The unfortunate aspect of introducing new IPs as opposed to regurgitating tried and tested formulas is the risk of bringing a crude and unrefined experience to the market. When EA rebranded themselves as a purveyor of new and exciting ventures, we were treated to the likes of Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space and of course Army of Two, and though it is perhaps a stretch to claim Army of Two was original, the new IP did at least attempt to build on the co-op experience laid down by Gears of War.
Smartly avoiding a numerical tile that would have implicated either a force of men wearing skirts or a South African Nobel Peace winner, 40th Day sees the return of Rios and Salem for a bit of wet work.
While the setting of original game was akin to sending two wisecracking American Pie extras into the most dangerous political hotspots on the planet, the pair have obviously spent a lot of time watching Die Hard and Cloverfield for 40th Day for what makes to be the ultimate buddy/disaster movie videogame. Having learned their lesson from the first game that geo-political conflicts may not be their forté, the pair find themselves partaking in a bit of routine PMC activity in Shanghai when things take a turn for the disastrous.
The opening level of 40th Day gives players wary of the first game a great deal to be happy about as it becomes clear from the offset that this is a vastly improved sequel. The Shanghai terrorist strike is visually arresting and packs a real punch forcing you to appreciate that this is significantly more interesting than the first game and demonstrates a real sense of scale as the skyscrapers come tumbling down around you. This active destruction (as EA likes to call it) delivers high on spectacle and is woven in well with the level design as buildings collapse in front of your very eyes, forcing you to seek new routes. It’s a thrilling effect that allows for some interesting level design, though the scripted nature of the destruction isn’t exactly something we haven’t seen before.
Army of Two’s entire design hinges on the co-op experience and 40th Day has made efforts to ensure there is as much high-fiving and chest-bumping as possible. Arguably the first game’s most significant contribution to the genre, the aggro system returns and is still a genuinely effective gameplay mechanic that allows two players to manipulate enemy troops, and this time around there are even more subtle uses, such as the mock surrender that temporarily fools enemies while your partner deals a surprise attack. The ability to take officers hostage yourself and force greater numbers of subordinates into submission is another inventive way of evening the odds.