Let's just start this review with one little note: I don't care what anybody says, the original Army of Two was a pretty good game. It wasn't the best game ever, it didn't redefine any genres and it wasn't some life changing event. However it was a fun, mindless shooter with lots of explosions and guns - sort of the video game equivalent of a Michael Bay movie. As a gamer with ready access to another gamer to fill in for the bad AI partner I've had a lot of fun with the game and it sits proudly in my collection. When time permits its fun to pop it in and get some co-op gameplay in even to this day.
Army of Two: The 40th Day however is basically a blight upon my game collection like unto a stain that can't be removed. Professionalism, and the lash of my boss' whip, is the only thing that keeps this from degenerating into a litany of curses. Yes, it's that frustrating.
Okay, let's roll it back a bit so we can get a little perspective on these comments. The 40th Day sounds pretty promising on paper - Morality choices add replay, which is good. Bucket loads of weapon customization allow you to do what you want with your weapon, customizing with lots of freedom instead of just along strict parameters. Plus a storyline that sees Salem and Rios, the protagonists, trapped inside the destroyed warzone that was once Shanghai just sounds awesome.
Unfortunately when put into action none of these work at all and even more problems crop up that complicate the simple fun of the previous title, dragging it down into a roiling mess that should never have been. Yes, it's that bad.
To the uninitiated Army of Two follows muscle-head mercenaries Salem and Rios, one of whom is the burly quiet type (mostly) and the other who is a smaller loudmouth. They've got their sassy tough girl liaison that directs them on their missions but manages to be entirely forgettable. The game is full of snappy one liners and heroes who approach life-or-death situations with the most cavalier attitude possible. So yes, it's a Hollywood action movie in game form.
What makes the games so interesting, and sets it apart from other co-op shooters, is the team mechanics. Working together you can do things like lift your partner to a higher level, drag your buddy to safety or bust open doorways. The first game contained interesting moments like parachuting to safety together with one person controlling the chute while the other fired at enemies and several instances where the two mercenaries go back to back to engage large numbers of enemies. Only the latter is kept in the sequel, used only a few times to frustrate the player.
But this only works to highlight one of the main problems of Army of Two: the 40th Day. Rather than fighting a few enemies here, and a few enemies there while running through the stages in this sequel you're constantly forced to hunker down to fend off incredibly large numbers of enemies. So you'll spend a good five to ten minutes popping around cover as you try to kill off the enemy waves until they finally decide to stop. It gets really boring since you need to take this slowly. Generally if you try to rush it you will get cut down since the enemies a lot of health and your heroes are made of paper.
Even the vaunted weapon customization system is totally broken thanks to a few oversights. To begin with the weapons all end up feeling somewhat same-y since you can modify them all so much. There's no real "good" weapon to use since they can all be modified rather homogenously into the same sort of gun. It's really bland and seems poorly thought out. Every assault rifle and sub-machine gun feels the same and every shotgun feels pretty much the same. Only the sniper rifles are fairly differentiated thanks to their drastically different base stats.
What's definitely worse than that is the fact that the game doesn't save after you exit the modifications menu. So if you just spent thirty minutes spending your $50,000 dollars to upgrade your new sniper rifle to the badass bringer of death only to die, then guess what? You get to do it all again! The only time the game saves is when you reach the set checkpoints meaning that the only way to avoid this annoyance is to modify your weapons just before a checkpoint. While many checkpoints can be seen coming, such as when you need to work as a team to open a door, others aren't quite so easy to see so you might just find yourself sitting on a wad of money for quite some time. Any convenience the mid-stage customization brings to the table is automatically canceled out thanks to this.
The last selling point that this game blunders on is the morality system. In most games the main point of this is to influence how NPCs treat you and to provide a bit of replay value. However there's really no effect at all to it in this game barring some achievements (or trophies) except that a few of your decisions net you money or unlock weapons / weapon parts.
These decisions show a cutscene showing the effects of your choice hours or even days after the fact. Some of these are fine, such as the one showing a man you let live being assassinated by someone else, but others are totally random beyond belief. Who knew that letting a wild animal live would allow it to run free only to find and kill a man who just robbed a store. But others just show people to be really stupid since instead of asking questions Salem and Rios just open fire or a person shoots themselves in the head and it's your fault. These end up feeling far too random to elicit anything but a groan of annoyance or laughter from the player.
This is only taken to the extreme by the ending where, if you're trying to get the achievement / trophy for one morality, you're forced to make a decision that might be somewhat offensive. It starts the whole debate of is one life more important than the lives of the many in a really ham-fisted manner. To make it even more frustrating is that the ending, when you see it both ways, makes you look like a fool. The thing literally had me holding back curses because of how forced it feels.
A new system that actually does work is the interactions you can have with the world around you. When enemies ambush you it's possible to mock surrender, pretending that you're going to submit as you move in. It's possible to let your partner snipe the enemies or quick draw your pistol, entering a bullet time sequence where you can shoot down the surprised enemies. You'll also find captive civilians and figuring out ways to subdue the soldiers holding them hostage is incredibly fun. Do you use silenced pistols to take some of them out? Capture the commander and force his subordinates to surrender? It's up to you and it's a lot of fun.
Unfortunately that's about all the game really has going for it to make it different from the previous title. The exchange for this is that you lose out on the globe trotting, co-op parachuting, vehicle segments and a lot of the variety in the game. All you get is a slog through a game with uneven difficulty and a number of technical issues that drag it down so hard it leaves an impact crater. This would normally make a perfect rental since it's only about seven hours long but with all of these issues it's hard to suggest even that. Pass on this title and save your money for the better games coming out this year. There will be no lack of them.