Throwing the tried and true formula of the first person shooter upside its head, Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem return for more middle finger induced mayhem and frat-boy, killing spree antics. Can robust attitude and customizable weapons by the dozens go toe-to-toe with juggernaut Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? Let’s find out after the jump.
Make no bones about it: Army of Two: the 40th Day (AoT:40) goes out if its way to remind you just how unlike ‘Call of Duty’ this series is. Where precision snipes and lightning fast movement make one a ‘Call of Duty’ star, Rios and Salem prefer cap busting, methodical, over-the-top killings in an apocalyptic Shanghai teeming with chaos. ‘Modern Warfare’ this is not.
For those keeping score at home, AoT:40 is the sequel to the well-received original of the same name (sans subtitle), albeit devoid of the original voice-overs. Same characters, slightly different player models, similar non-plot. Protagonists remain mercenaries simultaneously out for money and for somewhat doing the right thing. In AoT:40, it’s a Shanghai exploding for seemingly no reason, with Rios and Salem on a mission to simply escape it in one piece.
So it’s got little semblance of a plot…but can it blend?
Yes…and no. For a genre bursting with terrific next generation titles, AoT:40 unfortunately stands out for subtle flaws that otherwise would probably go unnoticed. I can’t help but compare AoT:40 to the aforementioned ‘Call of Duty’ series, likewise ‘Team Fortress,’ ‘Battlefield,’ and/or ‘Mercenaries’ intellectual properties.
AoT:40 sports all the usual suspects of a solid first person shooter, including a short and sweet campaign mode, accompanied by deathmatch and ‘capture the flag’ (‘Warzone’) multiplayer genres. A soon to be available (February 12) ‘Extraction’ mode mirrors the Arena portions of ‘Uncharted 2’s’ multiplayer, with characters faced with waves of enemies standing between your squad and victory. (Pre-orders received access to this mode off the bat.)
Campaign mode sports a clever feature of being able to tackle it with a teammate either locally or online. Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t find anyone online, period willing to take this plunge. Or – more accurately – anyone among the hundreds online eager to abandon multiplayer competitive for a less intense co-op campaign option.
AoT:40’s campaign mode also features moral dilemma situations, such as whether to kill civilians, teammates and/or contacts. Truth be told, popping a cap in my lumbering British mercenary liaison didn’t feel very much like a moral dilemma upon execution. I press one of two buttons, cut scene ensues. Eh. We’re mercenaries; I’m not going to pretend to be anything but Satan with a love of the Benjamins.
Also, while I laud AoT:40’s efforts on not taking itself seriously, the humor falls flat quickly. Voice-overs waver between ‘I’m the most badass person alive’ to pseudo surfer-boy declarations of joy when teammates pick off baddies. Rios is big enough to eat babies alive, yet morphs into Kelly Slater in the heat of battle. Last, I could care less about custom mask paint jobs.
Arguably the coolest component of AoT:40 is weapons customization, where retrieved money (from victims, missions) enables a near-endless slew of ass kicking arsenal. In contrast to other first person shooters, these upgrades become apparent almost immediately. (Playing ‘Resistance 2′ for weeks to upgrade weapons barely paid dividends.) In AoT:40, new holds (for precision), caliber (for punch), muzzles (for cover) kick ass instantly.
Online is a mixed bag. Slow, staggering, and buggy multiplayer resulted in freezes and stutters that grew old rather fast. Akin to the aforementioned ‘Uncharted 2′ multiplayer, AoT:40 multiplayer matches – accompanied by technical glitches – go on for far too long. Perhaps I’m Tiger Woods in a whorehouse, but my attention span for a single anything is a short one.
The most ballyhooed aspect of AoT:40 is its emphasis on teamplay toward victory. A premium is placed on flanking opponents, with partner AI (in campaign mode) a fairly good ally in accomplishing team-based, strategic objectives. Still, your teammate wavers between a killing spree god and pansy, with little in between. He also has a tendency- despite specific instructions – to follow you like a puppy dog into open fire. Multiplayer is supposed to reward covering your partner’s rear, but I just didn’t see the benefits firsthand.
The deathknell: While a solid game on paper, AoT:40’s protagonists control like molasses, lumbering along through a control scheme where single buttons are mapped to multiple actions, captures a debacle, enemies and teammates resembling each other far too closely in multiplayer. Last, the automated cover doesn’t control as well as it should, nitpicky on when/where to actively use sorroundings for protection. A simple patch could probably set the record straight on all of these items.
Having not played the first as a reference point, I can’t ascertain whether AoT:40 suffers from similar control flaws as the original ‘Army of Two.’ The current iteration, however, leaves me no reason to cast ‘Call of Duty’ aside for this lesser experience.
In sum, it’s not that ‘Army of Two: the 40th Day’ is a poor game, it simply fails to accomplish well what its peers do in extraordinary fashion. Still, a patch plus online glitch corrections could quickly make AoT:40 a worthy adversary. Perhaps giving the demo a try is the soundest first step.