Army of Two: 40th Day - Review

Army of Two: 40th Day is the third-person shooter followup to the original Army of Two. It follows the tale of Rios and Salem, two PMCs that now work for themselves and take on the jobs they feel are worth doing. However, as soon as the game starts, they find themselves used a pawns in an invasion, and suddenly trapped and hunted. It's a fairly classic setup, but one that sets the stage well, and gives our heroes all the motivation they need to do a whole lot of shooting.

This time around, a wide range of things were tweaked, fixed, or expanded, and all of them are welcome additions.

THINGS TO LOVE:

Core Controls
The controls are very solid, and once you get over the small learning curve, they become second nature. Moving through the environment is fast and fluid, as are the AI orders, contextual commands, and use of environmental elements. Shooting feels like it should, with much better control than the first game, making this a joy to play.

Graphics
The engine got an overhaul, and while it's not as pretty as Modern Warfare 2, there's a lot going on in the environments and the detail on the characters is first-rate. Fire and partical effects are impressive, and some massive explosions are quite cool to see. Entire buildings get taken down a little unrealistically, but the rest is great.

Guns, Guns, Guns!
There are a lot more guns this time around, with a host of modification possibilities. The first game had some cool stuff, but the sequel just blows it away. Yes, I'd like an M4 with a 5X Scope, mounted shield, AK stock, and G3 barrel please. Yes, I'd like a home-made silencer. Sure, I'll mount a bayonette onto my LMG... and have it gold-plated just for fun. You can mix and match parts all over the place, and you can customize and modify your gear anytime you're not in combat. It's a fantastic system.

Hey, more Guns!
You can carry a primary, secondary, and sidearm. However, your enemies also drop weapons, and you can grab them and use them as well... without dropping your main kit. If you feel like snatching a shotgun from a fallen foe, using it to clear a room, and then tossing it aside in favour of your main kit, you can. You also can grab flamethrowers, gatling guns, and things like shields. I loved this system, and Rios' comments when he grabs a new toy mirrors my thoughts perfectly.

Boot to the Head
Melee combat is back as well, and has been really beefed up. You can charge and ram enemies, sending them flying (love it!). You can grab and use as a hostage or meat shield. You can run through with a bayonette. You can beat them down in several different ways.... it's all a hoot. It also serves practical purposes with not alerting other enemies as you clear a room like Sam Fisher.

Co-Op Options
Co-Op possibilities are also greatly expanded. You can mock surrender while a partner snipes. You can take down key targets together and make the rest surrender. You can play dead, and then spring up and attack from behind, while your partner draws their fire. There are many options here, making each situation quite replayable.

Friendly AI
I tend to play as Salem, and the AI controlled Rios on my first playthrough. Great job EA. He killed nearly as many enemies as I did on some stages (You watching this Bad Company!?), and only got hung up once during the entire game. He used cover, weapons, upgrades, co-op moves, and all else I could ask for, like an intelligent person. I could give simple and effective orders that fit my game plan, and trust they would be followed nearly-perfectly. The first game had good AI, this title has great AI. I never had to babysit, and he never felt like a liability. In fact, he saved my life far more times than I saved his.

Morality Choices
I really liked the inclusion of key morality decisions at certain parts of the game. Do you steal the guns and shoot the guard? Do you kill the unarmed traitor, or let her go? Do you shoot the endangered animal just because some idiot offers you money for that? These are made, and then an animated cinematic plays out, showing the possible consequences of your actions. These were fun, and the one at the end of the game is utterly brutal, and painful.

DLC
There are two additional missions available as DLC, just like the first game. However, these are by far the best and craziest missions in the entire game as well. I completely loved them. It's a total rush of insanity, with hordes of enemies and brutal challenges all the way through. Even on easy, I found certain parts very hard, but I've seldom had so much fun in a shooter. These are a must, if you get the game.

Extraction
It also has its own "Horde" mode, called Extraction. Fight off waves of foes as a team. It's a cool addition, but impossible to do solo. Bring a friend.

THINGS TO HATE:

Sound Control
There are no sound options in the game. You cannot adjust music volume vs speech volume, or anything of that sort. It's silly, and it's also very needed, as the music and effects make the speech almost impossible to hear.

Cinematic Downgrade
There are some neat cinematics in the game, featuing your character and all they are wearing and carrying. It's all done in-engine. However, the first game had some amazing CG sequenes that were worth watching 5-10 times over. This title has none of those, and it's sorely missed. I loved that stuff.

Rock, Paper, Scissors
In the downtime, you can play the classic game against your partner (or just smack him upside the head). Rios is a crap player. I kicked his ass almost every time... then kicked his ass. :-)

Final Choice
I can't believe you made me choose. You bastards.

OVERALL:

I loved this game. The more I played it, the more I liked it. I went back over several levels, just for kicks, and will certainly be playing through the whole game a few more times at least. The DLC is amazing, the customization a blast, and the AI is spectacular. Get this game.

