Army of Two: The 40th Day Review

Army of Two: The 40th Day is a lot like the original Army of Two and yet in many ways it feels like a totally different game - 'different' in a very good way.  The game still stars Rios and Salem, two mercenaries working for the private army of the TransWorld Operations corporation, or TWO, but rather than taking on missions around the globe this time out you are on one long mission gone horribly wrong.  It starts out as a simple enough mission, but it has the misfortune of placing you in the wrong place at the worst possible time.  The 'place' is Shanghai and the 'time' is an all-out assault on the city and its inhabitants by what appears to be a ruthless and extremely well-armed private army.  The initial bombardment of the city plays out like a disaster epic - missiles knock down Shanghai landmarks, skyscrapers topple into each other, and twisted metal and concrete rain down on the streets.  It all makes for some great cinematic moments and will give you a sudden craving for some popcorn.

As your goal moves from getting somewhere safe to getting out of town alive to putting a big crimp in the invaders' plans, you'll have to fight your way through some pretty interesting levels.  You'll spend time making your way through the twisting alleyways of Shanghai, but the level designers deserve credit for not making the game just another urban shooter.  There are several memorable levels to fight your way through, such as a bombed-out skyscraper and the remains of a zoo.  The levels are pretty linear and the events scripted, but there are plenty of sub-areas that give you room to maneuver and pick your approaches to the firefights. These sub-areas are large enough that it can sometimes be a little tricky to determine where to go next, especially with all of the rubble lying around, but the game's GPS feature will overlay the route to your next objective on the screen making it easy to get on your way.

As you make your way through the levels you'll periodically run into armored enemies carrying a powerful weapon such as a shotgun, flamethrower, or Gatling gun.  These enemies are effectively mini bosses and it will take teamwork with your partner to exploit their weaknesses and take them down.  These guys have the potential to put a quick end to your game, but your reward for beating them is that you can grab their weapon and wield it until it runs out of ammo.  These mini bosses are pretty cool, but I wish there was some variation between them,  Each one you encounter is a clone of the last guy you met with that weapon and it would have been nice if they at least had some variation to their physical appearance if not their method of attack.

Another thing that you'll periodically encounter in the game is the chance to do a little good.  The first way you'll be able to do this is through rescuing civilians from their mercenary captors and inevitable execution.  To do so you'll have to either capture the enemy officer and force the other guards to lay down their arms or try and snipe down the captors before they can kill their captives.  Succeed and an ID card will appear in the corner of the screen with a headshot of each person you've saved.  Fail and you'll still see the ID cards, but you'll also see a big red 'X' drawn across the photo.  It's a surprisingly effective way to make each rescue seem more personal.

You'll also find yourself faced with the occasional moral dilemma and given a few seconds to select from one of two possible courses of action.  Once you make your choice - and it's not always obvious what you should do - a cutscene plays out showing the consequences of your actions.  After the immediate impact plays out, you're treated to a stylized cutscene consisting of hand drawn comic-style panels showing the long term impact of your decision on the people affected by it.  There's no text or voiceover - only panel transitions and occasional sound effects.  The cutscenes have a particular impact because actions in games rarely if ever show the ripple effects they can cause.  It's a great addition to the game and my only complaint is that there are too few of these moments in the game.