By the time you read this, EA's Army of Two should be on store shelves. The game is an ambitious title that focuses strongly on 2 player co-operative play. We were lucky enough to ask the game's assistant producer, Matt Turner, a few questions about their new action game. As you can probably guess, we wanted to know all about the cooperative play.
What influenced the game to be designed from the ground up around a cooperative experience?
A lot of things. We wanted to make a shooter. And in order to have any success in the crowded shooter market with a new IP we had to have something new and different. We had all played lots of games that had COOP options or features but we thought it would be cool to make a game that is based on coop entirely. Where coop wasn’t the feature, it was the game. We took our inspiration from classic games like Contra and Double Dragon. Those were the first games to really explore the coop idea and they were a lot of fun to play. We also took a little inspiration from counterstrike.
What do you think is the biggest influence in the resurgence of co-op gaming?
I would have to say the advent of on-line console gaming and its increasing accessibility and versatility. It brings COOP to a whole new level. It makes it easier because you no longer have to be in the same room and it makes it more fun as you have your whole screen…you don’t have to share a split screen, which in comparison, is far worse.
Does designing a game for 2 players at the same time require a different thought/design process? Does it complicate things?
Absolutely. We had to overcome a whole set of problems that single player games don’t have. First and foremost: progression. At any time the 2 players can be anywhere in a map. You have to design the levels so that they naturally guide both players to the same place eventually as well as stoppers that will force one player to wait for the other if he gets too far ahead. We didn’t want to use the classic teleportation fix for these problems because we felt it really didn’t fit in our game. So we put the ball in the hands of our level designers and they hit it out of the ballpark.
It was also a great challenge to balance the game with regards to enemies and AI. In a single player game the enemies are always facing one hero and it’s much easier to manage. In our case we had to design the AI so that it could react to 2 heroes that could come from any direction.
From the previews I've read, Army of Two will feature special moves that you can complete with your partner ("Man Train", etc), are all these moves available from the get go or do they need to be unlocked?
Hahahaha. Huh, I am not familiar with our ‘man train’ move but we do have other ones and no, they don’t need to be unlocked. The first map is kind of an ongoing tutorial where you play the game as well as learn the capabilities of your characters. You can do any of the moves whenever you want or get a chance.
We've seen that the story contains 6 missions, what kind of re-playability will these missions have?
They are going to have quite a lot of re-playability for a lot of reasons. First, the aggro system allows the players to choose how they are going to move through the levels and how they want to defeat the enemies. So once a player has done it one way there are any number of different ways they can go back and do it again. Next the weapons; players are not only going to want to get all the weapons but try them out in different combinations with different upgrades. Next, the COOP; the game experience changes depending on your partner and his style of play. People will want to play with different partners and different arsenals. It’s also really fun to tear up the bad guys and people will get a certain amount of satisfaction from ripping up baddies over and over again.
Is the gaming going to feature any online leader boards to find the best duo?
Not right now. For now we’re focused around finding the best players.
Any plans for DLC?
I can’t go into much detail but we are planning to bring the thunder with our DLC after launch. We have some wicked stuff on deck and we are pretty excited about it.
Finally, what is your favorite feature and/or moment in the game?
Huh. Favorite feature: Aggro system. It’s really fun to play with. Favorite moment? Escaping the Aircraft Carrier…I won’t ruin it for those that haven’t played but it’s- awesome.