With cooperative play at its core, Army of Two’s second installment puts players back in the boots of the masked mercenaries as they fight their way through the streets of a war-torn Shanghai. It may let you take cover behind a dead hippo or play a quick game of rochambeau, but is it the next hit buddy game or will it be in the bargain bins by the 40th Day?
Elliot Salem and Tyson Rios are finishing up a simple job in Shanghai when chaos breaks loose. Explosions rock the city, toppling its towering landmarks, and waves of mercenaries aim to put the team down. The reasons for the war are left for the final reveal, so there’s no context for your fight. You just need to get out of town alive.
Salem and Rios are lighthearted, buffering combat with intermittent jokes. They do show remorse at times, so they don’t come across as heartless as some found them in the last game. However, they do find other ways to offend. Each chapter also has moments for players to make moral choices, with consequences that often come out of leftfield. Choose not to shoot an endangered tiger at the zoo and karma will see that it escapes to maul a common thief. They’re entertaining, but completely ridiculous.
The 40th Day’s brief seven chapter campaign can be completed in about five or six hours. The sets are varied: you’ll work your way through bombed-out office buildings, a hospital under siege, or a zoo littered with dead animals. While there’s variety in the locations, there isn’t all that much when it comes to combat, as you fight the same random grunts and heavies all throughout. Without any unique boss battles to speak of, the second half of the game feels a bit repetitive.
Weapons customization is fairly deep, giving you plenty of options for scopes, stocks, and barrels. The biggest flaw with the system, however, is that your weapon setup isn’t permanently saved when you return to battle. So if you spend ten minutes outfitting your guns and die before the next checkpoint, you’ll have to do that work all over again.
There are plenty of extras to keep an eye out for. You can choose from a variety of masks to suit your personality or create your own online. You’ll want to see both sides of each crazy moral choice and try to save as many hostages as possible. There are also hidden lucky cats to destroy, radio logs to pick up, and a big head mode to unlock after you complete the game.
Multiplayer is set up for 10 players using preset weapon loadouts rather than your custom campaign guns. Co-op deathmatch groups players in pairs, making it essential to stay near your partner in case one of you needs to be revived or restock supplies. Once you get to know a level, a strong partnership can really help you clean up as you scout out different areas but stay close enough to respond when your partner calls. Control mode is fairly standard, with two teams trying to capture points on the map. Meanwhile, warzone plays much like Killzone 2, with different objectives cycling for both teams. Your team may need to kill your opponents’ VIPs, assassinate their heavy gunner, plant a bomb, or steal an intel package.
Additionally, there’s the controversial pre-order bonus, extraction, which won’t be available to the masses for another month after release. It’s essentially survival mode for groups of four, which has you enduring wave after wave of enemies. You’ll stand your ground through four zones per map until you’ve completed all 16 rounds, with each bringing increasingly tough opposition.
Cooperation is essential to Army of Two and you’ll always play with a partner, be they real people online or splitscreen, or AI when you’re at it solo. The partner AI is quite competent, surviving better than some live players, prioritizing targets, and reviving you when you fall. You can also use simple commands to identify targets or have him advance, hold position, or regroup. It’s still much more fun to play with another person, though. You can communicate much more effectively and talk out your strategies to proceed through a level.
Like the first, the crux of the game lies in its aggro system, which draws enemies to whichever player is being the loudest, allowing one player to sneak around enemies while the other baits their attention. A bar on top of the screen, as well your character’s glow, make it easy to identify who the enemy is focused on, and you can play dead to clear your aggro immediately. It’s a different take on AI that makes it easier to work as a team, but at times, you can’t help but feel like you’re in combat against blind men since they won’t notice a silent player until they’re almost on top of them.
The level design often brings out other ways for you to coordinate with your partner, although there isn’t much that’s particularly new. You’ll frequently boost each other to higher levels or over fences. You can grab a shield and walk in tandem or get on opposite sides of heavy troops to shoot at their weak points. During hostage situations, one of you can sneak up and grab a captain, holding onto him long enough for the other to tie up the grunts. The game’s moral choices are also presented to both players. Whoever presses the button first decides, but a high morality rating can yield rewards later on.
The game does have some minor control issues thanks to the catch-all context sensitive button that’s used for too many actions, including rolling, sliding to cover, high-fiving, or reviving a wounded teammate. With so many functions, you can find yourself accidentally dashing or vaulting over cover in a rush to revive your partner. The cover system is also pretty basic and doesn’t provide you with any elegant ways to move from one cover point to the next.
One thing is clear early on. Shanghai is screwed. Buildings explode, helicopters crash through windows, and in one level, the roof gets lifted clean off over your head. The game looks fairly good overall, with varied environments and bits of destructible cover here and there, but cutscenes have a tendency to get bogged down with choppy framerates or textures visibly loading in. The soundtrack isn’t particularly memorable, but it keeps up the tension during firefights. And yes, that’s Nolan North again voicing Salem.
Army of Two: The 40th Day is fun but short, and lacking enemies more substantial than guys with grenade launchers. The series definitely still has quite a bit of potential to live up to, but if you have a friend to partner up with, it’s definitely worth taking a couple trips to witness the destruction of Shanghai.