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Army of Two: The 40th Day continues the excellent co-op shooter experience first started the original Army of Two. This time Salem and Rios find themselves under siege in Shanghai after an epic terrorist attack disaster and fighting to stay alive. With the basic concepts of the first game improved and fleshed out, The 40th Day adds new two-player strategies, better controls and a new morality system that will have players questioning the actions they take. With some spectacular set-pieces and a gorgeous visual art-style, Army of Two: The 40th Day is a tremendous improvement on the original and a must for all co-op action fans.
Set a little while after the end of the first game, Army of Two: The 40th Day sees the deadly duo of Salem and Rios running their own private military group and on a routine mission in Shanghai. But disaster soon strikes and you find yourself deep in trouble after a terrible terrorist attack. The most immediate change from the first game is how much more colourful the setting is. Gone are the dull greys and browns of military installations and the screen is filled with the vibrant colour of civilian locations.
These public locations, like a zoo for example, now come with a brand new morality mechanic that gives Army of Two a certain amount of depth that the original never even tried to have. It's in no way as deep as the system found in Fallout 3, Fable 2 or Dragon Age: Origins but it lends an air of authenticity that Army of Two struggled to have in its first incarnation. Part of this system works because of the constant civilian location and the attention to detail the game shows.
In one instance you see civilians lined up, execution style, by a few of the enemies soldiers. This is when the game branches out into several different ways. You can charge in and save the hostages, leave them to their fate or just kick down the door and blow everything and everybody away. There are incentives and repercussions for every path and it gives the game a really interesting set of morality mechanics that eventually affect the story and gameplay.
Other new features include a co-op 'playbook' that expands the number of tactics on offer at any time during the game. Whereas the first game had very few of these tactics that were limited and subject to poor AI, The 40th Day has a completely new system that means the improved playbook can dynamically update and change as you move through the environment. This change is more noticeable in single-player as now your AI partner feels like its being controlled by an intelligent-ish human rather than a computer. It's still not perfect but it makes the experience of progressing through the game far more enjoyable than in the first game.
The most atmospheric change in this sequel and the one that makes all the difference is the location. Instead of being airlifted in and out of various scenarios like in the original game, The 40th Day keeps you in one location for the entirety of the experience and puts the emphasis on surviving and fighting your way out of your predicament rather than just allowing you to cause untold chaos. It's a setup that works incredibly well in building an atmosphere to the game and there's a sense of real and palpable danger to each level that makes The 40th Day exciting and gripping.
I found this approach to the game incredibly satisfying as my experience of the original Army of Two was far from pleasing. The 'Bromance' shtick is still in attendance, but its use is far more appropriate than in the first game and I started to feel far more connected to these characters than I had done before. The decision to base the game entirely in Shanghai was also a masterstroke as it made the game world feel more like a legitimate action movie setting than just a videogame shooting gallery.
With its improved co-op mechanics and overall storyline, Army of Two: The 40th Day is an unlikely contender for a compelling 3rd person action game. But the level of polish displayed by the game the direction it takes towards the end means its far more of a must-ply than the original was. If you can get yourself a buddy to play co-op with or just enjoy a good military shooter then Army of Two: The 40th Day is one you should certainly check out.
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