Game Name: Army of Two: The 40th Day
Co-Op Type/Multiplayer Type: Full “organic” campaign co-op; on-line and couch co-op
Publisher/Developer: Electronic Arts (publisher) / EA Montreal (developer)
Release Date: Jan. 12, 2010
Jim “txshurricane” McLaughlin and Jason “OrigamiPanther” Love had a chance yesterday to sit down with the folks from EA Montreal to not only get a hands-on preview of Army of Two: The 40th Day, but to talk with the game’s producer, Matt Turner, and get a few exclusive reveals. All of that and a few pictures from the event can be found after the break.
Interview with Army of Two: The 40th Day producer Matt Turner – Part I
Co-Optimus: Matt, thanks for inviting us to this event and showing us Army of Two: The 40th Day. First question, why co-op?
Matt Turner: Because co-op is awesome, man! (laughs) It offers a whole new level to the game where it’s not just about you beating the game and going through and killing enemies. It’s also about the relationship between you and your buddy on the couch or over Xbox Live talking and having to work together. That’s what co-op is. Co-op isn’t about the characters interacting on the screen; it’s you and I playing on the couch or Xbox Live talking about stuff, engaging in dialogue, and working as a team to figure stuff out. That’s what real co-op is.
Co-Optimus: We don’t think we could have defined it better ourselves. So what’s progressed from Army of Two, the first game, and Army of Two: The 40th day?
Matt: A lot. With the first game we had a lot of successes, and a few that we missed the mark with. So we took that base of really successful features from the first one and built on those to make them deeper and more robust to have the kind of polish you’d expect from a AAA shooter. With those features that we missed the mark with a little bit, we took that feedback to heart; the criticism we got from the community and reviewers we qualified, quantified, and then reacted on it and to try and fix those issues.
Co-Optimus: So what’s the biggest change?
Matt: One of the biggest changes, well, not changes but “evolution” is a better word for it, is this idea of “organic co-op”. In the first game, the co-op ended up being a little more scripted, so there’d be a step-jump here, a back-to-back moment there. With the 40th Day, we’re providing players with a suite of moves that they can do wherever they want thorough the world and execute how they want to represent themselves in the world that we’re calling “the co-op playbook.”
Co-op fist bump in action.
Co-Optimus: We’re fond of adding “co-op” to the titles of things (see the Co-Opticast) and that sounds like a great application of it. What is the co-op playbook?
Matt: It’s this suite of moves, such as taking enemies hostage and co-op sniping, that you can use whenever or wherever you want within the world to represent yourselves within the space as the bad guys who kill everybody, or the good guys that try to spare as many as possible. We wanted to put that kind of choice into the hands of the players.
Co-Optimus: Sounds like fun. What else has changed?
Matt: We got a lot of criticism in the first one for our environments being too static; they were really beautiful but nothing really moved or felt alive in them. So our art team worked really, really hard on increasing the particle effects with things like the smoke you see after an explosion, or sweat dripping on [Salem’s and Rios’] arms; you know, really adds to the overall feeling of the world that [these characters] are in Shanghai, it’s hot and dirty, and it’s in the process of being destroyed.
Lions, tigers, and dead elephants... oh my!
Co-Optimus: In regards to the “organic co-op”, what is it that you specifically learned from the first game that helped shape its development for this game?
Matt: It was a matter of designing the [enemy] encounters to a point that made them more open to that kind of freedom for the players. Obviously, in certain circumstances there are moves that are much better suited to use [in that situation] and if use a particular move you’ll probably have higher success rate, but you can still use the other ones if you want. But we also placed incentives into certain areas to do certain moves to encourage players to use the co-op playbook more instead of just running and gunning. You can still “run and gun” the entire game if you want to, but there are certain places in the game where if you do the hostage grab properly, or the co-op snipe properly, you’ll get a reward for it. So you can do that and use the moves where they have to be used, or you can be crazy and do whatever you want but you may not be rewarded like you would otherwise.
Co-Optimus: What kind of rewards?
Matt: There are certain parts of the game where if you execute something in a certain way, you get a gun, for example. You kill an enemy, you get their gun and you can only get it there; no where else. We wanted to offer the kind of re-playability to the players that would allow them to play however they want one way, get rewarded for it, and then play through an entirely different way and get rewarded for that, too.
