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Army of Two: The 40th Day – first look

Deftly avoiding the obvious “most cumbersome title ever award” and not naming the sequel Army of Two 2, we still get a perplexing number thrown in there – Army of Two: The 40th Day. The confusing moniker comes from a mysterious disaster caused by something known as the 40th Day Initiative. Where the last game followed potty-mouthed Rios and Salem on their mercenary exploits, 40th Day kicks things up an explosion or two (or 400) by throwing our anti-heroes into a seemingly peaceful Shanghai that soon erupts into a major warzone.

We got to see the whole thing kick off with a very Cloverfield-esque building collapse, replete with an unclear cause. As the dust cleared, we could see several fighter jets come streaking between the skyscrapers, and off in the distance an aircraft carrier flanked by a fleet of battleships began bombardment of the city. Moments later, an A-10 warthog came screaming in and slammed into the rooftop where Rios and Salem would engage in a firefight.

So, reservations about the original Army of Two being anti-climactic appear to have been addressed, yes? What we saw was early in the game, so hopefully the ultra-violence only goes up from there. Indeed, much of what was highlighted during our preview indicated a conscious effort to address numerous issues that hadn’t quite worked the first time around.

The partner AI has a more “alive” feel to it, moving to cover intelligently, calling out targets, and peeking around for threats. It’s hard to say how much the AI’s actual functionality has improved, as we mostly got to see how two-player co-op works, which of course is the way the game is meant to be played. Many of the co-op elements have been stripped down or thrown out completely if they were deemed superfluous – the focus now is to have fewer mechanics that work better. The aim is not only on making the game play more smoothly, but also to go for a more realistic feel – hence, the Overkill mode has been removed because it felt a bit too arcadey for the new tone.

The co-op elements in general are attempting to be more organic and less start-stop as before. There are many situations where you have to rescue hostages, and using one player to distract, ambush, or stealth kill while the other prepares a cross-fire will be key. Of course, you can also choose not to save hostages much of the time, allowing you to play the selfish mercenary equally to the more ethical approach.