Army of Two: The 40th Day
When we look back on this console generation years down the line, the co-op renaissance will stand out as one of the most important developments of the era. After years of players turning the sights on each other in online multiplayer, developers like Epic Games and Valve brought gamers together to fend off Locust hordes and zombies. Publishing powerhouse EA joined the co-op revolution with Army of Two, an over-the-top send-up of gratuitous violence starring two frat-boys-turned-mercenaries. The lure of co-op helped the game sell well, but its sophomoric brand of humor and lackluster gunplay did it no favors. The sequel, The 40th Day, does little to distinguish itself from its predecessor.
Wisecracking goons Salem and Rios return with their strange masks in tow, but EA thankfully turned down the dial on the heinous attempts at comedy in favor of a more somber setup. While the two are on a routine mission in Shanghai, the city comes under attack from an unknown private military contractor. As skyscrapers fall around them and citizens flee in panic, our two mercs have one objective – escape the city by any means necessary. Though this seems a good setup for a harrowing survival story, the plot is largely buried in radio logs players access from the pause screen. In its place, EA Montreal inserts a series of standalone “save the civilian hostages” scenarios and ethical dilemmas where players can make arbitrary moral choices with no context. Without the necessary background to inform your decision, these moments come off as shallow, and the comedic twists in the subsequent cutscenes do little to make you care.
When the masked mercs aren’t flexing their pea brains with ethical decisions, they’re flexing their trigger fingers in a series of close quarters battles. The Shanghai environments give players just enough room to use the game’s superfluous and quizzical Aggro system, in which one player fires at enemies to draw their attention to turn the other player invisible. This makes pulling off flanking maneuvers a breeze, but expect to get flanked yourself by shotgun-wielding super baddies who ruthlessly spawn in areas you thought were already clear.
The core combat mechanic performs admirably, but also suffers from a sketchy contextual cover system and a lack of button customization. The most irksome problem is the poor control mapping. When your partner goes down (which happens frequently thanks to the uninformative damage indicator), you must run up to him and hold the A button to revive him. Unfortunately, the A button also handles the running functionality, which means your character may accidentally start running or execute a combat roll when you’re trying to revive your partner in a frantic situation.
The hindrances don’t end there. Army of Two’s terrible checkpoint system saves far too infrequently, forcing you to rewatch cutscenes and re-fight large groups of enemies before returning you to the situation that was giving you trouble. It also fails to save after you go into weapons customization, which means you have to repurchase all your weapons and upgrades every time you restart after dying.
The multiplayer fares better with its four enjoyable game modes – most notably the Horde-like Extraction mode that tasks four players with fending off waves of enemies. Why EA Montreal failed to integrate player rankings, a progression system, and weapons customization into the multiplayer experience is the most puzzling decision the developer made, especially considering the fantastic arsenal options the single-player campaign offers. Instead, players are left with a handful of weapon presets.
With so many great co-op experiences available to gamers, it’s tough to recommend The 40th Day. Lacking a cohesive story, solid controls, key multiplayer features, and polish, this sequel fails to close the gap of mediocrity running through its core game design.