Matt spent quite a bit of time talking with us about Army of Two: The 40th Day, including giving us some details about a morality system that will be in place throughout the game, but we’re quickly running out of space here and we haven’t any provided our impressions of the game. However, we will be posting the rest of that interview early next week, so check back here to hear more about the 40th Day.
Army of Two: The 40th Day - Hands on Impressions from Jim McLaughlin
Yeah... we want one.
Jason and I met face-to-face for the first time yesterday. We shook hands, greeted each other, and proceeded to get our grubby hands on Army of Two: The 40th Day, which we both agreed was impressive and a lot of fun for the short time we played.
The first feature that we explored was the gun customization. In all honesty, I was worried at first. Customization was something that was supposed to be featured heavily in the first Army of Two, but was ultimately a bit lackluster for a game centered on two men and their guns. This time around, however, there is a ton of more options for each component of your favorite gun, both visual and practical. We were told that 21 different skins exist currently, ranging from zebra patterns to various types of camouflage; and yes, just as in the first game, you can “bling” your gun again. Aside from being able to the look of the gun from an aesthetic perspective, players will also be able to swap out barrels, suppressors, stocks, mags, scopes, and forward grips. The level of customization has definitely been expounded upon and all of these changes have an affect on the weapon. Add a scope, a long-range barrel, and a long-range magazine to the gun, and you've got a decent sniper weapon; swap those out for a laser sight, a squatter barrel and a magazine with a little more kick, and you've got a deadly close-range gun. The developers at EA Montreal wanted the co-op aspect of the game to extend beyond just the gameplay, and it shows. Both players will need to coordinate the kinds of guns that they're using so they can be effective and ready to face any threat.
It's not about the size of the gun, it's how you customize it.
Matt Turner, the producer for 40th Day, revealed to us that some of the weapon parts can be scavenged in the world from enemies, lockers, etc., but some are only accessible based on the choices players make. Throughout the course of the game, players will be faced with a myriad of morality decisions, from choosing whether or not to rescue a group of hostages, to showing mercy to your defeated foes. These choices will affect what gun components may or may not be unlocked, but don't worry. Anything you unlock in one playthrough of the game will be made available in subsequent playthroughs. Matt also hinted at how some of the tactics that you choose to use in certain situations can unlock parts and guns. If you do it right, you can score things like a rusty homemade stock or a Coke can suppressor, which have their own benefits, such as improved handling (less weight).
Jason’s comment overall was that the game handled like Gears of War, which is pretty accurate. The camera positioning, the controls…all of it has a familiar feel when compared to other third-person stop-and-pop shooters. The aggro system is still here, and functions just as well as it did in the first game; unfortunately, the particular level we played didn’t involve too much stealth, so we didn’t test out the aggro too rigorously. We did, however, put the cover mechanics through their paces, which have undergone some improvements since the first game. The cover system can best be described as "smart sticky"; move up to a corner and your character will automatically lean into it and stick to the wall. Move away from the wall even slightly and your character will move away without feeling like you're tugging them off of a glue-covered surface. We were also surprised at just how many objects could be used as cover. The demo level was a demolished zoo – dead animals and all – and at one point I took cover behind a hippo carcass. What made this moment even funnier was when Jason suddenly vaulted past me and did a Dukes-of-Hazzard hood slide across the dead hippo.
We can't show the system, but imagine Salem and Rios decked out with hearts.
We were also treated to a preview of a new feature that was revealed for the first time here at PAX. In addition to being able to customize and create your own gun, 40th Day will provide players the opportunity to create their own mask and armor designs through the Army of Two: 40th Day website. Players familiar with Skate 2 will recognize the system they're putting into place as it uses much of the same mechanics with just a few improvements. We can't say much more, but we were told that the system would go live before the game does and that anything you create will be available when the game launches.
In closing, we'd like to thank the folks at EA Montreal once again for giving us a chance to get more hands-on with the game before it hit the show floor today. We were told throughout the session yesterday that the game is a huge departure from the first in terms of features and polish, and while that's certainly true, there are two things in particular that excited us: the controls and the co-op gameplay. They're both there, they both have been improved, and we like it!