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Army of Two: The 40th Day

Platform(s): PSP, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA
Release Date: Jan. 12, 2010 (US), Jan. 8, 2010 (EU)

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'Army of Two: The 40th Day' (ALL) Developer Interview #2

by Adam Pavlacka on Nov. 30, 2009 @ 7:09 a.m. PST

The ultimate two-man private military team of Salem and Rios return in Army of Two: The 40th Day, where they must survive and prevail in a city under siege, offering a fresh, innovative and fluid co-op experience with a deep arsenal of customizable weapons so players can team up with their friends online for the fight of their lives.

In Army of Two: The 40th Day, private military contractors, Salem and Rios must fight their way through Shanghai to survive a carefully orchestrated series of catastrophes that are dragging the massive city to the brink of ruin. Jonah, the mastermind behind the 40th Day Initiative, has amassed an army of skilled soldiers to level the city in his attempt to rebuild an empire according to his vision and ideals. Now, the Army of Two must fight their way through ravaged city districts as they try to beat the odds.

WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!

I'm Matt Turner, and I'm a producer on Army of Two: The 40th Day.

WP: Let's talk about the relevance of "The 40th Day" in the title. What's been going on for the 40 days since the first game?

MT: I actually can't tell you that because part of the fun of the story is trying to decode what that actually means. What we have kind of already released via trailer is that The 40th Day Initiative is this group of mercenaries that is doing what they are to Shanghai, which is destroying it, for lack of a better word. We don't know yet who they are, why they're doing it, and what their purpose is, but you know what they're called and that they're pretty mean guys. (laughs)

WP: Does the entire game take place in Shanghai, or is that the only city you're showing for now?

MT: It all takes place in Shanghai over three or four days, so it's a  much more personal and focused story than the first one, which was more of a globetrotting, world domination thing. This is more about Rios and Salem getting out of this place that's being destroyed around them, and that place happens to be Shanghai.

WP: Earlier in the demo, someone said we were highlighting a boss fight —

MT: It's not a boss fight!

WP: Exactly. You guys made it so that you don't have bosses in the game. Can you tell us a little more about why you make that distinction?

MT: Boss battles have a stigma of being this big guy that you kill by hitting three times in the heart with the Golden Arrows of Destiny, and after he kneels down, you strike him four times by the Hammer of Thor. We want to shy away from that because our game is a little bit more based in reality. It's not a sim game at all; it's got a bit of fantasy, but it's a little more gritty and close to reality, and we wanted to keep the harder characters more grounded in that reality, so we call them heavy soldiers. They have heavy armor and have more heavy weapons so they're harder to take down and they inflict more damage, but they are people and they're not magical or inexplicably more powerful than everybody else. You can see why; they have lots of armor and they have a weakness that's very reasonable. For instance, the guy we saw today, the flamethrower, shooting him in his tanks will blow up his flamethrowing device, which makes a little more sense than the example that I was using before.

WP: One problem with buddy games is that they're great when you're playing with a friend in co-op, but when you're relying on the AI, it often turns into you doing all the work while the AI hangs back or you babysitting the AI and keeping it from getting killed. What kind of challenge was it for you guys to balance out the AI so that when you're playing the single-player campaign and you're playing with the computer by your side, that it really feels like co-op instead of a babysitting mission?

MT: That is a challenge, yeah. Babysitting is a good term. In the first Army of Two, we also had partner AI, and it didn't feel like that. He was more of a lapdog you would sic on things, and he would go there and come back. He was a little bit mindless. We tried to put the controller in the hands of the partner AI, which doesn't make a lot of sense because there should be a person behind that.

In this one, we've made the partner AI more of a living, breathing character in the world so he's constantly looking around. He will be suggesting things to you. He will offer solutions. He will lead at times. He's aware. He takes cover. He runs to things and gets into it. He also takes orders, but he's not dumb, so if you say, "Advance aggressive" and there are 40 guys ahead of you, he's not going to go running in there. He will say, "Hold on a second," shoot and then go in.  As I said before, instead of putting the controller in the hand of the partner AI, we wanted to make him more of a person in that world. He's aware of his surroundings and aware of any given circumstances in a situation. He's more aware of what's happening and you have some interaction, so I think the partner AI has come a long way. I think it's actually a very satisfying experience.

