Interviews// Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Posted 21 Feb 2013 17:00 by
Itís Army of Two, but not quite as you know it. EA is taking a slightly different tack with the third-person shooter series, best known for its ass-slapping and crazy quips. This time, with the Devilís Cartel, things are going to be a little more serious. But not too serious.

The game still includes some absolutely outrageous set-pieces and explosive stunts. That much is certain. And a new feature called Overkill allows buddies to work together in building up a meter which, when unleashed, gives them the power to utterly obliterate anything in their path.

So itís a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new with Army of Two. The gameís producer, Greg Rizzer, explains why the company decided to slightly change its tone, and what it means for the series in general.

SPOnG: Army of Two has traditionally been a title geared towards Ďbro gamersí. Are you continuing that trend for Devilís Cartel, or is this going in a slightly more serious direction?

Greg Rizzer: Itís got a grittier tone. Itís not quite as slapstick as the first two instalments. Thereís no ass-slapping and hi-fiving, no playing air guitar - that stuffís all gone. But I mean... yeah, thereís still a little bit of Ďdudebroí in there, but thatís what our consumers expect from the franchise.

Itís just the reality of things. Weíre not going to shy away from that, but we did want to make sure that at the very least the dialogue was a bit stronger. That the comedy is closer to something like Bad Boys or Lethal Weapon. Thatís what weíre shooting for. That relationship between these two characters is one reason why we introduced Alpha and Bravo, instead of going in again as Salem and Rios.

SPOnG: People might laugh at the Ďdudebroí in Army of Two, but it really tapped into a distinct market of gamers. Given that itís difficult to break out a new IP in this genre, were you guys surprised by the gameís relative success?

Greg Rizzer: Itís a challenge for us, because we want to make absolutely sure that the fans of Army of Two franchise donít feel slighted [by our changes]. We realised that we had to build a foundation of gamers, but starting with the people who are genuinely interested in the franchise first.

We want to bring more people into the fray, but we still want to have our old gamers associate with the series. So a lot of the game mechanics, like the Aggro system, might not be as apparent as past titles, but itís still very much there. The way that you score, and earn co-op points by flanking and stuff, thatís still intact.

The feedback we get all the time is that people love playing this game with their buddies. Itís something with which they can just kick back and have a good time. Iím sure you found that itís still very much over the top - the way some of the guys get taken down and enemies get shot. We still want people to have that feel of an arcade experience.

SPOnG: Speaking generally, do you think thereís demand for a more intense storyline with more relatable stories? Last year was a bit of a watershed, with Spec Ops: The Line proving that there was a desire for deep and engaging war stories in games. Do you think thatís the right way to go?

Greg Rizzer: My personal feeling is... what you see on screen and the way in which environments are destroyed would not match well with a very dark and realistic tone, for us. So even though we have a realistic backdrop for what weíre trying to do - and we do make that separation that this is still just entertainment - ours is much more like a blockbuster kind of experience.

These games you mentioned, where storylines are more serious... I personally donít know how all this is supposed to make me feel as a gamer. When I play videogames, I want a cool story and want it to be interesting, sure, but what matters most to me is what the gameplay is like. Howís the shooting? The targeting? The camera?

Story is a great and obviously very important part of games these days because we have the ability to tell these stories. But itís still a videogame. Itís still all about how the game makes you feel in play. The controls, playing with your buddies - does it all feel right? We just stay focused on that. The story is there and itís a supplement to the game.

SPOnG: The Overkill mode is pretty mental. It must be a lot of fun to try to offer something that would cause a lot of chaos without either making it feel too unbalanced or broken?

Greg Rizzer: Itís really interesting. Itís also really difficult, because you have to make sure that when youíre proceeding through the game that thereís a proper pace. That thereís enough guys that you can take out that earns Overkill, just at the right time where thereís a great combat sequence which gives you a perfect time to use it. So we really have to balance our encounters and make sure those values match up.

What we found during user feedback was that, if you triggered Overkill and there was nobody around, it was a wasted perk. People loved it, but seeing no enemies around when you fired it up is kinda disappointing. So we now let players cancel it out. You take a little bit of an Overkill hit, but it lets them at least keep most of it.

SPOnG: Alpha and Bravo are new characters to the Army of Two series. Would you consider this to be a new chapter, or a spinoff story?

Greg Rizzer: Well, Salem and Rios are still in the game, and a very big part of it. They run the organisation now - but we felt like we wanted to bring in some new characters. We have a new engine, got some new technology, have a new team... and we felt like weíd try something with new characters and give it a different tone. We still wanted to have part of the canon there. Thatís the whole reason behind it.

SPOnG: Do you think Alpha and Bravo could spin off their own series?

Greg Rizzer: Yeah, that much I donít even know. Weíve not considered it that much. We obviously just need to see how this one is received, and if people like the characters and want to see more then who am I to say otherwise? There are people above my pay grade that get to make those decisions anyway [laughs].

SPOnG: This gameís using DICEís Frostbite 2 engine. How are you finding it? Most of EAís titles are using the engine now - is it a challenge for you to take advantage of the engine but make the game itself look visually different to other projects using the tech?

Greg Rizzer: One of the things over the years is at EA, through our studios, weíve had different technologies with different teams and things like that. One of the downsides to having all these different technologies is that we donít have shared knowledge. We have individuals working in silos, with different knowledge bases about a particular engine.

So one of the biggest advantages with Frostbite, is that as a company EA moves towards a shared technology for our games. It just creates a basic knowledge thatís that much better. Now, if we have a question about a particular facet of the tech, we can reach out to a person on our team or another team for the solution.

Itís a win. And in my opinion itís one of the things that this company has needed for a long time. We needed to have a unified technology so we can share those things. As far as us using the engine goes, of course there are challenges. Itís new technology, and some of us had to learn how to effectively use it. A new engine, a new team - itís certainly been a challenge for everyone involved, but people have really praised it. Especially after seeing what we could do with it.

SPOnG: Is it easy to adopt an engine like that and add your own visual flair to it, though? Battlefield looks a certain kind of way, and using the Frostbite engine elsewhere might make the game look too similar.

Greg Rizzer: Itís a very relevant question, yeah. If you look at Unreal... you can certainly say whether a game is using that tech or not. As a unified company, I think if thereís a certain style that is unique to a particular franchise, we obviously need to make sure we donít make it look just like all the other games. Our art has always been fantastic, and Iím sure when we start bringing other games into that engine that weíre going to do everything we can to make sure it looks unique.

SPOnG: Thanks a lot for your time.

Greg Rizzer: Cheers! Thanks a lot!

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