9 / 10


 

Just Could Not Finish!!! - Games that defied completion

To set the stage, let me say that I take pride in completing games that I get. I think a game, like a movie, should be seen until the end credits. However, some games are either so hard, so terrible, or so dull that they simply will not allow completion... not unless you're willing to lose a part of your soul. Since I've had quite a few of those recently, I thought I'd list them, and give reasons why they could not be completed.


STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED

This started out really fun, even past the first level where you get to be Vader and have full powers. The couple levels after that were good. Lots of things to push around, some cool music, some interesting story. Things were looking ok. Enemies were a bit generic, and the levels a totally linear affair, but hey, it was fun. Then I hit the 4th level or so, and all the fun vanished.

Enemies, for some reason, became lightsaber-proof. Not just the bosses, but every storm trooper now had special shielding that made them invincible to the most powerful weapon in the Star Wars universe. Ape-like creatures could block your lightsaber with sticks. Really? Then they throw a few AT-ATs your way, and you can only defeat them by force throwing rocks at them.... and they shoot a lot... and you spend most of the time on your ass... or dead... on easy. Yeah, I'm done.


FUEL

I really wanted to totally love this game. Lots of off-road action, a massive word to explore, cool vehicles and customization. It's all there. And... for a while it was. I did love exploring the massive world and finding fuel barrels, despite the somewhat empty terrain. I liked the races. I liked the effects tossed in here and there. Yes, racing was a bit repetitive, but I don't mind that if it's fun.

And... then it all vanished. In order to unlock new areas, you need to win first place in every race. If you're second, you're nothing. Unfortunately, you need to place first on the hardest difficulty levels in order to see the entire game. And, the AI cheats like you would not believe. In a faster vehicle, with a massive lead, they somehow could still blow past you in the last 10 meters and win the race. Though a shrub may slow you down, they can blast up the side of a cliff without effort. You spin out around a corner, but they can take a perfect line as though they were one of those electric cars on rails at a theme park.

Basically, the only way you can win is to cheat as well. It was discovered that you could pick a vehicle of any class, despite the race type. That helped a bit, but not enough. I'm just not that good.... or that patient. After an 8-10 minute race and losing it by a few seconds because the AI decided to beat me by closing the 1000 meter gap in a few seconds, I'm done. I'm sure those other 10 areas of the game looked really nice, but I never got the chance to see them.


SPIDER-MAN: WEB OF SHADOWS

Man, this game nailed being Spider-Man. Web shooting around a massive city, fighting on ground, in the air, on buildings.... it all felt really good. A ton of cool moves, doubly so with both the black suit and red one, really kept combat fresh. There were lots of collectibles, ways to gain experience and unlock new moves, and an intersting premise. What could go wrong?

Well... lots. The problem with games like these, is that the developers think they have to make each new enounter somehow crazier than the last, or it's not fun. Well, about 1/2 way through, it got a bit much. I mean, 40 enemies all trying to kill you from ground, air, walls.... it's a little hard to keep track of, and it's not really fun. I stuck it through though, and it just kept going on and on and on. Boss fights dragged forever. There were now 80 enemies of all types trying to kill me... and I had found over 700 collectibles, and hadn't even hit the halfway mark yet (I found out that there are over 2000).

The crazier it got, the less fun it became. Eventually, it was just impossible to track (let alone beat) the countless dozens of things trying to kill me. The fun went, and so did I. Too bad, because that web swinging and early game were just awesome.


PRINCE OF PERSIA

I love the new art style, the controls, the premise, the AI helper and the combat. The game looks, moves, and sounds like a Triple-A title. Unfortunately, after about 3 hours, you've likely seen all the game has to offer. It's a lot of climbing, sliding, and leaping for little collectibles. It's a few sword fights tossed in, and some witty dialogue.... over and over and over and over again.

I just got bored silly. Moving on.


HALO WARS

I really liked the demo I played, so I thought I'd give the game a try. It had all the content it advertised, and the controls were really solid. Plus, it's Halo... which I love. As a bonus, the CG scenes between missions are simply amazing. Do a movie like this, and I'll be there on opening night. I kept playing for a while, just for those clips....

... But, I came to realize yet again, that I really don't like RTS games. It's just too far removed from the action, and it's basically a lot of resource managment and micro-management. Some people like that sort of thing, but it doesn't do much for me. I just realized I was forcing myself to play on, and that's kind of pointless. Moving on.


AFRO SAMURAI

First of all, I watched the series, got the DVD, and watched the second movie as well. I even got the soundtrack. I love the show, it's awesome. I don't like anime really at all, but this is great stuff.

The game, sadly isn't that great. It's a decent Ninja Gaiden knock-off, with some great music and voice work. It starts off pretty good. Combat is satisfying, and you can cut people in half from any angle you choose... always a bonus. Things are linear, and enemies are recycled over and over, but if the core gameplay is good, I don't really mind to be honest.

