Moral decisions--they may not be something you would have previously associated with a game like Army of Two: The 40th Day, but right and wrong play an important part, often changing dialogue and story elements based on how Salem and Rios make their escape from Shanghai. We had a chance to check out a few instances of this at EA's booth during a 40th Day presentation.
The 40th Day looks similar to its predecessor in terms of general style, but EA Montreal has added quite a few little touches. First, there seems to be a lot more stuff going on--you'll see people running through the streets as the city of Shanghai comes crashing down around them. There are also more subtle environmental details in that everything seems to be covered in a thick layer of dirt or dust--no doubt caused by the immense damage inflicted on the city--and it really gives the game a somewhat grittier look. In fact, Alex Hutchinson, creative director at EA Montreal, remarked that the team was basically going for a Cloverfield vibe with the city, trying to make it feel as though players are escaping from "a world on the verge of collapse."
Nothing demonstrates this better than an office level where, halfway through, the entire top half of the building (right above the floor you're on) tears and falls to the streets below while Salem and Rios are engaged in a firefight--a very cool scene. Additionally, as far as smaller details are concerned, Salem and Rios have undergone some changes--the most prominent of which is the fact that you see their faces a lot more. Whenever the duo isn't engaged in a firefight or suitably intense situation, their masks are flipped up, but the second the situation starts going south, they pop right back down.
While cooperative shooting is still very much the main focus of Army of Two: The 40th Day, the game introduces a bit more strategy to various scenarios. In the early Shanghai level that we've seen at previous events, Salem and Rios are confronted with a large wood barrier. They split up so that Rios can get a better look at the situation on the other side. This allows Salem to see any targets that show up in Rios' field of view (silhouettes appear indicating which are enemies and which are hostages). At this point, Salem can fire through the barrier, kill the enemies, and spare the hostages, or he can kill everyone. This is the start of the moral choices dynamic that permeates the game--saving hostages and generally being benevolent seems to earn you more money, which can then be used to purchase new weapon items. Speaking of which, weapon design in The 40th Day has been compared to LEGOS by the development team, indicating that weapons can be customized in just about any fashion--we saw a wide variety of clips fit into a single gun. We even got to see an assault rifle outfitted with a soda bottle silencer.
In some cases, it pays to fight dirty with these weapons. Because enemies have the ability to heal each other, you can use that to your advantage by shooting one enemy in the knee, which not only causes him to fall, but also forces another enemy to come over and administer aid. This basically lets you get the jump on them in a dastardly way, but if you're so inclined, it's also possible to hold up enemies, get them on their knees, and cuff them.
But these situations only give a small taste of the more dramatic moral decisions Salem and Rios have to make later in the game. Upon breaking into what appears to be an embassy of an African country, Salem and Rios discover a locker with weapons and proceed to take them. But just as they do, a frightened security guard walks in and tells them to stop. At this point, you then have to make a decision as to whether or not you have Salem and Rios steal the weapons or simply walk away. The audience members at our demo decided that they would steal the weapons--clearly not the nicest group of people. Interestingly, it didn't seem as though anything bad was going to happen as Salem calmly tried to reason with the guard, telling him that they're on the same side. Then it all went downhill--Salem attempted to hit the gun out of the guard's hand, which then caused the gun to fire and ricochet a bullet off a locker and pass through the skull of the security guard. Then we got a glimpse of what happened to the lives of the people associated with the guard in a brief flash-forward sequence, which apparently included a daughter who's now fatherless. If Army of Two was attempting to make us feel guilty, it succeeded, but we're interested to see what the long-term impacts are of making these decisions and how they affect the story.
Army of Two: The 40th Day builds on a lot of the features that made the original an interesting take on cooperative gameplay in a third-person shooter, but it's also obvious that EA Montreal has taken feedback from that game seriously because much of it is reflected in nearly every aspect of the game. Army of Two: The 40th Day is scheduled for release in the fall.