PSN/Xbox Live – Multiplayer
Army of Two: The 40th Day is 2010’s first anticipated release. The non-stop flood of quality titles begins here, and we have your final say on whether or not 2010 starts with a bang or a whimper. Typically opening the year with a sequel is smart. It means a franchise is established, and there’s enough demand for a follow-up to even exist. This case is something of an odd duck though. Army of Two wasn’t the runaway success EA was hoping for, yet it offered a fantastic co-op experience unique enough to stand out amongst the countless shooters released in 2008. Close to two years later, EA Montreal has tightened up many of the issues people had with the first game. They’ve upped the action, and emphasized morality in order to make The 40th Day even more special. Make no mistake, 2010 has started off on the right foot.
Unfortunately The 40th Day is extremely light on story, as the game opens to Shanghai being bombarded with missiles. That continues for most of the game. The main objective is to escape the city alive, but investigate the goings-on while possible. Why is Shanghai under siege and by whom, we aren’t told, but the countless enemies pursuing you is enough to customize an arsenal of weapons, grab a buddy and jump in the fight. That’s more or less where things head. Don’t expect Gears of War or be disappointed. The overall setup may share a lot with that series, Army of Two is all about co-op action.
The two man army is Salem and Rios, returning from the original game. One note to make is that the PS3 version doesn’t allow for a local split screen buddy to sign-in with his/her own unique PSN username. That means any/all trophies acquired are accredited to the account in use. 360 players need not worry. Login information aside, the core mechanics are much better now. It’s easier to sprint, leap over objects, and enter cover than before. That said, one awkward problem persists: almost every function is mapped to one button. It’s quite easy to slip up and perform an action you didn’t want, and witness deadly results. While the learning curve is steep in respect to staying alive early on, finally mastering the controls helps things run smoothly.
Whether you’re playing solo or with a friend, the aggro meter is critical. The handy tool shows you which of the two characters the enemy has its sights on. This gives AoT a previously missing tactical edge. Say your buddy Rios, is pinned down by four enemies. Clearly the aggro meter would be completed filled on his side. That allows Salem freedom to move around the environment with relative ease. He can still be spotted of course, but for the most part players can move somewhere to aid Rios. This is vital during the later portions of the game where it’s possible to trick enemies to fire on one character while the other reaches safety, or moves closer to completing an objective.
One fair and honest question that always pops into mind when dealing with a co-op game is the AI’s intelligence. This is often overlooked by the masses as they rush out to buy the latest and greatest game on the market. Thankfully in most cases, AoT’s enemies are very intelligent. When playing solo, my partner was usually thoughtful enough to draw fire away from me, aid me whenever I was really hurt, and more. The aggro meter also afforded me opportunities to perform ridiculous stunts. If Rios’s meter was full, I could move Salem directly into an enemy’s line of fire and occasionally be completely ignored. That’s pushing it a bit. Other times I would be Salem and hurting bad. Well you have the ability to call for help, so I did. Lo and behold, Rios comes blazing in from somewhere else, seemingly invincible (Modern Warfare anyone?). Pretty nice guy, no? Let me reiterate; these issues don’t happen all the time, but they do occur.
The 40th Day’s least exciting element is its overall length, as it can be finished in less than six hours. Though there are several areas that beg a return. For starters, the difficulty can be increased, but given that I typically play online co-op games on the hardest, that really doesn’t count. Nevertheless, there’s a great weapon customization system in place. You can buy new weapons, gear, and parts for the guns, then mix and match them to boost accuracy, ammo capacity, inflicted damage and so on. In one playthrough it’s virtually impossible to acquire every variation, so most players will give the brief campaign at least one once over.
Another great factor comes with the option to save or abandon endangered civilians. Often times you stumble into a moral situation with a seemingly easy choice, but the outcome is anything but. You may decide to free someone, only to find out another agency had them killed, or that person was actually the enemy and ended up killing tons of people because didn’t assassinate them. Hostages also come into play. During these moments Salem and Rios have to decide between using the tactical GPS mode, which features a map overlay on the HUD, or barge in blasting everything in sight. While the GPS is distracting from the pretty visuals (a la Batman’s Detective Mode), it’s extremely useful. You can see enemy positions, mark targets and more. These simple tactics keep hostages alive. You may want to play the game acting as the “good guy,” and the next just run into every situation with full guns screaming. The choice is ultimately yours.
This wouldn’t be any kind of shooter if online multiplayer wasn’t present. Given the game’s nature, Deathmatch works like a two-person Team Deathmatch in any other shooter. Other modes include a capture mode, and a fun little objective-based mode. The customization from the campaign doesn’t migrate, but you can visit the game’s official site and create a custom logo, which is kind of neat. Onlien multiplayer as a whole is kind of laggy though, so even though there’s a decent variety to the modes offered; it’s somewhat hindered.
Army of Two: The 40th Day isn’t just the first notable game of 2010, but also one of the most polished. It takes place in one location, but transitions from rather beautiful to downright nasty during the campaign. Lush environments are replaced by desolate and destroyed buildings within a six hour time span. Animations are impressive across the board, despite occasional pop-in. In terms of 360/PS3 comparisons, the versions look identical with the 360’s featuring slightly sharper shadows. This is an impressive-looking game that will make you happy to have purchased that new 1080p HDTV of yours.
In terms of audio, The 40th Day features a solid mix of smart dialogue, and a strong soundtrack. Often what’s spoken is exactly what you’re thinking. Weapons all sound unique and powerful. That’s important in a game like this. If you’re fortunate enough to own a surround sound system, many moments will have you grinning from ear to ear. Airplane scenes are especially powerful, and cause your subwoofer to rumble for minutes on end.
I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy Army of Two: The 40th Day given the characters move too sluggish for my liking, but after a short period I really got into it. Sadly I tested the game on someone else’s PS3, so I wasn’t able to score all the trophies. Time-permitting I plan to return for just that. With that kind of desire, you know you’ve stumbled onto a fun game.