Army of Two: The 40th Day Preview
While the original had its fair share of drawbacks, the concept had plenty of potential. Army of Two utilized a cooperative style of third-person shooter gameplay, and although the technicals weren’t 100% sound, EA is using that first title as a learning experience for this sequel. The 40th Day should feature many, if not all, of the enhancements and upgrades that we require, and in looking at early screenshots, you’ll recognize the obvious differences. Instead of the standard and clichéd war-torn setting, we’ll be dropped into the ravaged city of Shanghai, which suffers from a seemingly endless assault of bizarre disasters. This immediately presents the player with a very different atmosphere, and one that should prove to be more immersive and dynamic. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this threatened environment is the fact that Shanghai hasn’t fallen yet…but it’s in the midst of destruction. That’s the level of intensity we can’t wait to experience, and it likely features the flair and panache we missed in the original game.
Beyond the environment, GameSpot’s recent hands-on session tells us that The 40th Day will also boast a revamped and refined set of controls. The word “fluid” caught our eye; it’s due to the new automatic cover system EA will be implementing, likely as a nod to games like Gears of War. This mechanic seems to be one of the more popular systems in the world of third-person action games, so it’s no surprise to see it play a significant role in this sequel. Not only can you smack your shoulder into an obstacle to gain cover, but you can also sprint low to the ground (again, very similar to GeoW), and the team has added a nice little feature, which lets you slide towards cover. You hold the sprint button down and when you’re heading towards a new cover spot, you release the button a moment before you reach your destination, and the character will slide sharply into position. How cool is that? We also hear that EA has revamped the aiming; your reticle will lock onto enemies easier than before, which seems quite similar to a regular lock-on mechanic.
Obviously, though, the focus will remain on the cooperative teamwork. Those of you who are still enjoying Resident Evil 5 are aware of some of the co-op moments between Chris and Sheva, and you can expect something similar in The 40th Day. In this case, the two main characters are Salem and Rios, and you two will have to work together in order to become successful in the field. It’s not just about backing up your buddy or teaming up in order to take down the baddies (two guns are always better than one). It’s also about taking care of business on your own for the purpose of the greater good: one example in the GameSpot hands-on came when EA showed off a scene where both Salem and Rios had to snipe a couple enemies that were holding a civilian hostage. However, because only one of the characters in question was close enough to make a positive identification, the other player had to wait for his buddy to clarify the situation. When he got the clarification – i.e., which dude to shoot – he carried out the command with deadly accuracy. Teamwork, fellas.
And if you’re going to be working together so closely, you’re going to have to stay in the loop at all times. In this day and age of freakishly effective electronic technology, why shouldn’t we have an on-screen hub that continually relays field information to both Salem and Rios? It’s called the Co-Op Playbook and it pops up on your screen to dole out helpful details that will assist you in settling on a plan of attack. You can label certain enemies, which comes in handy because it appears as if the lower-ranking soldiers aren’t quite as stable as their superiors; if a high-ranking officer goes down, the regular ol’ foot soldiers might turn tail. This is an awesome strategic addition to the game, as the two of you can attempt to make an example of the highest ranking enemy facing you, thereby rattling the rest of the opposing forces. What we need more of in games is a mental effect; in the chaotic, hellish world of war, a human’s frame of mind can be a determining factor more often than not. Our only question is, how far will EA take this concept…?
We don’t yet have a release date for Army of Two: The 40th Day, but we’re hoping it makes it out before the end of the year. It’s coming to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PSP, so even handheld aficionados will get a shot at the co-op-based action. If it does come out for the holiday season, the competition will likely be very stiff, but we think EA has really worked to provide us with a worthy sequel. If you’ve got a willing buddy, The 40th Day could end up being the perfect selection.
3/23/2009 Ben Dutka