WP: Co-op is such a big deal that you've even got co-op in deathmatch. Standard deathmatch isn't just everyone for himself. In 12-man, it's six teams of two. Why carry over co-op to multiplayer to such an extreme level?

MT: Because that's what we are: Army of Two.  We're a co-op game, and that's what we're about. We're trying to push co-op in new directions and make that experience that people are looking for. Obviously co-op has become quite popular in the market. You see it in games like Resident Evil 5, Gears of War and even Uncharted 2 when you get into the multiplayer a little bit. People are going that way, and we want to be at the forefront of that, so we're trying to push it into new realms, and I think that co-op in multiplayer deathmatch is pretty new. To be at the top of the leaderboard is not about you yourself; it's about you and your partner. That's who you're at the top of the leaderboard with, and the partnership also has an interesting twist on it. That core fantasy of you and your buddy against the world translates to multiplayer as well, so when you're up against all these people, we get online, and it's "All right, let's go! You and me, we rock!" It's a cool thing that hasn't really been touched on a lot in multiplayer. I think it'll look really good and play really well.

WP: From what we understand, the Achievements also reflect the co-op nature of the game. Is that correct?

MT: Everything about Army of Two is about co-op, from the Achievements to the multiplayer to the single-player to the mechanics. Everything is about co-op, and we've tried to highlight it and encourage it at every turn.

WP We understand there are going to be four distinct multiplayer modes shipping with the game, and one of them is going to be a pre-order exclusive for 30 days. Can you quickly run through them for us?

MT: Yes. The one you're speaking of is Extraction. If you pre-order it, you get it from the day of release until 30 days after, and then everyone gets it for free. It's kind of a mash-up between Left 4 Dead and Gears of War hard mode. You're fighting off waves of enemies, but you're also moving from point A to point B to an extraction point to get out of the city. The multiplayer also ties into the story. It's not exactly a story, but it makes sense in the world that we've created. So that's Extraction mode, which supports four players, so it's a different kind of co-op. Everything else supports up to 12 players. We've also got Co-op Deathmatch, which we've talked about. Then we have Control Point, again with a co-op twist. Then we have also War Zone, which we're not showing yet but has some cool stuff in it. That's the fourth and final mode.

WP: What's the big thing that makes The 40th Day a true sequel to Army of Two rather than a glorified expansion pack?

MT: That's a good question. It's the same game at its core — it's a co-op game, the main characters Rios and Salem are there, they're masked and identifiable and mercenaries so we've got a lot going for it in that sense — all that's there, but the actual game itself is very different. It's a little more gritty; it's got a lot more depth to it. The tone is different. We've added and tweaked mechanics everywhere. The shooting experience is better and the controls are better, so it's not like we just added maps within the old world. We've taken the old world and said, "That one worked for what it was. Let's make a better one now."  As a sequel, it's come a long, long way and fans and critics will see that when they play — the delta, the difference between Army of Two and Army of Two: The 40th Day.

WP: Any plans for a demo on PSN or Xbox Live?

MT: It's possible. We can't say whether it will happen or not, so we'll have to see how that works out.

WP: If you had to sum it up in two to three sentences, what really makes Chaos Rising an expansion pack that's worth playing?

MT: Army of Two: The 40th Day is worth playing because if you're into co-op experiences, it is THE co-op experience.  There is no other game like it as far as co-op goes. We grow co-op from the ground up, and it's a lot of fun to sit there on the couch and go through that world with a buddy over Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. In this co-op experience, you're going to be fighting your way through a falling-apart Shanghai, so there is disaster around you everywhere, you get to build awesome guns at your will and fight through a destroyed city as you have a good time.

WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?

MT: We've talked about a lot already, but the weapon customization system is pretty cool. We took that same system and merely blew it out. It's got a lot of depth; you can do a lot of stuff in it. You can make guns that represent you as a player, and I think a lot of players will have a lot of fun getting in there to do that.
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