Better Late Than Never Review: Army of Two: The 40th Day
I remember playing the first Army of Two back when my buddy and I were starved for co-op games. We had already run through Gears of War 1 & 2 on the various difficulty levels. We tried playing the first Army of Two and it just wasn't up to snuff when compared to the Gears series. Having said that, I still appreciated Army of Two. It was rough around the edges, but an enjoyable enough experience. When 40th Day was announced, I was pretty intrigued. I had hopes that they would smooth out the rough edges and make a better play experience. Because Gears of War 2 has set the bar on 3rd person shooters, you will see some comparisons.
If you read my reviews, you'll know I don't go into great detail about the stories in games. There is essentially no reference to the first game, so no need to worry about not having played it to catch up on any storylines. The funny thing is, when it comes to 40th Day, I wasn't sure what the story exactly was right away and strangely enough, I didn't care as I progressed through the game anyway. We're two bad dudes, Salem and Rios making positive or negative morality decisions and slaughtering wholesale baddies along the way. I will say that I really liked how the game started out. Missiles blowing up skyscrapers and general chaos throughout the city seems like a great way to start the T.W.O. day. Because of what happens (depending on your choice) at the end of the game, I'm intrigued to see what could happen with a sequel. If the series is to continue,
Graphically, this game is a huge step up from the previous. Everything is much more crisp and bright. I loved chapter 3 as we're fighting through a zoo. There were some interesting elements to the game that I'm not sure quite fit right, but I liked the concepts. Each level has a "morality" choice you need to make. Aside from obvious achievement awards, you can earn money for making a positive or negative choice. Once your choice is made, you get to see a comic book style cutscene of the near future as it relates to the character or scenario.
One very interesting aspect of the game is the mask (and shoulder pads) customization. You can log onto the Army of Two website and actually create your own mask. Or, if you like one of the ones uploaded by users, you can download it to your game and use a custom mask during gameplay. The website seems very buggy though, so be prepared to work at it.
The gameplay is mostly the same as the first Army of Two. The controls do feel much tighter than the first game. Though I liked the first game for what it was, I wished the controls were more crisp. I would say the AI is "better". What can you expect from a computer controlled character? Besides, if you're going for The Beast achievement, you want all the kills you can get anyway. Mock surrendering and taking hostages are nice additions to the game. The staple 3rd person Gears of War control setup is present. Although I wish they would simply make a duck/cover button. Its still not very intuitive as you can take cover while running and hitting A, but not while walking or crouching. If you just press against cover or a wall, your character takes cover. I mean, if you're going to make a Gears clone, why not copy the best elements?
Co-op sniping is more automatic now. Quick draws when mock surrending are a bit tricky depending on if the computer wants to do its own thing. And again, you can choose to be a nice soldier of fortune and tie down enemies while holding an officer hostage, or you can gank them. Or, if you're really sadistic, you can tie them down and then gank them. Same with civilian hostages that you can rescue for money or not.
You can customize weapons at any point during the game. There are some special weapon items to be found, but for the most part, you're simply earning money to buy your weapons and upgrades. I really only stick to a few weapons once I got some decent upgrades. It just didn't make sense to me having a shotgun when I spend most of my time under cover firing at enemies across the stage. At times I felt kind of wrong mowing down enemies with my customized M4 painted with pink and red hearts... It was all for the agro...seriously!
Which leads me to the difficulty. I played through on Normal and then Contractor (hard). Even on normal, I had a rough time at certain spots. Taking your time is a necessity, or you'll be reloading checkpoints a lot, especially on hard. Beating the game on normal and opening up heavier armor helped a lot. Obviously along with the upgraded weapons.
Explosions and gunfire. Lots of it. That's what you'll hear. Not every game is going to have an epic soundtrack like Gears of War 2. Personally, in a fragfest like this. I don't necessarily find it a drawback. Although a little more immersion would be nice.
Multiplayer, what can I say? Utter garbage. Granted, I have only just recently tried multiplayer, hoping to collect some achievements. So, there aren't going to be a plethora of games running, but the few that are...they are plagued with lag. Even if there isn't lag, the game feels like the more crisp controls were left out of the multiplayer aspect of the game. Even the graphics don't seem as good. There's no real need to become "skilled" at this game, so you'll see everyone running around spamming automatic shotguns. You've got your standard MP modes also, including the now standard "horde" mode called Extraction. Of course, with games like Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2, you have to take multiplayer with a grain of salt. I have a feeling even when the game was released, the MP community on this game died down quick. FYI, Extraction on the later levels is ridiculously hard, especially factoring in terrible players, lag, and enemies that take copious amounts of damage and will run through your shots and melee you to death. Good times.
EA made some improvements all around, setting Army of Two up to be a worthy, challenging series. More boom for your buck. I enjoyed the game more than I would a rental and if you've got a buddy to play with, double the fun. With the price dropping so quickly on newer games nowadays, you should be able to pick this one up for a nice bargain.
I'd like to see more polish on multiplayer. Nowadays, too many games have multiplayer thrown in just because. Bad multiplayer is not a bonus, especially if you're an achievement whore. More customization is nice too. The mask customization is a fantastic way to get your fans involved in the game. Make it more user friendly and maybe include full on armor and weapon graphics customization.