Review: Army of Two: The 40th Day

One step forward, but Army of Two steps back
By MITCH KRPATA  |  January 27, 2010
1.5 1.5 Stars

 

Army of Two: The 40th Day | For Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 | Rated M for Mature | Developed by EA Montreal | Published by Electronic Arts
When I reviewed the original Army of Two, I found myself in the unfamiliar position of being the guy who liked something everybody else hated (as opposed the guy who hated something everybody else liked). No, Army of Two wasn't perfect, but it was an agreeable third-person shooter with an interesting co-op mechanic and a warped sense of humor that offended and amused in equal measure. If its Metacritic score is any indication, the sequel, Army of Two: The 40th Day, is getting the props its predecessor missed out on. That puts me in my usual role of the turd in the punch bowl, because this game stinks.

The central premise hasn't changed. Whether in single-player or co-op, you control one of two mercenaries named Salem and Rios. You progress through one killbox after another, each littered with handy obstacles to duck behind. As before, the flow of a gunfight is dictated by an on-screen aggro meter. A noisy attack on your part will divert enemy attention and free your buddy to sneak around the perimeter and silently eliminate foes. This mechanic works well whether you're playing with a live partner or the AI. In the latter case, it's easy to give your computer-controlled partner commands; you can order him to perform a variety of actions in either low-key or aggro mode, and one of the game's true achievements is that doing so nearly always works.

As for your choice of Rios or Salem, Salem makes more wisecracks — all scripted and spoken at pre-determined moments. But even those are a little less interesting this time around. And as his voice, we now have Nolan North, an actor you might recognize from every game that's come out in the past three years. He's good, but at this point he's more overexposed than Will Smith. The bigger loss is the gonzo humor from the original, in which the enemies included shrieking suicide bombers and Salem and Rios seemed perpetually on the verge of making out. The 40thDay really wants you to care about what's going on, but, without giving away any plot points, I can safely say you won't.

That would be all right if the gameplay had improved from the original, but it's still a string of uninspired shootouts. There's a little more razzle-dazzle this time around, as the mercs traverse a crumbling Shanghai where destruction seems to rain from the sky, pulverizing skyscrapers and knocking airplanes to the ground. But the minute-to-minute play is a grind — you've seen everything you're going to within the first hour. For all that the marketing materials tout "organic co-op" — ostensibly giving Salem and Rios a chance to buddy up when they feel like it, and not when the game dictates — it never seems to play out that way. Certain scenarios, like hostage rescues, are the same each time.

What really sinks this game are the controls — they're terrible. It's difficult to run to cover, because if you hold the run button down too long, you'll vault over it and into the line of fire. Important events like taking hostages or healing your partner seem to take place long after you press the appropriate button, if at all. Moving your character is like pulling the lever of a slot machine: you might get lucky, but don't bet on it. Given the potential of its predecessor, Army of Two: The 40th Day feels like a step backward.

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