There are no diversions from the formula this time around, such as parachuting or driving. This is a blessing in many ways, as anyone who suffered through the previous game's hovercraft level will attest, but it also means there's nothing to break up the seemingly endless array of enclosed spaces dotted with convenient cover that you must advance through. With gimmicky locations (such as a zoo full of animal corpses) substituting for genuinely enervating combat situations it all settles into a rhythm more soporific than the bombastic presentation would suggest. Suppress. Flank. Eliminate. Rinse. Repeat. The aggro system makes the pattern mechanics easy to identify and follow, but it's not enough to mark Army of Two out from the dozens of other co-op titles that gamers can now choose from.
The game's two stars have also been neutered somewhat. Obviously stinging from jibes about the weird amoral hyper-violent homoeroticism of the original, EA Montreal has dialed down the fist-bumps and frat-boy whoops, but it's arguably an overreaction, stripping the game of its character. It may have been an obnoxious and very silly character, the sort of nihilistic cartoon that makes Bad Boys II look like Jane Austen, but it was the most memorable aspect of an otherwise-underfed third-person action template. By saddling its gleefully brutish protagonists with a flimsy conscience, and setting them in a story that requires them to stomp aimlessly from one side of Shanghai to the other rather than detonating stuff in the four corners of the world, The 40th Day makes surprisingly poor use of its most iconic assets.
So for all that has been improved since the underwhelming quite-goodness of the first game, there's still a perfunctory feeling when the end comes a second time around. A sense that, while diverting and sporadically entertaining, you could have made more memorable use of the time spent popping headshots into hundreds of identikit soldiers. It's a game that draws inspiration from many superior games, and then relies on game design that is never more than merely okay to make the comparison more favourable.
Multiplayer may yet prove its saving grace, of course. The servers were unavailable at the time of this review, so split-screen co-op was the only element that could be tested. The servers will be region-free this time around, so there will be more games to join, but it remains to be seen if the base-capture variant Control will be a worthy replacement for Bounty mode, and if the decision to turn Extraction into a long-haul survival mode (and one that is unlocked by a pre-order code, no less) will be enough to build up a worthwhile user-base.
There's little doubt that anyone who fell in love with the first game's slender charms will be enthused by the prospect of more of the same delivered with a higher degree of HD polish. With its A-list production still held back by B-list ambition, though, there's ultimately not enough of substance to lure players away from the multitude of other co-op gaming experiences for more than a few days.