|System: X360, PS3, PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Montreal||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 12, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by J. Matthew Zoss
September 14, 2009 - Few would argue that the original Army of Two wasn't a flawed game. While it offered decent co-op shooter gameplay, sparkling graphics, and some impressive set-piece levels, myriad issues and baffling design decisions held it back from reaching its potential. Controls were cumbersome. Certain gameplay mechanics didn't always work as promised. The story was flat. And stars Salem and Rios came across as two of the most meat-headed fratboys ever to headline a video game. Developer EA Montreal is well aware of all of the criticism and plans to address it all in the upcoming Army of Two: The 40th day.
While Army of Two hopped all over the globe in a convoluted tale about something bad happening; The 40th Day hopes to tell a more concise story by sticking with one location: Shanghai, China. A blend of time-honored and modern ways, Shanghai is a perfect setting for a video game, with towering skyscrapers sharing space with ancient gardens and traditional buildings. However, the Shanghai of the 40th Day has seen better days. Devastation has swept the city, and Salem and Rios, in town to complete a contract, are stuck in the middle of it. Of course, a rival PMC is in town and they don't look too kindly on the competition. Salem and Rios will have their hands full with hostile armed forces, a crumbling city, and civilians who are caught in the middle of it all.
EA Montreal has compared the chaos taking place in The 40th Day to the movie Cloverfield, and based on what we've seen of the game so far, it's a natural association. With crumbling buildings and huge explosions going off all around, The 40th Day has the feel of a huge Hollywood disaster movie. Not only do the protagonists need to survive the madness unfolding around them, they need to figure out what's behind it all as well. Gamers will have many new tools at their disposal as they work through the game, including many designed to improve the feel of cooperation between you and your AI partner. Your partner will now automatically cover you when you move out in the open, can distract enemies by feigning surrender, and more. Being able to choose between kicking a door down and opening it slowly for a stealthy approach adds more tactical choices, and there will be more opportunities to split apart from your partner for two-pronged attacks. Another new feature is civilians who will often get caught in the crossfire. You may choose to help them, ignore them, or even be asked to kill them. Occasionally you'll be offered contracts in the field by certain characters, and it will be up to you whether or not you accept. If you're interested in a job, you can even negotiate for a price.
In addition to expanding the gameplay options available, EA Montreal hopes to deepen the connection the players feel for the characters. The sometimes bizarre banter between the two characters is being toned down, and the characters now lift their masks during quieter moments so gamers can see the expressions on their faces. A new morality system is being implemented as well, which helps build the world of the game and demonstrate the consequences of the players' actions. Granted, morality systems have appeared in many games by now, but Army of Two is actually bringing some new ideas to the mechanic. At certain points, the player will have to decide between two options, such as keeping or returning guns to a locker when confronted by a security guard. Choose to return them and you go on your way. Keep them and the guard is accidentally killed in the exchange. No matter what choice you make, you'll see the consequences played out in a series of comic book panels, and they won't always be what you expect. If the guard dies, you'll see his son pick up a gun and swear vengeance. But if he lives, the guard will go on to sell those guns to your enemies. Your decisions won't always result in what you expect, and if you're playing co-op, EA Montreal wants these moments to lead to real debate between you and your partner.
Even more gameplay additions are in store for Army of Two: The 40th Day, but EA has yet to reveal them all. Most details still aren't known about the expanded multiplayer mode, but hopefully it receives as many improvements as the campaign has. Army of Two may have been an imperfect game, but The 40th Day looks like the best kind of sequel: one that addresses the flaws of the original without straying too far from the formula.
J. Matthew Zoss
CCC Freelance Writer