A Bromantic Getaway.
When guys share a living space, entropy sets in and things devolve quickly into a condition only a small notch above absolute chaos. Guys like to play a domestic game of chicken, seeing who will flinch first and clean the bathroom, restock the fridge, do some dishes, or finally throw away the empty beer bottles that have been sitting in the corner of the living room since the housewarming party over two years ago. Female visitors might call it a “freaking sty”, but without hesitation the guys would call it “totally functional”.
[image1]And that’s pretty much Army of Two: The 40th Day in a nutshell: messy, testosterone-fueled, and perfectly functional. It’s as though the development team at EA Montreal carefully studied the behavior of dudes in their early twenties and distilled it into a single, sweaty brew called “eau de bro”. It’s a concoction that goes great with beer, buddies, and b.o.
The latest Army of Two again follows the exploits of beefcake mercenaries Salem and Rios, two men bound together by loyalty, fate, and a deep, deep—but totally not gay—affection for one another. The only thing they love more than giving headshots is bumping chests. This time around, the pair end up in Shanghai, and the city crumbles to dust not long after their arrival. That’s about as much story as you’ll ever get. No explanation, no development, nothing. But stories are for wussy-boys anyway, right?
Like its predecessor, you’ll find the real cajones of The 40th Day in its co-op play. At its best, you’ll be reminded of the co-op campaign mode in Gears of War. The third-person perspective and cover mechanic feel very similar to Gears; just don’t expect any of the same great weapons or ultra visceral combat. But the straightforwardness of Army of Two: the 40th Day also makes it incredibly easy to pass the controller to a friend without having to explain anything. Just point and shoot.
There are a couple of (again, totally not gay) touches that add some nuance. The aggro mechanic returns pretty much unchanged from the first game. In concept, the aggro meter is great. One player draws the attention of enemies and builds his aggro meter, which in theory allows the other player to operate in relative stealth.
[image2]In practice, however, the aggro gameplay rarely works out as well as you’d like. That’s partly because the enemy AI is so unpredictable, but more significantly it’s because most of the levels aren’t built to accommodate the type of strategy best suited to the aggro mechanic. Most areas are linear with occasional standoffs in more open areas. There are an even smaller handful of briefly branching areas that seem ideally suited for bouncing the aggro meter back and forth. But on the whole, the predominantly linear level layouts kill the whole point of aggro.
The other departure from the co-op shooter norm is the use of weapon customization. It’s only a marginal improvement over the first game’s meager upgrade options—and pales in comparison to what’s possible in Borderlands—but it does give you at least one other thing to think about while you and your special friend blow bad boys to Kingdom Come. [And by 'blow', he means like 'explode'. ~Ed]
The main campaign mode in The 40th Day doesn’t hold up well to repeat play. It’s entertaining on the first time through, but after that nothing changes, and there are no hidden paths to uncover. There is a morality system thrown into the fray, but it has little bearing on the actual game. It’s a blatant gimmick that adds nothing to the game itself.
[image3]You and a partner can also go up against other partnerships online in a few different couples’ challenges—death match, capture the flag, etc. Like spicing up a marriage by joining a club for swingers, it might keep you interested for a few more hours, but as short as the campaign is, that’s still where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
Flying solo only amplifies the game’s shortcomings. The partner AI doesn’t do well against the more challenging enemies, and the squad commands don’t do much but confuse the poor bastard. Like many of the best things in life, it all feels hollow without a real person on the receiving end. The 40th Day is clearly a game designed for you and a living, breathing partner to get in on some action together.
So invite that special someone over for a candlelit cheesesteak dinner and a couple tall boys, get cozy on your couch, and fire up Army of Two: The 40th Day. The game itself is mostly forgettable, but the fluttery feeling you’ll get when the two of you bump virtual chests isn’t. Remember, what happens in Shanghai, stays in Shanghai.