Recently I headed back up to Montreal to check out Army of Two: the 40th Day. This is the second time journalists were invited up to that great city, as earlier last year we were among the few chosen to get a very early look at the game. Now EA Montreal was finally promising us a hands-on for the real thing, and plenty of gameplay time. I managed to get a few hours of multiplayer gaming in with some of my fine contemporaries and was pleased at how often I fed them their own asses. Our time spent gaming in a reserved room of the Sheraton in downtown Montreal proved one thing just from the screaming and cursing alone- this is going to be a fun game.
Going back to the original Army of Two is quite hard after playing the sequel, as they’ve improved the game in pretty much every aspect. From the detailed graphics and look of the city at war to the much more focused multiplayer gameplay; it really looks like the game we wished the first was. The original was a good enough game, don’t get me wrong, but it felt oddly rushed and incomplete. Not any more.
The list of improvements made just to the controls alone are staggering, but then again you likely knew that if you tried the co-op demo that’s currently available on Xbox Live Marketplace and PSN. The inclusion of a dedicated button for grenades, tighter aiming, a better cover system (that allows you to shift your camera left or right with a button press) and an improved GPS mode allows for a game that’s much easier to control, a helluva lot more compelling.
While the first game merely had one multiplayer mode, this one comes packed with four. Depending on the mode you can now play up to 10 player matches instead of merely two on two. True to the nature of the game however they’re all very dependent on cooperation and watching each other’s back.
Here’s a list of what you can expect-
It’s what it sounds like. You team up with a friend and have to kill your opponents as many times as possible. The coolest thing about this mode is that you can have up to five teams playing at once- up to ten people killing each other in the many awesome arenas. If you don’t have a friend, expect to lose. You really have to look out for your partner and it’s best for you both to stay close. When you get shot you’ll fall to the ground and can be revived if you don’t get shot again (this time thankfully you can crawl to cover by yourself.). Of course, incapping someone is sometimes a better idea than simply killing them, because of course their partner will be coming to help him up soon and might not be expecting a trap…
This is the first mode we played, and demonstrated how great the level design is. They’re all taken from various portions of the game and have their own unique areas and choke-holds. One of the most fun is the level set in the Zoo, which lets you take cover behind dead hippos!
Basically a King of the Hill mode, this has a max of eight players, four on each side. At the start of the game you’re shown an area that you have to hold and only a limited amount of time to do it, racking up points until the area switches and you have to run over to the new one. The team with the most points wins. This mode can get pretty brutal. The areas that you have to hold have some cover but generally can be attacked from multiple points, and just wait until all the grenades come flying in to shake you guys up.
During one of our matches one of our guys grabbed up a sniper rifle and held back, picking off oncoming enemies while the rest of us held the point behind cover, and we absolutely decimated the other team. This is easily the most fun and frantic mode of them all, and we were all screaming across the room, surely confusing the hotel patrons walking around outside.
The mode you know and love from the first game, an objective-based competition between teams. Once again you’re allowed teams of four, and each side must complete more objectives than the other team. The objectives are given to you at random, with choices like Assassination (Kill/Defend a VIP on each team), Infiltration (Get Intel/Stop the other team), Demolition (Plant bomb/prevent), this mode is made a helluva lot more fun with the increased team size. You now have many more options for tactics, and we quickly found out that splitting up into duos allowed us to quickly take down the whole other team that was all camped together, and easily complete the objectives.
Extraction is a bonus multiplayer mode available exclusively for 30 days to people who preordered the game, but don’t feel too bad if you haven’t. It’s easily the weakest mode of them all, sadly. Basically yet another version of Gears of War‘s Horde mode which pits you against wave after wave of enemies, it makes some pretty big mistakes in its execution. While it’s nice that you can have four people playing together against the hordes, there’s simply not enough enemy variety to keep your interest through the many (many, many) levels that you have to sludge through. Also, the levels are set up so that typically you’re in the middle of an area that’s surrounded by invisible walls, ones that your enemies can freely enter from any side. This means that it’s hard to find a good safe spot to hunker down in and you’re typically unaware of where you should be aiming till you’ve already been shot. It’s fun for a few rounds but seems to go on for too long.
Army of Two: The 40th Day hits stores tomorrow for Xbox 360, PS3 and PSP. Expect a review of the full game soon!