Before heading up to Montreal for the Army of Two: The 40th Day event, we made a post on our boards asking for any questions our community might have for the game’s developers. Today, we provide the answers to those questions that didn’t quite fit into our interview with Eric Chartrand or weren’t covered by our impressions of the Extraction and multiplayer modes.
Q: Since the "boss" enemies have been removed (that's still the case right?), what can we expect for more intense segments of the game?
A: I had a partial answer to this particular question based on what we played at PAX, but got the full details at this event. Spenser Norrish, the Army of Two: The 40th Day Community Coordinator, told me that there are no “boss” type enemies per se, however, the bigger, badder enemies (such as the grenade launcher guy) that you encounter do fill the spot of the bosses. These encounters really depend on solid teamwork between players as many of them have some kind of trick for players to work out of how to beat them. Spenser also informed me that as the game progresses, you encounter these enemies on a more regular basis, leading to some pretty intense battles for Salem and Rios.
Q: Far too often, your partner is just another gun in co-op games; I'd like to see more in terms of co-op strategy and maybe even solving puzzles. What types of true co-op challenges are in the game?
A: While there isn’t any co-op puzzle solving in The 40th Day, there is a lot of co-op strategy. The big, bad enemies you come across are just one example. At the event we played a never-before-demoed level that I can't quite talk about in full detail just yet; however, I can say that this level required a lot of strategizing between my co-op partner and myself. When we played this level for the first time, my partner and I died fairly quickly as we tried bringing down one of those big, bad enemies in a straight on hail of bullets. He just shrugged them off and calmly went after one of us, then the other. The second time we played it, we used the aggro meter to our advantage. One of us got his attention and distracted him while the other shot him in the back. We almost had him down when enemies we hadn’t even noticed before started shooting us in the back. As Jim and I mentioned in our preview from PAX, the enemies in this game do have a bit more intelligence and will seize upon any open opportunity to take you down. From what I’ve played thus far, EA Montreal has done a pretty good job of creating a co-op, shooter game that relies upon communication, teamwork, and strategy to overcome foes, rather than just having your partner bring more guns to bear in a fight.
Q: Will there be any language filter options?
A: I checked the in-game options and later confirmed with Spenser. No, there will be no language/blood filters in the game. Based on what I’ve played thus far, which I’ll grant you has only been a couple of levels, Salem and Rios seem to be a little more controlled with their language this time around. Which isn’t to say that they don’t curse, but they seem to do so with less frequency.
Q: Are we able to ask about general length?
A: Yes! Boy, that was an easy one to answer…
Sadly, the weapon customization in the campaign doesn't make its way into the multiplayer
Ok, ok, I know what you were really getting at with that. Spenser told me that the average campaign play through it all depends on how you and your co-op partner approach combat situations, the difficulty level you play on (which can be different for each player), how much “running-and-gunning” you do, and the choices you make. If you take your time and plan out how you'll approach each situation, it sounds like a complete run through the game can be between 8 to 10 hours, but again, it's all dependent on players' play style/skill level.
Q: Any kind of incentive to keep people playing?
A: A lot of the incentives come from the gun collection/customization and the different moral choices players can make. In one play through of the game, players will not be able to see all of the different outcomes of the choices they make, and will not be able to collect all of the different guns/parts that they can use to create their own arsenal of death and destruction. I asked Spenser this question during the event and he told me he’s played through the game twice now, and played through some individual chapters/sections of the game multiple times just to see what happens when you make different choices, either morally or tactically (i.e., try flanking the enemy instead of facing them head on). EA Montreal is hoping that those mechanics will add some incentive, aside from the “fun games are fun to play” factor that’s its own incentive, to the game that encourages players to play through it multiple times.
Fake surrendering can be a useful tactic. If you shoot first, however, don't expect the enemy to be fooled by it
Q: I'd like to know more about the co-op playbook. What kind of tools do we have? What kind of interaction? How can we support each other without having to engage some 'move' from the playbook?
A: As Eric mentioned in the interview, the co-op playbook is really set-up as a tool to help get the strategizing/dialogue going between players (or between a player and the A.I.) by showing them what their options are in a given scenario. For players that go through the game co-operatively, it acts as a kind of reminder system that “hey, you can fake surrender in this situation if you want.” For players that go through the game solo and rely upon the A.I. to control their partner, it helps you direct/control the A.I.’s actions. You can issue commands, such as flank these enemies, or take a sniping position, to the A.I., and then reinforce that behavior through high fives, fist bumps, chest bumps, etc. (which you initiate by pressing A on the 360 or X on the PS3 controllers when you’re next to your partner out of combat). Conversely, you can also hit/shove your buddy to indicate that he did something wrong by pressing B or the circle button. Depending on which of these actions you take, you either increase or decrease your camaraderie, however, it’s unclear what kind of impact that has on the game, and the folks from EA Montreal that were at the event weren’t saying just yet.
Q: How much freedom is there in combat situations outside of the co-op playbook (ie. surrendering) and more about tactical options like getting different points of view, explosive barrels, and flanking?
A: There was a question asked about what changed with the environments in this game to “breath more depth into the gameplay” that was asked as well, and the answer I got answers both of these so forgive me for condensing. Essentially, there are often multiple paths that players can take in a given campaign level (although all roads do lead to Rome/the same place, ultimately), and many of the areas where you encounter enemies are open-spaces that allow players to use whatever tactics they choose. Maybe one player attracts all of the attention while the other tries to sneak around behind the enemies to catch them in crossfire. Maybe one player takes an enemy hostage to lure the enemies closer to an explosive barrel that the second barrel explodes with a well-aimed sniper shot. There definitely are a few tactical options available to players outside of the co-op playbook, and it’s up to the players to work out amongst themselves how they want to approach a situation. The GPS system can be used to help scout ahead somewhat to see enemy positions and do some planning.
It's a sneaking mission, if that's how you decide to play it
Q: There's been talk of rewards and that's always great, but what if my co-op partner isn't very cooperatively. In the first game, I had a human partner run off by himself and shout at me to get over there when he inevitably got shot down. Are there penalties for players that put themselves over their partner?
A: A swift death for you both is the answer I got. There are rewards, but no set penalties for players that seem to miss the idea behind co-op gameplay. For the multiplayer mode, Eric told me while there’s a lot in place to encourage players to play together, but they still wanted to keep it open to allow players the freedom to play the game how they chose to play it. While this doesn’t always result in an ideal situation for both players, going a slightly more Draconian route results in the same dissatisfaction for at least one of the players.
Q: Considering the missions in the first game were years apart from each other, how will condensing the story to Shanghai provide better character progression that really makes them characters worth caring about and not just avatars of destruction?
A: Spenser told me that the first game was a little more focused on where Salem and Rios were going and what they were doing than it was about them as characters. That’s changed with the second game and the story has been designed to really focus on them and what they have to do to survive. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that the intro to the game certainly presents them as being a little more vulnerable than we’ve seen them before, and certain other scenes has them flat-out clueless about what to do, so I think EA Montreal has taken steps to create some genuine characters this time around.
Thanks again to you all for the great questions, and hopefully that answers all of them! I was overwhelmed by the response we got to the forum post and the folks from EA were impressed with many of the questions that you all had for them. Our coverage from the Army of Two: The 40th Day Community Event wraps up tomorrow with some hands-on impressions of the PSP title. Before that, though, I have a question for you all: did you ever have a chance to check out The Red Star?