Army of Two is EA's upcoming shooter developed at its Montreal studios. Although much has been discussed about the unique third-person game's two-player mechanics in the campaign mode, specifics on its multiplayer offerings have been kept under wraps. We caught up with senior producer Reid Schneider, who gave up the goods on what the studio has planned for the game's multiplayer action, which is shaping up to be a intriguing experience.
GameSpot: How did you approach multiplayer for AO2?
Reid Schneider: Army of Two is built from the ground up as a co-op game. It focuses on two-man strategies and tactics. What really differentiates the gameplay from other shooters is the interaction you have with your partner, whether it be a live player or the AI partner. The team did a great job of translating the "buddy-cop" film experience to a video game. They were able to execute on many co-op features that people thought would be impossible to translate into a game. All the credit goes to them for crafting an amazing experience.
Moving online to the multiplayer experience, we really wanted to push players to continue to work together to use their two-man tactics and strategies to complete certain objectives. It is the unparalleled emphasis on team play that sets the game apart from other tactical shooters.
GS: Where did you look to for inspiration?
RS: We looked at all types of shooter games as well as action/fighting games going back to the Double Dragon and Contra days. These were games that proved that playing "co-op"/together with another gamer was much more fun that going at it alone. We want to promote the interaction between players and put them in situations where they will need to rely on different co-op tactics and strategies to complete their mission while trying to beat the other team.
GS: What were the challenges to the experience?
RS: One of the biggest challenges for us was how to make the minute-to-minute experience of AO2 constantly focus on co-op. At the start of AO2, we had a huge amount of co-op moves (riot shields, co-op sniping, step-jumps, partner dragging, etc) but we realized that we really needed to tie the players together all the time, and not just at key moments.
In order to do that, we created the concept of the aggrometer. Once we put it in the game, we saw that the co-op experience changed dramatically, and people really needed to communicate/cooperate to succeed.
The biggest challenge was to convey the co-op experience in a multiplayer match. We didn't want to go with the typical deathmatch mode. We have a variety of modes that really capture the essence of co-op gameplay. You'll have to watch each other's backs and work together to defeat the opposing team.
GS: Describe the fundamental premise of multiplayer in Army of Two. Does each team start on equal footing, or is this more of an asymmetrical, attack-and-defend sort of thing?
RS: Army of Two multiplayer is a four-player game consisting of two competing teams of two players each. You can enter into a custom match with your friends, or join a quick match on your own. Army of Two multiplayer challenges players to complete objectives while competing with a rival team, to earn cash. When the players earn cash, they can buy new guns and armor. Like the campaign mode, Army of Two multiplayer brings cash to the forefront, making it the win condition for multiplayer matches. Leaderboards will show the amount of cash each player has earned, giving them incentive to earn more than their rivals.
Army of Two multiplayer has a variety of objectives in each mission area. Primary objectives are dependent on the game mode selected; this varies from destroying items, killing terrorist targets, or rescuing hostages. Secondary objectives are scattered throughout the missions, allowing players to collect additional intelligence data. A successful team will discover the best ways to complete their objectives using a variety of paths through the missions.
Multiplayer missions in Army of Two embrace the idea that players will need to learn everything they can about their environment. Teams that can identify the route their opponents are using will quickly realize what counter-route they can take in order to get there first. Knowing key positions of advantage in the missions and their counter-positions will be extremely important for teams that want to make loads of cash.
GS: Obviously, the campaign revolves around interactions with your teammate. Will there be any such co-op abilities that are unique to multiplayer?
RS: In multiplayer, the focus is on protecting your teammate from the other team, while completing objectives. There will also be some unique two-man vehicles in multiplayer that are not available in campaign mode.
GS: Has the aggro concept been incorporated into multiplayer in any way? Will you still get nifty moves like the back-to-back, 360-degree shooting?
RS: The aggrometer will be a part of online play as well, since you'll be going up against another team of two to complete a variety of missions. There will also be enemy AI in the maps who you can kill to earn cash. We have been tweaking the aggro shaders for versus mode to make it more valuable for online play. For example, when your buddy has full aggro and you have no aggro, you are almost fully transparent (think Predator). This gives you the advantage against other human opponents, as it's harder to see you.
GS: Can you take any of your custom weapon mods from the single-player game into the multiplayer? If not, what will the online arsenal look like?
RS: No, in order to balance multiplayer we have a weapon-purchase system which has a large amount of precustomized weapons that can be purchased through weapons depots in the map. If you liked Counter-Strike then you'll like this. Think Counter Strike gone co-op.
GS: Are the multiplayer maps retooled from the campaign maps, or created specifically for the multiplayer mode? What considerations did you have in designing them?
RS: The multiplayer maps were inspired by the Campaign mode maps in terms of location, but built completely from the ground up for versus mode. When designing these maps, the team did a great job of creating cool spaces to exploit co-op. They deserve all the credit for this.
GS: Are you using the headset and camera peripherals in any unique ways in the multiplayer?
RS: You can talk to other players using the headset. However, we are not utilizing the camera peripheral.
GS: Any hooks for downloadable multiplayer goodies after the game launches?
RS: We're planning to support the multiplayer mode with additional maps at launch. We have already been playing the new maps, and they're very cool.
GS: What's your favorite recent multiplayer feature or innovation in a game other than your own?
RS: For us it's the co-op experience mixed with the weapon-purchase capacity of Counter Strike that really makes it stand out. The design team has also done a great job of creating interesting challenges for the player to experience in the versus mode.
GS: Thanks for your time.