Polish is something that can do amazing things for a game. Uncharted 2 and Dead Space, games that I consider to be the best releases of their respective years, both had an amazing amount of polish. But does polish alone make a game great? Absolutely not. Some of the biggest gems of this generation were rather rough around the corners; just look at Demon’s Souls and Saints Row 2. Army of Two: The 40th Day, in the same vein, can be a little rough around the edges but still amounts to an outstanding game. Read on to find out why.
The 40th Day is a very visually exciting game. The graphics may not be as amazing as bigger releases, but they are still pleasing to look at. The character models, both friend and foe, are the games shining example of attention to detail. Sure, the rest of the game has its share of pop-in and blurry textures, but to be honest you really don’t notice it. Presentation is likely the game’s weakest category. There are some long loading times and the graphical problems that I mentioned above, but it’s not really that bad. The only load screens are between chapters (which are pretty lengthy and intense), so you’ll be thankful for the chance to breathe.
As far as sound goes, the game delivers. The voice acting is absurd and entertaining, and the music does a good job of getting you into the moment. I do wish there were subtitles though, as you have to turn your TV up pretty loud to understand what the characters are saying (and you’ll definitely want to hear what they’re saying). The real accomplishment of the sound design is found in the weapons. Every single modification you make to your guns will alter the way it sounds in some way. You constantly will be tweaking your gun trying to make it as quiet (or as loud) as you can.
Now forget all that stuff I just said about presentation and polish. This is the bright, shining, redeeming feature of The 40th Day. However, there’s something I need to stress first. You absolutely must play this game as local coop with a buddy. If you follow that instruction, The 40th Day will provide you with a one-of-a-kind experience that you’ll not soon forget. The game was designed for coop, and local coop produces a better experience than online (trust me).
The 40th Day has been compared in other reviews to a disaster movie. This is correct, but it’s also got another genre built in: the buddy cop movie. You and your friend will be living through some of the most ridiculous predicaments ever put on screen. You will be watching Shanghai literally fall apart all around you (and sometimes from underneath you), and having a buddy sitting next to you to share the experience with makes it that much more exciting.
The game plays like pretty much every other 3rd person shooter on the market, with some key additions. Like I’ve beaten into your head by now, this game is built for coop. You can mock surrender to your enemies, while your buddy hangs back to open fire on your would-be captors. Or you can both mock surrender, only to quick draw your sidearms in a bullet time event. You can take an enemy officer hostage, forcing his subordinates to surrender. Your buddy can then move up to tie up the prisoners. If your buddy gets injured, you can drag him to cover so that you can safely heal him.
You’ll notice I’m saying “buddy” instead of “teammate.” That’s intentional because the other character is more your buddy than any teammate could be (both on-screen and on the couch). When you’re not trying to escape collapsing buildings or hails of gunfire, you can play a friendly game of rock-paper-scissors. There is also an array of buddy moves like fist bumps and rocking out with your guns like they are air guitars. Everything in The 40th Day was designed so that you know that you aren’t alone.
On a more serious note, you and your buddy will also have to make important decisions. I’m not going to say what any of them are because that might spoil the surprise, but they are very entertaining. Each choice has consequences (as well as rewards), and while it’s not the most in-depth morality system ever put in a game, it definitely lives up to the over-the-top nature of the game and also gets you talking with your friend on the couch about what you should do.
Now, there’s still one big aspect of the game I haven’t touched on: the weapons. The 40th Day has the most in-depth weapon modding system I’ve ever seen in a game (and I’m one to try every game that lets you modify weapons). You can literally mix any parts from any gun onto any other gun. Want an AK-47 with the barrel of a G36C, the stock of an M4, a Coke can for a silencer? No problem. Want to take that crazy creation and paint it with hearts, a zebra pattern, camo, or maybe just get it plated with gold? Go for it. You can pretty much do anything with the weapon modding system and you can very easily lose a lot of time just sitting in the weapon menu messing around.
Of course, the weapon modding does have a point other than making you look absurd. The 40th Day plays based on an “aggro” system. What this means is that one of the characters will be making a lot of noise to get the attention of the enemies, while the other character sneaks around and takes them out at his leisure. How does modding guns affect it? Whoever you want getting the enemy attention will likely be building guns that are very loud and flashy, while the other player will want to build guns that are silent, compact, and accurate. You should be seeing by now how just about every aspect of this game revolves around the idea that two people are playing.
The 40th Day does have multiplayer, but it’s pretty standard. You have an array of the usual online modes and a Killzone 2-esque mode that includes a mix-up of multiple objectives. Sadly, the multiplayer doesn’t really have the same absurd charm as the campaign, mostly due to the fact that you play as generic soldiers and not as the two buddy main characters. Multiplayer can be a fun test of your abilities against other real people, but really it’s much more rewarding to play through the campaign a couple of times to see all the outcomes/choices and get all the weapon parts.
There’s one more thing that I’d like to touch on. The 40th Day has a story, but I don’t really know what it is. You can pick up radios that will have broadcasts telling you the story, but I advise you not to listen to them. The great thing about this game is that rather than being a plot driven action movie (the real plot pretty much exists just to take you from one cool set piece to another), it has the potential to be a character-driven story. I can tell you right now, when you beat The 40th Day for the first time you won’t be discussing the implications of the plot or the future of Shanghai. You will be talking about all the crazy stuff you pulled off with your buddy: all the choices you made and their consequences, all the times you barely survived, all the ridiculous weapons you built. These experiences build a much more interesting (and very, very personalized) character-driven story.
Sure, The 40th Day lacks some polish and has some minor technical hang-ups, but in the end you won’t even care because it’s just so much fun. If you’re looking for something worth bunkering down on the couch with your best friend, this is the best you’re going to get for a long, long time.