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Review

Review: Army of Two: The 40th Day

Salem and Rios return for more bromance.

Army of Two: The 40th Day is big, brash and unashamedly American. But you knew that already, right? Under no circumstances should you go into this game with any expectations of a rich story or a deep plot with any sophistication. To compare this game to a straight to DVD movie is even a bit of a stretch. But, with Army of Two: The 40th day, that’s part of the fun.

The game revolves around 2 unlucky “mercenaries”, stuck in Shanghai just when a terrorist attack strikes. What are the chances of that? And not only that, the only way out of there is to fight your way through the desolate streets of a town under attack. Sounds like the perfect setup for some co-operative 3rd person shooting to me.

Of course, the two lead characters are extremely stereotypical hard-men from the U-S-of-A with a spoon full of man-love or “respect” (You can even hit the x button when next to your partner to give each other a chest bump and there’s a trophy for finishing the game as best friends). The dialogue is pretty terrible all the way through though and Nolan North (of Nathan Drake fame) doesn’t quite manage to pull off his role.

But, not to worry, as after 5 minutes of playing you will soon realise that you should completely ignore the plot and the characters as this game is all about shooting lots and lots of men. The core game-play mechanics are based around a pretty useful auto-cover system (stand next to a wall, the game puts you into cover) and then going through waves of enemies with your partner.

You can do this alone, whereby the computer AI controls your partner, offline co-op with a friend controlling him or online with either a friend or a complete stranger. Playing the game alone is missing the point somewhat, however the AI is a vast improvement over the first Army of Two game, with you’re comrade responding to you’re actions and orders very effectively. Even when you are down and out and nearly dead (just like last stand perk in MW2), he will carry you to cover and inject you to bring you back into action with minimal fuss.

Of course, there were a couple of times when the game got confused. Tyson (yes, he’s actually called that) managed to get himself stuck in the scenery on one occasion, requiring me to restart from the last checkpoint, which was infinitely frustrating but overall a decent performance throughout the game.

Co-op is where it’s at with this title. As with any game, playing co-operatively increases the fun. Simply because you are working with a friend to complete objectives, this really adds to the sense of achievement. This is no different with Army of Two: The 40th Day. However, there aren’t really any events (other than boosting each other over walls or the odd boss battle) which require a lot of team work.

The online co-operative works well, once you actually get into a game. Initially I found it difficult to connect to a game and had a few issues with connections timing out while playing.

Unfortunately, the structure of the levels is very predictable, as each level plays out very similarly to the last. Upon entering a room: Shoot lots of identikit enemies until a bigger, “boss”, enemy appears, shoot it in the back until its gas canister or grenade stash explodes (à la boss battles on a lot of other games) and repeat. Every so often, the game will force you into a moral decision. For example, kill a security guard and take lots of new weapons he is guarding, or save him and leave with nothing. It’s a nice system, but one that doesn’t really affect the outcome of the game and because the dialogue is weak throughout, you never feel attached to the people enough to care about if you spare them or not.

Another mechanic in the game is weapon customisation. Aiming to latch on to gamers’ infinite demand for lovely XP, you are rewarded cash through the game which can be spent on upgrading your armoury. The issue with this is, no matter how many upgrades you add to a gun, they never really feel meaty enough. Sure, you press the R1 button, bullets dutifully spill out of you’re weapon and men fall to the ground, but it just doesn’t feel or sound like what you imagine a proper gun would.

It’s like turning up to a paintballing session with a water pistol. You will still have fun, but the action is not as visceral and ultimately not as rewarding. The shooting in Army of Two: The 40th Day feels weak in comparison to other shooters and games like the fabled Uncharted 2. The game doesn’t help itself in the later levels either by filing endless streams of rivals into areas and making it obvious that they are just re-spawning from set points. Being able to see this takes you out of the gaming experience somewhat.

Pros:

  • Overall graphical polish impresses
  • Enjoyable, if only if you don’t think about it
  • Unrelenting action from start to finish

Cons:

  • Poor voice acting and storyline
  • Unresponsive weapons
  • Quite short unless you play through co-operatively and then single player
  • Nothing excites or pushes gaming forward

So, overall Army of Two: The 40th day is a far from perfect, but somehow it is enjoyable. If you just want to switch off in front of the TV, then Army of Two: The 40th Day is a good way to unwind. You don’t’ have to think to play this game, it’s mindless fun.

Not complex or particularly challenging, neither does it break any new ground or captivate your imagination. But sometimes, games don’t have to do this to catch your attention.

Ultimately, with so many games around at this time brimming with originality and quality, it is easy to overlook this game and the experience left me feeling a little hollow. But if you have time, then pop this in your rental queue and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Score: 6/10

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