Overall, EA's policy for The 40th Day is very much to finely hone a handful of co-operative moves, new and old, rather than make the previous mistake of throwing in any number of cool-sounding manoeuvres that aren't much fun and that you won't use more than once. Another interesting new ploy, for example, is having one of you perform a mock surrender - bamboozling the enemy with your lack of gunplay - while the other hangs back and uses the distraction to your mutual advantage.
Should you want to play through the game without human interaction, meanwhile, the AI companion is now notably more aware of his surroundings - taking cover and moving more realistically as you bark advance, hold and regroup commands at him. The terrorist types have changed a little too. Rather than rampaging bullet-fodder, they now have an inert state in which they'll wander about the place and round up any civilians they come across. This provides for various stealth possibilities, in which your gruesome twosome come across hostage situations that you can either plough into or thoughtfully and tactically resolve. You see, as is the EA Montreal mantra on this one, it's all about choice.
"We want to come back to this idea of choice," says Schneider (see!). "Are you the sort of player who goes in and doesn't care about all the civilians in the world - and just kills all of them, or lets the enemy NPCs kill them? Are you the sort of player who tries to save all the civilians in the game? Are you the sort of player who kills all the enemy AI, then frees the civilians only then to kill them? What kind of a player are you? It all comes back to this idea of choice." So the choice is that you either kill them, or don't? Our survey said: Hmm.
Nevertheless intriguing developmental twists and nudges are afoot. Another criticism levelled at Army of Two was its static world, so alongside the dust, gusting wind and physics objects comes the ability to shoot through wood bodies and crumbling brickwork. So far, so every other game, but this will also give access to a co-op snipe move. Say two terrorists have kneeling hostages at gunpoint, and they're standing behind boarded-up windows. You'll be alerted to something going on in their room, so if one of you sets up a sniping position then the other can sneak to another window to see where they're all standing - which will then flash up as yellow blobs on the sniper's screen, in a fashion similar to the Rainbow Six: Vegas games. Two plywood-splintering gunshots later, plus two dead ne'er-do-wells, and you've got two thankful civilians that you can choose whether or not to murder.
Finally, yes, those familiar Army of Two masks will be making a return; first created, incidentally, as a memorable visual device for the game by the same bloke who came up with Sam Fisher and his iconic green-light goggles. To avoid the same sort of emotional distance that plagued the first game (and causes problems in a lot of masked superhero movies when you look at, say, the last third of Iron Man) the pair will now raise their masks when there aren't enemies around, just to remind you that they are in fact human and not a pair of skull-faced murderous robots. Which is nice of them, if a little naïve, sniper-wise.
As for what The 40th Day is supposed to mean - well that, and the release date, is still under wraps. It sounds a bit religious though, doesn't it? Perhaps it's a reference to when Jesus was out in the desert and had to choose between rejecting the devil, embracing the devil or to rejecting the devil and then potentially embracing him later on. Who can say? Remember: choice.
Army of Two: The 40th Day is due out for PS3, Xbox 360 and PSP this winter. Hoo-ah, we expect.