Sporting bad tattoos, skull helmets, and jag-off names, Tyson and Salem return as mercenaries for hire in what could be the most unwanted, unnecessary sequel in gaming history. Once you’ve selected which of the two steroid-infused jerks to play, they exchange a high-five, then turn toward you and coil themselves like a pair of frat boys about to leap onto a keg of beer or your daughter.
The sequel is set in a bombed-out modern-day Shanghai. Like the original 2008 game, The 40th Day aspires to be the consummate cooperative experience. (Unfortunately for EA, Valve’s Left 4 Dead has a lock on that title.) Playing the game solo is possible, but not ideal. No matter what order you give your computer-controlled partner—Regroup, Advance, or Hold Position—unless you micromanage him, he’ll almost always stay within a 3-foot radius of you.
This is a handicap, since success in the game usually requires one player to become a human nuisance by firing like a maniac on a gaggle of enemies—“generating Aggro”—while the second player, undetected, creeps around to get the drop on them. In theory, this dynamic sounds interesting. But firefights, even when two humans are playing, rarely ever play out so cleanly. Once the bullets begin to fly, whatever strategy you’d planned goes straight out the window.
Things get more interesting when the game tosses moral choices your way: After a fellow mercenary helps you navigate Shanghai’s back alleys, you quietly get an order from HQ to kill that merc. What to do? Press the A button, and Tyson and Salem will leap on him like he’s a keg of beer or your daughter. Press the B button, and they’ll spare his life.
Unless you’re one of those sociopaths who enjoys mowing down pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto games, these choices are painfully obvious. Yet these moments, and not the dull firefights, are the most memorable things about The 40th Day. They stir the mind and wake players, if only briefly, from what otherwise is a banal, trigger-happy, brain-deadening experience.