Army of Two is very much a series trying to redeem itself. For The 40th Day the developers at EA's Montreal studio are trying to check off the dislikes of the controversial original, and hopefully receive some of the acclaim currently being enjoyed by other studios inside the company.
To help convince us that the second game's worth your attention, Army of Two: The 40th Day producer, Matt Turner recently sat down for a chat. Here's what he had to say...
Critically at least, the first game didn't do very well. What would you say to players who perhaps didn't enjoy the first game? Why should they buy 40th Day?
Turner: You're right, a lot of people didn't like the first game. Instead of going, 'you didn't get it!' we actually responded to all of their criticisms and made a list of all the stuff that came from critics, users and industry cohorts. We'd go down the list, prioritise points and address them.
It gave us an opportunity to see what we didn't hit right. Some things we thought we'd done well we actually hadn't done so well. So we fixed them and made them better or re-did them altogether.
The reason why people who didn't like the first one might be interested in this one is because we've directly addressed all of the issues that were made with the first one intentionally... trying to fill that gap and make our game way better.
So what kind of points came up on your list?
Turner: One thing - I'm a writer as well as a producer by the way - was the tone, which specifically in Europe they didn't connect as well to the frat boy kind of thing. It was over the top at times. For lack of a better term it was inappropriate at moments... kind of slapstick.
A lot of people didn't respond to that and we really set about in this one making the tone a bit more 'grown up'. The comparison I've been making is that we're a bit more like Bruce Willis in Die Hard and less like Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys. We haven't changed the core tenants of the characters; they're still who they are as people but they're a bit more mature. They make the wisecracks at the right moments.
As well as the tone we've worked on the environments, which were very beautiful in the first game but very static. We really wanted to set about making these new environments feel much more alive and lived in, so places that actually exist rather than plastic worlds. We've added more particles, more effects, making the environments look used... we had to keep that sense that we were in Shanghai and there's something going on there and we wanted you to feel like it was an active, organic environment.
Those were the two main things. There's a host of other stuff; the controls we felt were too complicated in the first one for example. The hardcore shooter fans loved it because there was so much you could do but the more causal players didn't get it as much. We really wanted to make the setup more third- or first-person shooter standard. If you've played Gears of War or Call of Duty you can pick it up and go 'ah, I get this'. We kept that layer of Army of Two depth underneath it if you want it.
There's more but those are the things we addressed head-on.
So EA seems quite committed to the Army of Two IP?
Turner: Yeah, absolutely and that's great for us because we're really excited. The original didn't do that well critically but it did quite well sales-wise, so that was a big thing for EA. We've got two great characters and an interesting world to tell videogame stories. We also have a talented and experienced team at Montreal that's been able to grow and learn from our first game in a huge way. Those things together, for the big-wigs at EA, is a win-win situation.