2 Player Co-Op
While the boys at Ensemble studios couldn't tell me too much detail about the co-op mode, I did managed to pry some information about it out of them. They promised the mode wouldn't be tacked on and it would be tightly integrated into the game's experience.
Of course with any RTS on a console there's the ever bounding question...do the controls work? They do. There, I said it. No, wait...the controls REALLY work. It took me less than 5 minutes to understand the control concepts of Halo Wars and they are spot on. What Ensemble has done is taken away the need to point and select individual units, and instead utilized a quick trigger style system. Obviously you can still select a single group of units with the A button, or hold the A button down to paint select a group of units, but the real trick is using the trigger based system. Want to select all units on the entire map? Left Bumper. All units on the screen? Right Bumper. The real beauty comes in the sub select option that is available when you have more than one unit select, simply click the left or right trigger to cycle through individual groups and issue commands to a single group with an entire larger group selected. It just works. There's also a handful of hot keys to get to things like last notification, bases and point of action. We got to play a small 2 vs. 2 skirmish mission against the AI, and thanks to my masterful understanding of the battlefield quickly mopped up the enemy. I was particularly impressed with both the aerial bombardment and MAC cannon effects. Seriously folks, the controls work.
2 Player Co-Op
Peter Molyneaux let out a pseudo-bombshell at the Microsoft Press conference when he unveiled Fable 2's online co-op mode. The unique aspect of it displays orbs floating around your world that represent exactly where your friends are in the game that are currently playing. Simply walk up to an orb and invite a friend in, in a completely seamless experience.
During my hands on time with the game I've learned one thing, this is an open world game. It's not some linear adventure game, in fact, I dare say it's one of the most unique and in depth open world games to come around in quite some time. Not only can you buy and sell properties in the game, but you can affect the housing market and the economy of villages by doing certain things. You can also get one of many jobs in the game to earn money (bartender, woodsman, blacksmith, etc) as well as gamble in pub games (the ones coming to XBLA) to earn money. If all that wasn't enough there's an entire Sims like social interface throughout the game with every character. Besides the player character changing its appearance due to good and evil deeds, the character will also change based on his/her social status and financial status. There's simply too many small little details in this game to list in a one paragraph preview, but I will say that games combat is fairly simple, but it is satisfying, especially when you begin to combo the spells. Graphically the game looks gorgeous, and in the demo areas I played there was virtually no slowdown. According to Molyneaux the game is "done" so we can expect to see it sometime this October.