Army of Two: The 40th Day Xbox 360
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: EA Montreal
Back in 2008 we reviewed Army of Two, a third person shooter that could be enjoyed by solo players but in truth was primarily focused on the co-operative experience. As a co-operative experience it was certainly enjoyable played either locally or online. That said there was plenty of room for improvement. Army of Two: The 40th Day is, in many respects, a more satisfying experience that will please those who enjoyed Army of Two and may even win over those who were not so keen on the original game. However, as far as deaf gamers are concerned, the experience this time around isn't as accessible.
Once again you can step into the shoes of either Tyson Rios or Elliot Salem who have now setup up their own military organisation called Trans World Operations (TWO). The storyline is set a few years after the events of the first game and is based in Singapore. What starts off as a simple mission ends up turning into one helluva nightmare as a military force proceeds to blow Singapore to pieces. The game's storyline is played out over seven chapters and in truth the game is a short experience. Like the first game, it's best when played with a human companion (there is support for both split-screen and online co-op play) but it's a fairly good experience when played as a single-player game.
The core game-play remains true to the original Army of Two. Once again it's the Aggro feature that makes the game stand out from other action titles. The basic idea with the Aggro feature is that one player draws the attention of the AI enemies, by firing on them, whilst the other player is free to manoeuvre into a more advantageous position. A gauge is displayed showing you which player is drawing the most heat from the AI. If you're playing with an AI companion you can issue orders to them and it works pretty well. I suppose the only knock against the Aggro system is that for the most part you don't really have to use it as the AI enemies aren't as sharp as they could have been. The only time the companion AI can be a little iffy is when you've been shot down and you need your AI partner to drag you out of the line of fire. Thankfully this isn't too much of a problem.
In The 40th Day you have the ability to customise your weapons at any time you're not involved in combat. You can make a number of modifications to your weapons which will affect the Aggro, Handling, Precision and Damage ratings of your weapon. You can give your machine guns a gold finish (for increased aggro) or give them a variety of camouflage skins in addition to coke can silencers, bayonets and choose from a generous assortment of stocks, barrels, cartridges, front mounts, scopes and suppressors. You can even purchase diamond encrusted grenades for the outrageous price of $100,000 if you really want to. The customisation options don't end there however as you can now create your own masks, on the game's website, and import them into your game.
During the course of the game you'll have several moral dilemmas thrown your way. You'll simply have a choice (when playing co-operatively, either player can make the choice) of two courses of action and for whichever one you take, you'll be shown what the ramifications of it are via an assortment of comic strip style artwork. For example, after completing the first mission you'll be told to kill the man who has guided you through the mission. You can either carry your orders out or spare his life and say that he got away. The problem with this moral dilemma system is that you always feel as though you've made the wrong choice. In the above example I thought it was the best decision to let the guide live but then I saw how his future played out only to find that he's assassinated at a later date with no apparent benefits for letting him live.
If you're looking for multiplayer action you'll be pleased to learn that The 40th Day isn't just about playing the main storyline co-operatively. Other modes include Co-op Deathmatch, Control, Warzone and Extraction. Extraction sees you fighting off wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. Co-Op Deathmatch puts you and your partner up against other teams of two. Control involves capturing and holding various locations on the map. Finally, Warzone offers various objectives for you to battle over. On the whole, these additional multiplayer modes are decent but there aren't many maps to play on and for some reason your weapons don't feel as effective as they do in the single-player game which seems rather odd.
The 40th Day definitely manages to be more visually appealing than the original Army of Two. The character models look more impressive and the same can be said for the game's lighting effects. The game uses the Unreal Engine and unfortunately, like most games that use some variant of the Unreal Engine, the game does suffer from texture pop-in (in other words the textures take longer than they should to appear) and this is a little unsightly. The game's rather impressive opening gives you a view of Singapore being blown to pieces. During the game itself you never quite get a sense of such a level of destruction which is a shame but nevertheless the level of damage to the various buildings in the game is actually quite impressive. The frame rate holds up pretty well during all of this destruction too.
Army of Two managed to earn a DGC C rating thanks to the cut scenes and the essential dialogue being subtitled. Surprisingly though, The 40th Day offers no subtitles at all meaning deaf gamers are getting a poorer experience this time around. Deaf gamers will be oblivious to all of the cut scene dialogue and any communications that Rios and Salem receive during the course of the campaign missions. Brief objective descriptions are shown in text although these are nowhere near as comprehensive as what's given verbally. You can access more useful objective descriptions from the in-game menu (accessed by pressing the Start button) although having to do this constantly to clarify what needs to be done is slightly irritating. The game's Mask GPS system shows you which direction you'll need to be heading, via a green line, and a very brief description of your objectives are shown here too. All tutorial messages are given in text. Throughout the game you'll find an assortment of radio logs. None of these logs are subtitled making them absolutely useless for deaf gamers. In brief, whilst it's possible for deaf gamers to play The 40th Day, it's far from being a deaf gamer friendly experience.
In a nutshell then, Army of Two: The 40th Day is a successful sequel in that it's a better game than the original Army of Two; however, support for deaf gamers certainly isn't as good this time around and that's a big disappointment. As with the original Army of Two, it's a game that's best enjoyed with a friend playing with you during the seven chapter campaign. As a single-player experience it's still quite enjoyable but it's not as enjoyable having an AI companion to rely on. The new additions to the Army of Two formula for the most part help to make this a more enjoyable game but it's the backward step that's been taken in its support for deaf gamers which has the most profound effect. In short then, it's a better game on the whole but for deaf gamers the experience is inferior and that's really frustrating.