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Mash-up Review – Army of Two: The 40th Day

The assembled game critics team-up to take on EA’s latest co-op shooter Army of Two: The 40th Day in our Mash-up Review.

Salem and Rios teach us an important lesson about friendship as they make their way through decreasingly scenic, increasingly war-torn Shanghai, adding their bullet-holes and shrapnel to a situation that’s quickly getting out of hand. Only by relying on their greatest resource – each other – can they hope to survive.

And I’m spent. That was far too much drama in a single paragraph. While I recover, check out what the assembled game critics had to say about The 40th Day.

Take away the armored masks and you’d have a hard time telling Army of Two: The 40th Day from a glut of other third-person shooters. It’s not bad enough to be especially memorable, and it’s not good enough that people will talk about it for very long. And while the “buddy” mechanics of The 40th Day could have done wonders to make it more unique (including giving it the angle it needed to tell a cool story about two characters), it’s woefully underdeveloped. Instead, we get a confusing tale about two vaguely developed characters, told through an occasionally fun but ultimately generic — and at times, frustrating — third-person shooter.

While the two-man squad travelled all over the world in the original game, here they’re in Shanghai for the duration, with location variety coming from within the city itself. As well as blown up buildings, you’ll be moving through an eerily empty zoo (taking cover behind a dead elephant is a somewhat morbid experience), a war-torn hospital, dangerous Shanghai streets and more. As before, the game is linear in design, with a clear path through each level, but maps are fairly open and allow for a variety of combat options.

Official Xbox Magazine UK
…while you’ll spend a lot of time plugging standard troops, every so often there are enemies that have been specifically designed to require co-ordination and flanking to take out. There are also some brilliant moments when you’re forcibly separated, often over surprisingly long distances, and have to fight your way back to each other through entirely different parts of the level – suddenly you’re far more vulnerable because you can’t rely on your buddy to haul you out of trouble and heal you up. It’s not just built like a single-player shooter with an extra player lobbed into the mix, and the game’s scripted moments actually take advantage of the fact that there are two characters in the game, rather than just accommodating them.

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.

Multiplayer is also more robust this time around compared to the underachieving online experience in the first game. Three modes can be played with up to twelve players: Warzone (a returning mode from the first game), Control (two factions fight to take and hold control points) and Co-Op Deathmatch. A fourth mode known as “Extraction”, a horde-like survival mode with an emphasis on cooperative play, is only available to those who pre-ordered the game with EA but will be made available to everyone as DLC (not sure if it will be free or paid) a month after the release.

Army of Two: The 40th Day has some great ideas and a number of very strong levels. It even makes better use of a nearly-abandoned zoo than any other game I’ve played that contains abandoned zoos. It is, more importantly, a fascinating laboratory for the psychological design of co-operative games. It is, however, also a game that feels too short, too choppy, to highly praise, though not short enough or chopped-up enough to encourage the kind of constant replaying that some of its co-op peers enjoy. Stuck in the middle, and built with creative ideas, the 40th Day points toward greatness but doesn’t go there.


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