Army of Two: The 40th Day feels like Bad Boys meets 2012. It's essentially an interactive disaster movie because every five minutes something blows up or crumbles around you, which provides an adrenaline rush as you fight through enemies or just survive what's thrown at you. A huge improvement to the franchise, EA Montreal clearly paid attention to the first game's issues, because almost every aspect has been improved. There are still some misses, but for the most part The 40th Day is a much stronger title and lots of fun.
Unlike the first game, which spanned several years and different regions of the world, The 40th Day all takes place in Shanghai over the course of a few days. Rios and Salem are back, running missions for their own private military corporation, TransWorld Operations. They take a contract that's way too easy: kill a few guards, handle a few objectives and score a large paycheck. But as they finish their mission, all hell breaks loose in Shanghai. Buildings blow up, aircraft fall from the skies -- total chaos reigns. Salem and Rios have to stay alive long enough to figure out who's behind this.
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Now, the basic gameplay mechanics haven't changed too much from the original. Instead, they've been augmented to feel fresher and deeper. One of the first game's most appealing elements was the option to "pimp" your gun, swapping gun barrels or stocks or even gold plating the weapon to make it more effective in battle. Unfortunately, the first game's options were shallow, but in The 40th Day they have been vastly expanded. There are loads of new paint schemes, more options to modify your weapons, and you can even change the melee attacks based on your gear. Equip a screwdriver or kitchen knife "bayonet" on your gun and you'll see just what I mean.
While the customization is awesome, the secondary weapon feature is too restricted -- you're locked to one of three pistol options, which can feel too limited. Why can't you choose to equip two assault rifles and a sniper rifle if you wanted? This minor issue aside, the fact that you can customize any weapon at any time (except in the heat of battle) is a huge plus for gun fans.
Supply crates add to the customization options. These are a new addition to the gameplay and they're scattered throughout each chapter. If you don't stop the enemy before they call for reinforcements, the crates lock permanently. However, move quickly and you can steal cash and weapons parts from the enemy, which provides an extra challenge.
The Aggro system makes a comeback as well, but it's better. You still work together, one player firing to distract enemies while the partner creeps up and flanks them. But now, Rios and Salem have a GPS, which can tag enemies and help you find your way. Once an enemy is tagged you can see where they are, even if they duck for cover or hide behind walls. This expands your tactical options as you and your partner seek and destroy your enemies. I just wish the computerized AI partner tagged enemies more frequently; it can feel like you have to do all the work.
In the first game single-player was fun but co-op and multi-player really stood out, mostly because playing with a human was so much better than the feeble AI. While playing with a human via split-screen or online is still the best way to play, your AI partner and the enemies clearly got a brain transplant, making The 40th Day much stronger as a result. Enemies use the same moves and tactics that you do. If you wound but don't kill an enemy solider, his buddies may sneak up and try to heal him.
However, the AI still has its flaws. Enemy soldiers don't press attacks very well. If Rios needs Salem's help, the AI might just stand around and watch while Salem saves him from bleeding out. There also seems to be a "trigger" mechanism for some soldiers -- they can see you and you can see them, yet they still won't attack unless you shoot first. But these are occasional glitches. For the most part, the AI is much smarter and has a better sense of tactics, requiring more coordinated effort by you and your partner.
The improved AI also helps the "Co-Op Moments," which feel much more organic in The 40th Day than the original. If you switch to your sniper rifle, your partner is smart enough to do the same and he will shoot when you do. If you pretend to surrender to an enemy, your partner will play along until you decide to open fire. You can even subdue the enemy and free any hostages they may be holding, allowing you to have an impact on the new morality system that judges how kind or ill-tempered your mercenaries really are.
See, you have a choice during your escape: save yourself and blast everything that moves or restrain soldiers and save the locals. If you save civilians, you'll get cash or weapons parts. If you kill them, you might miss out. Eventually these decisions add up and affect what items you receive throughout the game. You'll also encounter "extreme morality moments," which are larger moral dilemmas that affect both partners. Nothing is clear cut in this world, so even choosing what seems like the lesser of two evils can have a dark resolution. Regardless of your decision, you'll get a cut scene that shows you the immediate repercussions and its long-term implications.
I like the morality system, but it doesn't go far enough. The low-key moments can get a bit repetitive -- honestly, how many hostages can you save? Why not put Salem and Rios in a situation where they have to choose between saving an injured woman or a child, but they can't save both? However, there's a bigger problem: at the end of every chapter, your morality resets itself. So you can be a total jerk in Chapter 1 and a saint in Chapter 2 without your partner batting an eye (unless you're playing with another human being).
The visuals are particularly strong in The 40th Day. Even though the game takes place in just one location, you really get a sense of how the varied environments of the city are altered because of the gameplay. Shanghai goes from beautiful to busted. There are awesome particle effects, like rubble and dust from falling buildings, electrical sparks from wiring and smoke from explosions. Even Rios and Salem have undergone a character makeover, with a noticeable size difference between each character. The subtle touches, like watching the characters flip up their face masks to talk to each other, are excellent, and both characters animate well, especially during melee attacks. There is texture pop-in on both PS3 and 360, and the camera can pick bad angles, especially during bromance moments, but overall, visual differences are minimal. The lone standout is that the 360's shadows are a bit smoother than the PS3.
Sound design is great as well. The voice actors deliver their lines expertly and with perfect comedic timing. Salem's "Worst. Zoo. Ever," comment after you've fought your way through a fortified animal enclosure is simply hilarious. I do wish there was a little more banter. It's a tricky balance to strike -- they talked too much in game one and it feels like they're too subdued now. That's a disappointment because the dialogue is good. Just when you're about to say "That plane's going to crash," one of the characters says it for you. In spite of that, the sound is terrific. Your customized weapons make distinctly different sounds as you exchange parts, and you get the auditory sense of being in a war zone.
Multiplayer is also vastly improved. The 40th Day comes with three modes for up to twelve players -- four if you pre-ordered the game. In Co-op Deathmatch you and your partner face off against other teams of two. Control is like Capture the Flag, except instead of picking up an object, you fight to capture and hold a point in the environment until you're awarded points. "Warzone" is an objective-based mode which constantly updates itself as you're playing. For example, the first objective might be to blow up a target while the enemy stops you, while the next one might spawn in a computer controlled enemy that either side can kill for points. Whenever one side succeeds, a new objective pops up. "Extraction" is the fourth mode, which will be exclusive to those who pre-ordered The 40th Day for a month. Unlike the other modes, this is limited to four players who are placed in an environment and have to survive against increasingly difficult waves of enemies -- tricky, but fun. No matter what mode you're in, you're always tied to a partner, which reinforces the co-op nature of the game. If you get shot, your partner is the only one that can help you. If he doesn't, you'll have to re-spawn.
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