Army of Two: The 40th Day Preview (PS3)

Visceral's medieval romp through hell wasn't the only game we got our hands on at the EA event the other week. In-between helping our selves to free food and drink, catching up with old friends, and marvelling at how quirky the venue was, Strategy Informer managed to sneak in some hands on time with EA Montreal's anticipated sequel: Army of Two: The 40th Day.

Admittedly, we were slightly surprised when this was first announced back in March, as we had never really gotten the impression that the first game did amazingly well. Sure it was a good game, but it got average reviews at best and so we never really thought we'd see a sequel in the works. Other games have done better and still not gotten a sequel, but there you go. So far, “The 40th Day” (whatever that means) is shaping up to be just as good, if not better, then the original. If one were to be cynical, you could comment that it's really what the first game should have been like all along, but to give credit where it's due, Montreal have certainly raised their game this time around.

Army of Two Squared still retains that 'arcade' like feel, almost as if you were playing through a session of that old school classic Time Crises, except with a 3rd person view and total control of your faculties... and with out the one hit damage, or the danger circles, and the... Ok, it's nothing like a session of Time Crises, but you get the idea. Army of Two's homage to more old-school Shooter conventions is what gave it so much charm in the first place, and The 40th Day has got plenty of that, and more.

The story as you know is being kept pretty much a close guarded secret at this point, although that's not surprising. During our hands on we were allowed to preview the first two levels of the game, which didn't really reveal much that we didn't already know. Why someone would want to pound Shanghai into the ground is anybody's guess, but nevertheless: The surprise attack by a rival PMC on China's largest city forms the backdrop for what is, as executive producer Reid Schneider calls it, a survival story.

Toppled skyscrapers and ruined streets will form the early levels as you fight for your survival and that of your eye in the sky, Alice. The levels appear to split up into various mini-set pieces, requiring you to defeat all of the spawn enemies before you can progress. And at the end of each major section there is a 'boss' type enemy, who requires specialised tactics that often focus on team work in order to defeat them.

Speaking of which, teamwork still plays a major part in this game. The amount of things you can do as a duet has increased, including tactics, moves and games of rock, paper scissors. There are some parts where you even have to separate from each other, and make your own way through a particular section whilst trying to support each other. Moral decisions, an improved Aggro system, coop playbook and many other little features all help expand the ways Rios and Salem can work together. You can even have one of you fake a surrender whilst the other secretly flanks your enemy.

But most of this you probably already know through past previews and interviews – the real question is, how does it feel? In all honesty, it feels a bit sluggish. Bearing in mind we had just finished playing through some Bioware goodness on Mass Effect 2, Army of Two's hulking heroes seemed to move with a lot less grace and agility. Still, that's not to say the game is unplayable, but at the time it was hard not to make the comparison.

Obviously, this title's strength lies in the co-op experience. Whilst EA has assured us that the AI has been improved since the last game, at the end of the day you just can't beat the real thing. In a game that is so focused on a couple of guy's struggle for survival, you're going to get the best experience from playing with a mate. Multiplayer has been improved on multiple levels – to begin with, the game is no longer region locked and uses an improved method of connecting players. On the content side, there are extra maps & modes, all designed to bring you the classics of online play, but tailor it to fit Army of Two's co-operative MO.

It would be wrong to say that Army of Two: 40th was going to revolutionise the franchise, or even the genre. Instead, it takes what made the original game so enticing, whilst also improving on its flaws to give a more polished and engaging experience. Whether it manages to pull it off or not is something that remains to be seen, but suffice to say, if you enjoyed the first one, you'll enjoy this one too. Just make sure you have a friend to play it with.

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By Jake_SI (SI Elite) on Dec 16, 2009
When the first Army of Two game came out, I wasn't too interested in it, but after one of my mates got it, and I sat down with him to play, we got hooked, and ended up playing the entire campaign that night, not getting to sleep until about 6 or 7 in the morning... and it was totally worth it.

Whilst it's probably not something I'd ever bother playing solo, as a co-op experience, it was a great game, and if this one is as good, or better, I'll definately be giving it a go!
By noobst3R (SI Core) on Dec 22, 2009
Like Jake said: Solo is not as much fun.
By Hunter_Raj (SI Member) on Jan 04, 2010
we are waiting for this one.