Army of Two: The 40th Day PSP Preview: A Fixed PerspectiveS

I missed the first 39 days of whatever this game is talking about, but the 40th day is pretty exciting. Stuff explodes, people shoot at me and I have a dude to boss around.

It's like one-third of my life in Oakland, California.

But enough about me, let's talk about how to get a third person shooter onto a handheld when you've got a second shooter that needs screen space and controls, too.

What Is It?
Army of Two: The 40th Day on PSP is almost the same as its console counterpart with two major exceptions. First, it has a cartoony look for both the character models in the talking heads expository cut scenes. Second, the camera stays in a fixed overhead perspective that's almost top-down. Everything else, though – setting, story, secondary character that needs ordering around – is the same.

What We Saw
I played a demo level set on a wrecked city street and spent a tiny bit of time in an office building level that was demoed on consoles some months ago.

How Far Along Is It?
The game is set to release January 12, same as the console game release. The build did look very early-days, though.

Army of Two: The 40th Day PSP Preview: A Fixed PerspectiveS

What Needs Improvement?
Directional Shooting: The face buttons on the PSP control which direction you shoot in while the D-pad controls your teammate. If you want to shoot on a diagonal line, you have to press two buttons at once. At first I thought this was sort of cool, but after playing for about ten minutes, I started to hate it. Too often, I'd find myself mashing the X button by force of habit when I needed to be hitting a combination of Triangle and Square to shoot on a diagonal.

Get Over Here! I kept losing my teammate. I'd set him to Aggro on a mini-boss encounter by pressing up on the D-pad and he'd just stay there long after the guy was dead and I'd issued the Aggressive command with left of the D-pad and started walking toward the next mob. The camera stays fixed on my character, so I didn't even realize he was just hanging out somewhere off camera until after I'd been shot up by the mob I was fighting alone. By myself. Without half my army of two.

What Should Stay The Same?
Aggro System Is Preserved: It's very handy to have a button you can press to make your partner the center of all the gun-toting attention. I'm glad they preserved this mechanic for the PSP game. Even better, I find that the fixed camera angle actually works well with the Aggro system, making it a simple thing to maneuver your buddy into a prime location and then slip around obstacles to shoot at the heavy enemies from behind.

Weapons System Could Be Cool: Army of Two is supposed to have a very intricate weapons system that drives character progression. You meet the weapons dealer at the beginning and middle of levels, using cash earned through killing enemies to buy weapons or upgrades. This system has been preserved on PSP and even though there's still some difficulty balancing to be done, I was pretty happy with the shotgun-ish weapon I used to defeat the heavy enemies. Not a bad way to handle character progression.

Final Thoughts
You can take it or leave when it comes to the fixed camera angle and the cartoony visuals for the character designs. I'm happy to leave it because you really can't have a one-to-one port of a game from a PlayStation 3 to a PSP. Better instead to work with what the handheld can do – and what it does in 40th Day, I'm pretty happy with.