to the host has been lost” message, the player will often be greeted with severe lag problems. Furthermore, the sheer lack of online game modes within Versus Multiplayer isn’t ideal either.
The game offers four different game modes: Co-op Deathmatch (in which two teams of two battle it out against each other); Warzone (in which players battle their way through various objectives); Extraction (in which teams of four fight against waves of increasingly powerful enemies in order to clear the map for extraction) and Control (in which points are awarded to teams for capturing and defending randomly spawned points). Whilst each provides the player with a fair amount of satisfaction, there’s nothing particularly new or gripping about any of them.
One of the game’s biggest features is customisation, something EA Montreal has developed to a very good standard. Players are able to design and create masks for Tyson and Elliot to wear in-game from the Army of Two website. The simple, yet effective, designer allows even the less-technologically advanced player to create some neat designs, which are then easily imported into the game. Initially, the concept of creating a mask is pleasing, but seems a little meaningless when players find the only times it is visible is during the cutscenes. However, this is perfectly redeemed thanks to the weapon customisation, which goes where no other weapon customisation has gone before.
The weapon customisation is accessed at any point within the campaign through holding the Y button and selecting the appropriate option. This brings up a menu, displaying all the game’s weapons and their prices. Once a weapon has been purchased, additional add-ons and upgrades can be bought including each gun’s barrel, stock, cartridge, front mount, suppressor, shield and appearance. With a good array of weapons to purchase and upgrade (approximately thirty in all), the customisation will keep players occupied for a good hour or so at least.
Graphically, Army of Two: The 40th Day displays some realistic modelling and textures throughout. Whilst there are some weak spots here and there, on the whole the visuals are to a very good standard. It’s a similar case with the audio, which features some great voice work from the newly-recruited voice actors and some of the musical scores are fantastically produced. However, the same non-diegetic sound seems to crop up quite regularly throughout the game’s campaign. Whilst this isn’t a problem as such, it does get slightly irritating.
To conclude, Army of Two: The 40th Day is a significant improvement on the first title, developing some of the original’s best techniques and features further. Unfortunately, the lack of anything particularly unique within the gameplay is disappointing, and isn’t helped by the poor EA servers – a crucial factor for a co-operative title. If you’re looking for something to play in the post-Christmas ‘dry spot’ then Army of Two: The 40th Day is one to consider.