Those who played the original Army of Two may have left the game with a sour taste in their mouths. For all the great ideas and action packed scenarios that the game had to offer, there was a ton of little annoyances and irritating mechanics to deal with that marred the entire experience.
Fortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case for the upcoming sequel, for which we got some hands on time at the PlayStation preview event in Toronto.
In the 40th day, you again take up the capable combat boots of Salem and Rios, who find themselves on a freelance military mission in Shanghai. The stuff soon hits the fan as an invading army invades the city and Salem and Rios find themselves caught in between two warring factions that have nothing to do with our antiheroes.
The game makes the most of its interesting setting, and it's the first impression that any player will have of the game. The environments look fantastic, and are loaded with intense action in the background. Buildings collapse, bombs fall, and it all has nothing to do with your actions in game. It really helps increase the immersion you feel.
Of course, Army of Two is a shooter at heart, and wears this badge proudly on its sleeve. The action has been refined and tweaked to create a better balance. According to the developers, the weapons have all been retooled, and we can confirm that the pistol, machine gun and sniper rifles that we wielded all felt punchy and satisfying. Shoot an enemy in a specific area and they'll react accordingly. Groin shooters rejoice. We personally got a kick out of exploding heads with a sniper rifle too.
The aggro system, cash upgrades for weapons and cover system have been retained, with a few minor tweaks for the better. The weapons upgrades can now be done at any time during gameplay, except during firefights.
The co-op aspects from the first game return, with some cool additions. You can still high five, smack each other on the head, and congratulate each other during gameplay. Those who found themselves uncomfortably laughing at the blatant homoeroticism from the first title will have a laugh at the fact that the developers have completely taken that ball and run with it. Now you can smack each other on the ass. Maybe in the third title you'll be able to get it over with and make out. Best of all though, now you can play Rock Scissors Paper together to help decide disputes between players.
The AI has also seen a revamping for the better. The co-operative AI will now drag you to safety before reviving you, and will actually be of great help during firefights. Add in the ability to command your AI partner around with an easy to use wheel command system using the D-pad. Enemy AI is also sharp, especially when you find one taking cover. There's no whack-a-mole mechanics here, as in leaving your crosshairs where you know your enemy will pop up.
Of course, the sequel will also feature full online co-op and split screen gameplay just like the first game as well.
Those disappointed with the original game would do well to check out Army of Two: The 40th Day and see if their nitpicks have been addressed. For this writer, the answer seems to be a definitive yes. We'll know for sure when the game is released for in January 2010.