Army of Two: The 40th Day Review
|Genre:||Third Person Co-op Shooter|
|Release Date:||January 15th, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Everyone loves an action movie. There's just something cool about watching an absurd, well-muscled hero gun his way through endless rent-a-goons before pulling off a one-liner and catapulting the bad guy into the sun (or some equally ridiculous premise.) So, as Army of Two has two such heroes, it should be double the fun.
After the lukewarm reception received by the first game, 40th Day had a long way to go to impress the critics but, after a long development cycle, the team at EA have turned out a cracker - It's not the most engrossing third-person shooter ever devised, but it sure is a heck of a lot of fun.
The Army of Two in question are slab-sided shooters Elliot Salem and Tyson Rios, reprising their roles as partners in slaughter.
This time the pairing are running their own operation in Shanghai, doing the occasional side job and killing time, when they trigger a terrorist attack and have to fight their way out of the city. Pretty soon it all goes to pot, and the team find themselves in the middle of a full-scale invasion, led by the forces of the 40th Day, some kind of terrorist organisation who want to do things for some reason.
If you can't tell there is pretty much no plot, other than 'people want to kill you, kill them first'. But, for once, that's not really a problem as the game does well at what it does best - action. As in the previous game, 40th Day is designed to be played with a friend, be it online or split screen.
Though there is an option to go it alone, the partner AI is unpredictable at best, sometimes turning into Rambo and slaughtering everyone, other times dragging you towards the enemy when you're incapacitated, not away from them. It gets you by, but the real meat of the game is the online segment.
When you have a human fighting with you the game changes, you can work out strategies for dealing with whatever situation the game throws at you, be it an ambush or a hostage rescue, and the return of the 'aggro' meter - which shows you which of the Two the enemies are more interested in killing, allows one player to flank, while the other takes the fire. It's a nicely implemented dynamic, especially with some of the multi-levelled areas you have to pass through.
At certain points the game likes to question your morality: Do you save the civilians or let them die and stay undetected? Do you steal the guns from the armoury, or let the security guard who was guarding them survive?
It's an interesting addition to a game centred on blasting, but one which is sadly left by the wayside, as the campaign itself is quite short and your decisions don't matter very much. After making said decision you're then shown a little comic book-style video of the results, which often don't play out how you would expect: say you let the security guard live - he just gives those guns you abandoned to the terrorists, it's a little twisted, and it's sadly underused. The main campaign itself has a good variety of action, ranging from a battle in the middle of a zoo to a fight to survive inside a collapsing skyscraper.
The game also throws in the odd moment when co-op actions can be pulled off, like co-op surrendering to enemies, before fast drawing your pistol and gunning them down, or co-op sniping points.
Though it can occasionally get a little repetitive, going back to back with your partner or taking cover behind him as he drags a riot shield along is always a blast.
The game's weapon customisation is immense. Starting out with one assault rifle, shotgun and sniper, you can gradually unlock and use a whole variety of weapons and attachments, and can customise them to a ridiculous degree- I crafted myself an assault rifle with an SMG's barrel, retractable stock, sniper scope, 100-round drum mag, undermounted shotgun, silencer and bayonet - and then painted it pink, just for giggles.
The pair's masks can also be customised and you can log onto EA's website and design your own, which is a nice touch.
Multiplayer-wise the game is solid, if nothing new. Rather than team-based shooting, the game focuses on pair vs pair, with pairs fighting it out in deathmatch and capture the flag modes.
Another mode, which was included for pre-order gamers only, will be unlocked shortly. The multiplayer itself is a fun diversion from the campaign, but the weapon customisation is stripped out, leaving you with one of any number of pre-set choices, which is a shame. It also suffers from a fair amount of lag, but I expect it will be patched soon enough.
Graphically the game is pretty good looking. Shanghai itself is stunning to admire, even as it's being demolished by missiles and bombs, and the gunplay is brilliant and intense.
The sound design is also excellent, with each gun having its own sound and feel, and the brutal nature of close-in fighting coming through the speakers loud and proud. As for the the controls, while that are pretty sharp, binding the run, hide, jump and hug cover control to the same button was a mistake, often doing more harm than good.
Army of Two is like Ronseal - it does exactly what it says on the...box. It's light on plot and heavy on action, but the co-op has improved exponentially, turning what could have been an average action game into something enjoyable in small doses. Though it's far from perfect, the high replay value and endless weapon customisation make it a great laugh to play.
Of course the fact you can give your partner a pat on the back, a clip round the ear or a game of rock, paper, scissors amid the bodies doesn't hurt either.
- Intense, fun gameplay
- Co-op is great fun
- Good game design
- High replayability
Not so good stuff
- Occasionally dodgy AI
- Short, uninteresting campaign and plot
- Laggy multiplayer
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