Videogames have a come a long way over the decades since the medium’s creation. Over the years, technological enhancements lead to greater processing power, meaning greatly improved graphics and play experiences. Titles such as Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Bioshock have blended stunning visuals, competent gameplay and compelling storylines to create titles that transcend their genres and create experiences that lend huge amounts of gravitas to the argument that the interactive platform can (and indeed should) be seen as an art form as viable as literature, theatre and film. But, as influential and significant as titles such as these can be, sometimes you just want to play a meaty shooter, and that’s where Army of Two: The 40th Day steps in with heavy jackboots.
Focusing on the return of EA’s two favourite beefcakes Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem, the duo find themselves in Shanghai on a routine mission kicking ass and taking names. After blasting their way through their assignment, things unexpectedly and spectacularly take a turn for the worst as the city’s skyscrapers suddenly begin exploding and toppling over, plunging the city into chaos. Rios and Salem make it their business to discover who or what is co-ordinating this massive terrorist attack and make them pay, wrestling with some moral conundrums on the way.
The 40th Day’s fundamental shooting mechanics are sound, with every weapon feeling substantial and satisfying, even if the aiming can feel a little twitchy at times. For the most part, however, the large majority of you and your partners’ shots will find their target. Like the original, Rios and Salem need to rely on each other in order to survive each battle and as such, Day is best played with a friend either online or via split-screen, with both modes being a feasible suggestion thanks to an adequate framerate being consistent over both methods. There is the ability to play through on your own with an A.I. buddy, but, while it’s satisfactory most of the time (in comparison to Left 4 Dead 2’s incompo-bots, anyway), it’s still capable of some pretty unforgivable mistakes, such as trying to drag you to safety when you’ve been downed by taking you deeper into the battle. For the best experience, playing with a second human player is essential.
Making a repeat appearance are the stupidly extensive customisation options the original had to offer. Playing through the game will see you raking in silly amounts of cash which can be put towards unlocking new weapons and components (although some parts still need to be found in the game world). Conventional upgrades can be expected, such as putting a reflex scope on an urban-camouflaged G36C assault, but The 40th Day plays its best hand with the ridiculous modifications on offer.There’s nothing better than charging into battle wielding a Desert Eagle silenced by a fizzy drinks can, a solid gold shotgun made even louder thanks to an enhancer or a tiger-striped RPG. The customisation doesn’t end at the weapons, either. Designs for Rios and Salem’s masks can be created, downloaded and shared via the game’s website. It’s a good laugh making a mask to call your own (and also seeing how many words you can sneak past the automatic censor).
Unfortunately, The 40th Day suffers from a number of problems that no amount of customisation can fix. The story’s already short runtime is artificially elongated by the insufficient amount of checkpoints forcing you to slog through the same area time and time again, which wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that such sections can be aggravatingly difficult, and you’ll more often than not need to re-implement any changes made to weapons between save points. The game is also liberally peppered with non-skippable cutscenes, a sin in this day and age, only serving to frustrate even further. Sound issues make hearing dialogue difficult, a problem which would have been easily compensated for (not solved) by the inclusion of subtitles, of which there are none. Another element that’s inherently missing is any sense of a comprehensible storyline: nothing is fully explained (this reviewer still has no idea what the game’s subtitle actually refers to) and the aforementioned moral choices hold little gravitas, with each choice seemingly consisting of either being corrupt and getting some extra cash or playing the saint and not receiving anything, adding little to the already non-existential story. Those fed up with Nolan North’s voiceacting would also do well to stay away.
Army of Two: The 40th Day’s high level of customisation makes it a highly appealing and promising title: it’s just a shame that its design faults and especially brief story restrict it from offering a more well-rounded experience and greater value for money. There’s enough here to ensure you’ll have a brainlessly fist-bumpingly good time (if you bring along a buddy, at least), but lone wolves and those looking for more bang for their buck would be wise to save their money, perhaps even for a real golden shotgun of their own.