But... then it got really hard, and threw in all kinds of stupid puzzles and deadly exploding barrels that blocked your way, and enemies that picked you off from afar, and the fun just sort of died somewhere between restarting a section for my 30th time and my 40th. It became work, and I no longer cared about what lay ahead. Pack it up... move along.


FABLE II

I didn't like the original Fable much, but thought this would be better. It's got good combat, a really neat dog, and an interesting story. Since I loved Oblivion (over 100 hours invested) and Fallout 3 (almost 80 hours), a good action-based RPG is sure to please. However, only about 5 hours in, I was hating the game passionately. What happened?

It's that stupid and pointless "conversation" system. If I want to talk to someone, or get information, I don't want to have to guess whether to laugh, dance, fart, or seduce them. It's stupid, boring, pointless, and inept. The game also handles quests like crap, and I had no idea what I needed to do most of the time. So and so wouldn't give me a job because he didn't trust me yet. Great. Fine. But not a single clue what to do to impress the old bastard, and so you're stuck running around in circles, taking quests that are totally pointless (yes, I'd love to pose and flex for a painter), and the fun died faster than my love for the dog... which wouldn't stand still long enough for me to heal him. Moron pooch.

And... Peter Molyneux is a pompus jerkoff. I really hate listening to him. He's long-winded, pedantic, and far too full of himself. He's not creating these amazing and immersive experiences that will make gamers experience love for a character for the first time. He's making mediocre games that can't hold a candle to Bethesda's work. But... he's too busy preening to learn from others. Fable 3? Not even going to glance at it... not unless he puts in a real dialogue and quest system.


FAR CRY 2

Man, this one hurts a lot. It's got amazing tech. It has a great setting. It has a open world with a ton of ways to approach a mission. It's got vehicles. It's got amazing fire effects. It's got malaria (well, that one kinda sucked).

The big problem is the pacing. The developers say it's a 50-hour game. It is. What they don't tell you is that it's 40 hours of commuting, and 10 hours of actual gameplay... and I'm not exaggerating. The world is huge, and there's no fast travel. So, you have to dive for hours to get from the guy giving the mission, to the guy wanting your help to subvert it, to the the mission itself, back to the guy who gave it, back to the guy who can give you a new gun and ammo, back to the guy for a new mission, back to the guy wanting to subver that one too... arrggg!!! It's boring as heck!

Now, to excite things a bit, the developers give you constant encounters with roving patrols or outposts that try to kill you. It works like this:

You drive along. Someone notices you, decides to kill you (of course) and gives chase. You hop out of the driver's seat and into the turret. You shoot a lot at a bunch of guys and kill them all. But, your jeep is smoking and about to blow up. You jump out, use a simple wrench to fix the whole problem, drive on. About 2 minutes later, another group notices you and decides to kill you.... rinse and repeat a hundred times. I think that I killed half of South Africa during the commuting, and about 50 people in actual, interesting, missions.

Honestly guys, you never saw Oblivion or Fallout 3? It's a massive world too, but once you've been to a location, you can fast-travel there and skip the long walk or horse-ride, or whatever. Far Cry 2 has dozens of safe houses that you can unlock, and it's a natural fit for the same mechanic, but they totally ignore it. Did anyone testing the game internally never realize they just spent 7 out of 8 hours driving down dirt roads and fixing their car?

Bought it, traded it back in. So sad, because it had so much potential. I loved the original on PC, and the XBox version and 360 enhanced version I played through over 3 times. It's one of my all-time favourite games. This, sadly, is all flash and no substance.


CALL OF DUTY: WORLD AT WAR

Sucks in almost every way. AI, glitches, recycled missions, boring dialogue, and a tired WW2 setting. Why did I think it would be cool? Well, the trailers looked neat.... and it had co-op.

Treyarch, you suck.... although that James Bond game was really great. But, the Call of Duty franchise you mangle every time you touch it.


PURE

Cool ATV off-road racing. Looks great, handles quite well, and has an intersting career progression.

Problem is, I kinda sucked at this one. Not sure why, but I didn't do well, and I kept losing. It wasn't fun. The thing that made me give up so fast was the fact that there were no difficulty settings to change. It was just one level of challenge, and I guess if you're not that good then you don't get to play.... even if you paid your $60 (which I didn't thankfully).

Moving on back to PGR4 or DiRT... games that know how to challenge, but give some flexibility for skill levels as well.


ASSASSIN'S CREED

I think I just came to this game too late, and it was just too big to invest all the time in. Most people were done with it, it had been picked apart for technical issues and repetitive gameplay... and I never got into it like I wanted.

The core gameplay is good. The graphics are great. The character is interesting. Combat is really fun. Free running is handled extremely well..... and I'm not sure why I never invested the time to see it through. I've had it in my hands from used sections and bargain bins many times, but I know I'll never finish it.

I'm holding off until Assassin's Creed 2 comes out. It looks a lot better, with many of those issues cleaned up. That one I'll try to get into right away, and hopefully I'll love it.

There's nothing to really slam in this game. It's solid. But for some reason it just didn't click with me like it should have.