Version tested: PlayStation 3
One of the pleasures of reviewing downloadable content is that the game itself is a known quantity. With no need to spend time on important, but not particularly interesting, nuts-and-bolts elements such as graphics and control, we're free to consider the game as an experience and as a narrative.
Sadly, for Army of Two, that doesn't work in the game's best interests. Two new campaign missions await in this rather pricey bonus chunk, but since few players will be hungry for more of the game's underfed story, it can only fall back on gameplay mechanics that were only adequate first time around.
Unlike the original game, which offered a cut-and-dried alternate ending for your download pleasure, these levels occupy a strange and confusing place in the story, with characters killed at the end of the game now brought back to life, and objectives once completed still to be tackled. They're classed as Chapters 8 and 9, and take up residence at the end of the level select menu, yet seem to take place somewhere between the hospital stage (Chapter 4) and the shopping mall (Chapter 5).
There's nothing in-game or in the pre-download text to explain what the heck is going on. This is crude, cut-and-paste storytelling, not helped by the fact that the story was hardly streamlined to begin with, and for those who care about such fanciful notions as context and purpose it makes for an annoyingly fragmented re-introduction to the world of Salem and Rios.
If you've come solely for the action, things are on a firmer footing - although not by much. There are no new co-op moves, and no new weapons or enemies, but you do get lots and lots of enemies to kill. Played on normal difficulty you're looking at around 90 minutes to blaze through these new missions, and if anything they're even more ferocious than the existing stages: the body count for a normal run through Chapter 9 stands at over 400.
Sadly, the same dearth of imagination that ensured the full game never became more than "quite good" eats away at the design and pacing here, with little inspiration in the locations or what happens within them. Tromp down the corridor. Dive into cover. Distract. Flank. Snipe. It's literally more of the same, which would be fine for a game that had already proved its worth, but for a rough diamond like The 40th Day you'd be forgiven for wanting a little more polish after the fact.
Unforgivably, these missions don't even offer many memorable set pieces. Only one shoot-out, halfway through Chapter 8, gets the pulse racing. Taking place in a large open courtyard, it offers a thrilling array of tactical opportunities, menacing you from all sides and requiring focused co-operative play to survive.
That's the exception, however, and too much of your time elsewhere will be spent blithely picking off enemies streaming from one easily-covered entry point. At some points I was simply able to stay in cover, aiming in the same spot, and blind-fire my way through dozens of enemies, none of whom thought better of running straight into my bullets. When there were no more grunts to kill the floor was piled with bodies, ammo and cash, all earned with virtually no effort.
Given that you're using the powered-up weapons from the main game, it's just not enough to provide a meaningful challenge. It's only by spamming you with flame-thrower or Gatling gun heavies that the chapters manage to elevate their threat level, but anyone who has completed the main story should have no trouble dealing with such familiar foes. According to my statistics I was able to defeat one such mini-boss in less than ten seconds, which is hardly enough to lure most experienced players back after three months away.
If the Chapters of Deceit offers anything, it's easy rewards. Generous Achievements and Trophies are showered over you during these brief incursions, unlike the tight-fisted main game which grudgingly doled out trinkets throughout its campaign. In fact, it's entirely possible to increase your Gamerscore (or PS3 equivalent) by more in these few hours than during your entire playthrough of the main story.
That is, if they actually work. From launch, both Achievements and Trophies have reportedly been glitched for this DLC, refusing to unlock if the player has earned any multiplayer awards. In other words, if you've got six of the eight online Achievements from the full game, six of the eight new Achievements won't work. You'd expect such an oversight to be quickly rectified, of course, but at the time of writing it's apparently still a problem. Something to bear in mind if such things are important to you.
Technically and thematically, Chapters of Deceit feels half-cocked, deleted scenes that were left out for a reason. The story is crudely jammed into an already meandering narrative, making it hard to care about why anything is happening and rendering the destructive conclusion to Chapter 9 more than a little tasteless. Nor is anything of value added to the combat, beyond rote repetition, and it has even taken steps backwards, frequently ignoring the sprawling tactical options fans will expect in favour of dim-witted shooting galleries populated by moronic cannon fodder.
At 800 Microsoft Points for 360 owners, and £6.29 or €7.99 for the PS3 crowd, there's just not much of substance in return for your virtual money. Two additional levels, neither of which make good use of the game's solid co-op skills, may be enough to warrant a "go on then" impulse buy from those fully invested in Rios and Salem's adventures but, like its glistening heroes, this add-on offers more bulk than brains.
5 / 10