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Army of Two: The 40th Day
Score: 77%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Montreal
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 -2; 2 - 10 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Army of Two occupies the same space in my mind as Assassin's Creed. Both were incredibly flawed gameplay experiences, but I managed to have fun and look back on both fondly. The similarities end there. While Assassin's Creed II managed to clean up nearly every foible found in the original, Army of Two: The 40th Day hangs around in "fun but flawed" territory.

Aside from a few mechanics, graphics are probably The 40th Day's biggest improvement. While the first game took the duo all over the world, The 40th Day keeps the guys in a ruined Shanghai. Though you wouldn't think it given the limited locations, The 40th Day manages to squeeze in a lot of variety. Missions take Rios and Salem from ruined downtown districts to an incredibly cool, yet morbid zoo. If you've never used a dead animal as cover, The 40th Day will give you the opportunity.

The zoo also provides some of the game's biggest laughs. Sound design is spot on, particularly the dialogue. One-liners are just as common, but never seem like too much. I can't remember ever wanting a character to just shut up, nor can I remember wanting to hear more from someone.

Army of Two: The 40th Day picks up a few years after Salem and Rios were given the shaft from their former employer, leading them to take their complaints right up to the main man, toppling his crooked regime. Out of work, the two decide to go into business for themselves. Anything beyond that is open to interpretation. There's a story, but it is so cluttered it is hard to follow what's going on - or at least remember why you're doing each mission. There are attempts to layer in bigger concepts into the story - such as "morality decisions," which really aren't anything more than deciding if someone dies - but without the smaller things working, these moments fall flat. Perhaps if the game was about to develop the characters a little deeper things would be different, but that simply isn't the case. I didn't care about Rios or Salem; therefore I really didn't care much about their mission or motives.

No matter how you slice it, The 40th Day is a short game. The main campaign can be completed in less than 10 hours. On one hand, it's a short enough experience that gameplay doesn't get too repetitive or dull, but at the same time, it's far too short to feel completely satisfying. Beyond the campaign, there's a set of online match types. Most of the online modes are simple variations of modes found in just about every other shooter on the market - Deathmatch, capture-and-hold (Control), objective - but with twist of co-op play. Building on the core "buddy" concept, all matches feature your duo against opposing duos. The twist is enough to invigorate the stale modes and help give The 40th Day more longevity.

Another neat option is the new weapon customization system. Described as "gun LEGOs" at E3 2009, the new system lets you build nearly any gun you can imagine. Throughout the game, you'll earn money to purchase stock weapons as well as new parts. These range from brutal shotgun bayonets to Coke bottle silencers. You can customize weapons whenever you're not in battle and will likely lose a chunk of play time just coming up with new combos. Gun mods aren't just for show either. Every addition will change some stat about the gun, which will then have a direct impact on gameplay.

Army of Two: The 40th Day is meant as a cooperative shooter (online and split-screen), so anti-social players will lose out on most of the experience. Playing with a partner tends to push the difficulty in your favor, though upping the difficulty will usually take care of the problem.

If you choose to run solo, you're in for a rough time. Although you're A.I.-controlled teammate can usually keep his nose clean, he's still prone to wild behavior sways. One minute he'll tear into enemies like Rambo and the next, he's asking for his third rescue in so many minutes. There's no rhyme or reason behind the swings, just know it happens and deal with it.

Aggro is still a major mechanic and works much better this time around, making for a smoother experience. During shootouts, either Rios or Salem can pull Aggro, essentially causing enemies to turn their attention towards one character, leaving the other clear to sneak around and get a better shot, or just escape long enough to heal. The dynamic works better when playing with a human partner, if only because of the amount of strategies it allows. The A.I. is really good about giving you a hand but it's not without a few hiccups. On the bright side, the A.I. isn't as suicidal as it was in the first game.

Game Mechanics:
Although the overall experience does leave something to be desired, the core shooter mechanics are tight and satisfying. Getting around levels is easy, though every major move (taking cover, sprinting, jumping...) is mapped to the same button. The game is pretty good about figuring out what you want to do, though success isn't always guaranteed. Out of context moves are more common when the action gets frantic, though even when facing one enemy with a pistol, you'll need to be careful you don't accidently hurdle over cover when you intend to duck behind it.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of Army of Two: The 40th Day is the new combat tactics. Again, these work much better when playing with someone else (notice a pattern yet?), but even with the A.I., there's loads more strategy in the sequel. For instance, the duo can split up during missions, scout out situations and relay the information back to his partner. Info in HUD, they can then pull of dual sniper shots. Another new tactic is the fake surrender. When approached by enemies, one or both character can surrender. This causes the guards to relax, allowing for a quick kill or, if you're feeling generous, bind their hands.

It's clear EA Montreal put a lot of thought and time into trying to fix complaints with the first game. However, even with the improvements, Army of Two: The 40th Day can't seem to launch off the starting blocks. The 40th Day isn't a terrible game by any stretch of the imagination. If, like me, you enjoyed what the original offered, you'll be more than happy with the sequel. If you wanted more, or are looking for something different from other shooters, this isn't it. Despite the "buddy shooter" concept, The 40th Day is still just another 3rd-person shooter at its core; you just happen to have another gun at your side and some really cool tactics at your disposal.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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