You know you’re not in the real army the moment you take cover behind the corpse of an elephant. It’s just not something Soap McTavish, or Master Chief, or the guy out of Rainbow Six, would ever do. Maybe Marcus Fenix, but then he always was a bit sick. Other things masked soldier/nutjobs Salem and Rios get up to that proper soldiers generally don’t: sticking coke cans at the end of guns to make ad-hoc silencers, or jamming a kitchen knife on a rifle to form a fully working bayonet. Welcome (back) to the DIY world of a Private Military Company.
A lot of things have changed since Salem and Rios first burst onto the scene, with their high-fiving, fist pumping, chats about the Wu-Tang Clan in the middle of a firefight, and, of course, most definitely being heterosexuals. Army of Two promised so much, but largely failed to deliver – happily, EA Montreal appears to have taken all the criticism on board, and given 40th Day extensive reconstructive surgery.
The first game was lambasted for the Neanderthal bromance of mercenary fratboys Salem and Rios, but they’ve grown up a bit in time for 40th Day, so it seems. They’ve also been made slightly more human. In contrast to their almost anonymous appearance in Army of Two, between fights they’ll walk around with their visors flicked up, so you can get a good look at their ugly faces. We don’t expect to see much emoting going on to be honest, but it should make the game feel a bit less soulless.
The setting’s shifted, from Everywhere in the World to a single city: Shanghai. Thanks to an ongoing disaster initiated by a mysterious terrorist group known as The 40th Day, the city’s falling apart around you. But Salem and Rios don’t appear to be particularly worried about that; they’re only trying to escape.
We played a level set in the Shanghai Zoo. It wasn’t a very good zoo, mainly because we only saw a couple of animals – an elephant and a hippo – and they were already very much dead when we arrived, but it did give us a chance to have a sample of the game’s combat.
It’s unforgiving. As expected, you’re not going to last very long if you run headlong into the fray, but we found it pretty difficult to even see the enemy from a distance. Although environments have been blessed with a significant amount of background detail – the game looks nice, if not exactly spectacular – actually working out where enemy bullets were coming from seemed a bit too much like hard work.