Army Of Two‘s main protagonists look like they could be the genetically modified steroid-pumped clones of Sly Stallone and Arnie Schwarzenegger, until they put on their specially created masks (more of which later). Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem, veterans of the passable first Army Of Two title, are on a mission in Shanghai when the whole world turns upside down, as legions of mercenaries (disparate groups operating under with a single motive) turn the Chinese city into ground zero: bombs and missiles fill the air, skyscrapers crumble before your eyes and everywhere you turn, there are burly men armed to the teeth and hell-bent on your destruction.
So far, so B-movie, but it’s not the plot that will have you reaching for the controller time and again, but the relentless action, the seriously tough enemy AI (even playing at -Normal’ skill level) and the fact that you’ll have to use your wits as much as your trigger finger if you’re to survive the onslaught.
You can play the game in single player mode, with your buddy controlled by the console’s AI (although you do get to give rudimentary orders such as regroup, advance and halt), but the game’s big selling point is in its co-op play (either split-screen or online), as you and your partner team up to defeat the bad guys. This is where the real fun is to be had, as you work out tactics to outflank the bad guys, who are tremendously good at finding cover and making your life difficult, and add to the bodycount. Indeed, the game values stealth over firepower throughout: if you manage to take out the bad guys without first alerting them to your presence, you are often rewarded with a chance to raid their supply cases for more weapons (all of which are fully upgradable). The fact that you have to make some moral choices on the way, usually involving whether to save hostages not vital to the game’s plot or allow them to die, also adds a semblance of depth to an often brainless genre.
OK, so the duo’s specially created masks, fitted with a sophisticated tactical GPS system, are an important piece of equipment, but they do have the effect of making the otherwise impressive character models resemble cartoon Mexican wrestlers, while the ability to pimp your AK47 is definitely aimed at the more juvenile end of the player spectrum (despite the game’s 18s certificate). These are minor quibbles, however, and The 40th Day is a vast improvement over its rather pedestrian predecessor in almost every way imaginable, with some quite innovative abilities, such as playing dead, mock surrender and even the chance to play rock, paper, scissors with your partner when not engaged in a deadly firefight, adding to one of the most genuinely fun co-op shooters on the market.