by Kiran Sury
previewed on X360
Army of Two... Two?
Set a few months after the globe trotting adventures of the first Army of Two, the 40th Day takes mercenaries Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem and plunges them right back into battle. Sent to Shanghai on a routine operation, the duo quickly learns that another PMC is waging war in the city. The problem is, no one knows why. Rios and Salem have only 40 days to solve this mystery, and get the hell out of the newly devastated city.
Being a Better Buddy
The sequel lives up to the Army of Two name – the game is all about fighting with a buddy (whether human or AI is up to you). Those who don’t have a spare controller will be happy to know that the Partner Artificial Intelligence (PAI) has been significantly revamped. PAI in a co-op game is extremely important because a bad partner can hamstring you like no enemy can. You could have the best graphics and story ever, but if your partner simply follows you through the game like a puppy, the battle is lost before it even begins. While the original Army of Two didn’t sink to this low, it certainly had its issues. The PAI has been upgraded to be more responsive and situationally aware. Your computer-controlled ally will now automatically provide covering fire, crouch down for protection, try to outflank enemies, and even use human shields
Of course, PAI is unnecessary if you have a friend to play with. To aid with the person-to-person communication, EA Montreal has a new option it calls the "playbook." Each human player has access to a book of plays, much like a quarterback does. By using the playbook, you can instruct your partner in various tactics to take out certain enemies. One tactic that I liked was the ability to designate a target for your buddy to take out. All you need to do is target the enemy and send the command to your friend. His targeting cross-hair will then center on the enemy and he can take the shot. Other strategies, like pretending to surrender so your partner can take the enemies out from behind should spice up the action as well.
Be All That You Can Be
Buddy AI isn't the only aspect of Army of Two that has been enhanced. The graphics and sounds have also been given a facelift. Expect more interactivity with your surroundings as well. If you have a powerful enough weapon, you can shoot enemies through walls. Any game object can be used as cover, and if not too heavy, be lifted up for a movable shield.
While I felt the controls of the first Army of Two were clunky, things have been streamlined to near perfection. Gone are the numerous key strokes and finger movements; swapping weapons is just one key push away. Character movement is much improved upon and intuitive. The controls are now very easy to learn, and were well thought out by the developers.
Though the original game tried to be unique in its cooperative focus, it simply wasn’t up to par with giants like Halo and Gears of War. This sequel looks on track to elevate the franchise to a higher level. As with all games, there’s the chance that the changes may not pan out. But if EA Montreal can add that extra bit of polish, EA could have a hit on its hands when The 40th Day releases January 2010.