WEAPONS OF CHOICE An exclusive look at Army of Two's deep weapon customization.
One of the coolest aspects of Army of Two is the sheer amount of guns in the game (over 30 at the moment) and the fact that you can completely customize them to a level you've never been able to in other games before. As you play, you earn cash to buy new weapon parts and other sorts of customizations in a very RPG-like fashion. "It's definitely a big, big part of the game now," senior producer Reid Schneider tells us. "As we got down the road we were like, 'Wow, this is a huge feature' -- it's a ton of work -- but I think people will be totally stoked about it."
The original idea for the weapon customization actually came from the private military company expert Richard Woodie Mister, who had spent a lot of time on private military company missions and saw how PMCs would treat their weapons. "He showed us these pictures of him in Afghanistan and these guys, they'd literally take one gun and duct-tape it to another. We were like, 'Wow, what's that?' And he was like, 'Oh, that's real.' And we said, 'What do you mean that's real?!' So we kind of riffed on that concept and said to ourselves, 'What if you had completely customizable weaponry in the game, wouldn't that be pretty damn cool?'" So the team started thinking about ways that they could actually pull this concept off within the game. "Obviously, we're not putting duct tape on stuff because people just would think it's too ridiculous -- we already have tampons in the game, which is kind of over the top to begin with." [Ed's note: you can stick a tampon in your partner's wound to stop the bleeding -- a real tactic used by some PMCs in the field, believe it or not].
But beyond the practical applications, Woodie also told the team of how PMCs would personalize their weapons to crazy degrees. "You may have 16 to 44 guys in a group that you're utilizing; each one of those guys may have the same weapon, but the weapon looks completely different because it's been personalized so much," Woodie tells us. "And I'm not talking about tying beads and putting tape on it. Some guys paint it this way, other guys paint it that way, some guys have special types of laser requirements on there, other guys have IR lights, and other guys will have a scope. Everybody carries different types of ammo, usually as lethal as possible. There are just a million different variations of one simple weapon."
So as the team began to build the weapons in the game, the artist had to completely change the way they think about guns. "Basically, they had to build guns as pieces," says Schneider. "So guns in Army of Two are almost like Legos. We don't actually build a whole gun, we build pieces of guns that can be put together." But what that allows for is complete flexibility in terms of what you can do to the guns in the game. "It's just a stupid amount of combinations," admits Schneider. And the neat part is that almost every change you make to the guns will actually affect your gameplay. If you put a shield on your gun, for example, you'll likely lose fewer health points in battle. Even just pimping your gun out in gold -- if that's your thing -- will affect how you build Aggro in the game.
Considering weapons were such a focus in Army of Two, one cool thing that EA Montreal did was to actually hold a contest for people to submit weapon designs to the official Army of Two website -- with the chance to have their designs actually appear in the game. "Obviously, some of the stuff was way over the top," admits Schneider. "The gun that shoots small animals probably isn't going to be in the game. Small animals as ammunition: probably not right for Army of Two, but maybe another product."
But a lot of the weapon submissions were very good, and the team ultimately picked two for inclusion in the game. "We looked at ones that really could offer something kind of cool and innovative in the game," explains Schneider. "The first one we settled on was a long range sniper rifle that shoots grenades. I mean, that's just really cool -- I wish we had thought of that. The second we chose was this submachine gun that has a shield on it and a Semag cartridge so it can carry just a stupid amount of ammo, and it has this kind of cool shield on top of it. It worked well because we wanted to use it as a secondary weapon. So with the combination of those two weapons, we were like, 'Yeah, those two are pretty interesting and different.'" The team was thoroughly impressed with the level of detail on the submissions, though. "With the submachine gun, the guy actually modeled it in 3D. And the guy who made the grenade sniper rifle, he included, like, actual full weapon specs. It was drawn on paper, but you could tell he put some serious thought into it." Likely the coolest part is that the players got to name these guns as well. "One guy named his gun the Sal-86 because his name is Sal," says Schneider.
Of course, the whole element of powering up your weapons adds a lot of strategy and potential replay value to Army of Two. Do you want to spend your money on weapon upgrades right away to make your life easier now or do you want to save up your money for a bit so you can buy an extra powerful gun for a later stage? Do you want to spend your money all on one specific weapon or try to power up a few different ones? Do you want to upgrade your gun to build Aggro faster so you'll be more balanced with one of your friends? Or, do you want to spend some of your dough on pimping out your guns to show off to others online? Admit it: you'll probably blow your dough on the gold AK-47.