Playing videogames with friends is fun. So, it’s only natural that more videogame developers would attempt to capitalize on the cooperative shooter market and create games that appeal to our innate desire to wade through bloody campaigns with our comrades. Army of Two attempted as much last year, delivering a competent experience if you had a friend in tow, but leaving us wanting more. The upcoming sequel, Army of Two: The 40th Day, puts a larger focus on cooperative play and teamwork, dropping a pair of players into a war-torn Shanghai in the genre-standard fight for survival. I recently saw a build of the game in action on the Xbox 360. The 40th Day is a third-person, cover-based shooter in the style of Gears of War. The story is largely a mystery — literally. On the scene in Shanghai, mercenaries Rico and Salem are pitted against a heavily armed fighting force, after a mysterious, unexplained catastrophe levels much of the city. While I wasn’t entirely sure what they were fighting for, the game is impressive to see in action. Subtle details abound — debris whipping about convincingly in the wind, or fresh corpses leaving clues to the tragedies that have just unfolded. All of the characters’ gear is fully rendered, and physics are applied independently, so the weapons and equipment they’re carrying will flop about realistically as they jog through the streets. Graphical finesse goes a long way toward aiding with immersion, but the "organic" nature of the experience is largely tied to improving on game mechanics. The 40th Day takes a fluid approach to cover, reminiscent of Killzone 2. Run up to an object, and your character will automatically slide down in a defensive position, or vault over it if you’d like to keep moving. While I didn’t get to play the demo myself, I was told that making the experience less button-centric will eliminate the start-and-stop approach to combat that Gears has popularized. The 40th Day maintains a cooperative focus, though the action has been a refined. The original Army of Two offered a hefty list of co-op abilities, but so many different moves forced the developer to tack on situations that only served to justify the inclusion of said moves. The sequel will place greater emphasis on using your co-op "playbook" effectively. In one example, Rico and Salem stumble across a group of civilians who are about to be executed by two soldiers, with their commander looking on. One player could sneak up behind the commander, causing the subordinate soldiers to panic and surrender: holding your targeting reticule over a target will offer information on their rank, and allow you to issue commands to your computer-controlled partner, or highlight enemies for a friend. If you’re feeling a bit more devious, you can initiate a mock surrender. Walk up to a group of enemies and toss down your (visible) weapons, and they’ll try to constrain you and figure out who you are. Once they’re suitably distracted, your partner lurking in the shadows can fire upon them while you pull out your hidden sidearm. The 40th Day features a revamped version of Army of Two’s "aggro" mechanic. The enemies will focus on the most prominent character. Taking a commander hostage, or offering yourself up as bait, will direct their attention toward you, leaving a friend with some room to maneuver. If you’d rather not bother with all of this planning and coordination, you can simply fire on the soldiers, who will take the civilians as hostages or just use them as meat shields. Ultimately, you’ll be rewarded and punished for the actions you take, but I was told that there isn’t a right or wrong way to approach a particular situation. The 40th Day won’t hit store shelves until this winter, and while I didn’t see much content beyond a few generic war-ravaged alleyways and city blocks, the gameplay offerings are shaping up rather nicely — particularly for those who enjoy doing things in pairs.