Army of Two Interview
7th Feb 2008 | 12:01
We were almost afraid to mention Gears of War through fear of being thrown through a giant window from the top floor of EA's plush Chertsey office. But we did and everything was okay.
EA Montreal's Matt Turner, assistant producer on Army of Two, was a nice bloke and didn't try even once to punch us when we mentioned Epic's 360 shooter and the obvious similarities.
Army of Two was planned for a 2007 release, but was delayed to allow for some extra polish. Now it's just about done and is set for a March release. Perfect time to catch up Turner for a chat. And how it'll sit alongside Epic's creation.
Army of Two has a very gritty, realistic visual style but it's nothing like a sim. What sort of feel were you going for?
Matt Turner: We wanted to have the familiarity of real life to it, with the environments, the realism of the characters you're fighting. But we also wanted to balance that out and give the player the feeling of being in an army of two.
To give players that feeling of being the most elite soldiers there have ever been, and playing with these guys had to be a lot of fun. It was a tough balance, sometimes it feeling to unrealistic and other times it not feeling real enough.
Did any aspect of Gear of War influence you?
Turner: Constantly, we had to be aware of it every day because we knew the comparisons would be there. We tackled the same problems in different and new ways. That was the basis for us - we wanted to do it well, but also different from Gears of War.
How do you deal with being compared to a game that set the standard?
Turner: It's not a worry, but it's definitely an issue that we addressed and that we were aware of when making the game. We're not worried about it because we think our game is different enough and it will attract Gears of War players - ones who like that style of game.
The game looks quite forgiving in terms of difficulty. Was this intentional, to make it more forgiving than Gears?
Turner: The game was set to easy mode for the demonstration, so you can take a lot of punishment.
When we focused on the difficulty we didn't compare it to other games. We did focus testing and found that happy medium where players were satisfied and able to progress the way we wanted them to.
And players can effect the difficulty of the game for themselves by being able to customise their own weapons, right?
Turner: All the weapons in the game are available from the start, you just don't have the money to buy them. They're all based on existing weapons, but you can fully upgrade and customise them to the way you want them to be.
You can add bigger barrels for more power, or enhance their accuracy, increase their ammo. You can also pimp them out, so you can cover them in gold or silver, which affects your aggro levels. All changes have an effect in the game, and you're eventually able to get hold of some super powerful rifles.
The co-op heavy gameplay is obviously online compatible. Xbox Live is usually perceived as the dominant service over Sony's PSN, but how do they compare in development?
Turner: There are extra challenges [with PSN] just because the PS3 is newer to our team so we've had to work through some growing pains, getting used to a whole new system of development.
But it has all of the capabilities, it's just that at the moment we have more experience on the Xbox.
Burnout Paradise gets around certain firmware omissions on PS3, such as friends lists, game invites and such, by providing all of those in in-game menus. Will Army of Two feature similar systems for PS3?
Turner: We do. We have friends lists accessible during the game, you can send invites and your friends can join you - it's as easy as doing it on Xbox Live.
Tell us about the delay and what the extra time means for the game.
Turner: We had to cut some things. We had to get rid of a couple of vehicles, and the healing mechanic, which was a mini-game that we felt took players out of the game.
It was a cool little mini game where you stick tampons into bullet wounds (apparently based on true facts) and did CPR.
The first ten-or-so times you did it, you laughed and it was fun. But the appeal wore off and so we decided to axe it and put it in the recycle bin.
That helped the overall gameplay - now no matter how injured you are you're always involved in the fight. You never get taken out of that intensity.
Tampons! That's funny. It's a shame you had to axe it completely. Maybe you could have used it as a one-off event in a particular mission...
Turner: We didn't really have the time to change the content of the game. We thought the content we had was great, and it was a tough choice to get rid of it.
So the 'Recycle bin' content you speak of... is all that to return in a possible sequel? Or maybe as download content?
Turner: If there is to be a sequel - I can't really say if there is or isn't - maybe. We're working on download content for the game, so there's always a possibility that stuff could come back.
Can you tell us a little about what we can expect from the DLC?
Turner: You'll be getting some extra maps for the multiplayer, and we're really excited about what other stuff we have planned so we're keeping it hush at the moment.
The multiplayer mode hasn't been shown much - we assume it's limited to two-on-two scenarios?
Turner: It is two-on-two. We tried to get away from typical deathmatch. We designed it with a money mechanic, so you're completing objectives while competing with the other guys.
There are also NPCs in the environment so it's really hectic. I think we have a new type of multiplayer in Army of Two.
There's been talk of the PS3 making a comeback this year in the console battles. How do you see the year panning out?
Turner: I've got to see it. I know there's a bunch of games coming out on PS3 this year. I'm waiting and would love it to happen.
If it does happen I'd be ecstatic, because I think that it hasn't got its due yet. Hopefully we'll be a part of that if it does happen.
To finish up, what was you guys' internal reaction to the Activision and Vivendi Games merger?
To be quite honest, when it happened we were right in the middle of crunch time on Army of Two, so we were like "oh, whatever, we'll think about it later".
After that, when we had had time to sit down and think about it we think it's good to have competition. It's healthy for the market, it's healthy for us, it'll challenge us to become better at what we do, which I think is nice for everybody in the industry.