Electronic Arts has released a trailer for Army of Two: The 40th Day giving a brief look at the game’s new “morality moments,” which include contributions from comic book artists Chris Bachalo and Jock.
In Army of Two: The 40th Day, players will be confronted with situations in which they will be forced to choose one of two courses of action, each with its own unique consequences. The point, said Creative Director Alex Hutchinson, is to allow players to “express themselves as a partnership in the game-space… We really want players to be able to say, ‘Who are you when nobody’s watching?'”
“What we want to do is get at least a few moments in our game that take co-op outside the TV and onto the couch,” he continued. “We want people to argue with each other, to debate a decision with each other, to figure out sometimes what you think is the right choice will have unwanted consequences.”
After making their choices, players will see those consequences played out through a series of still shots that illustrate how each decision impacts the lives of the people involved. Those images will be created by noted comic artists Chris Bachalo, best known for his work with various X-Men titles as well as on Neil Gaiman’s two Death miniseries, and Jock, also known as Mark Simpson, who has a long association with 2000 AD and provided art for other famed characters including Hellblazer and Green Arrow.
Will it work? Will players engage one another in the sort of conversations Hutchinson envisions? It would be fantastic if it happened but I think it’s very unlikely. For one thing, players get tired of “unwanted consequences,” which is inevitably just shorthand for “sneaky tricks pulled by the developer to remind people that the world is a random and awful place.” In the video, for instance, Salem attempts to disarm a security guard but an accidental discharge and a one-in-a-million freak ricochet results in the guard’s death instead. When players choose not to kill a guy and he ends up dead anyway, the exercise begins to look futile – and that’s when people stop caring.
And the very nature of the game makes the successful inclusion of a morality system dubious at best. Games in which moral choices are a natural fit have trouble pulling it off; why are we supposed to care about a “morality moment” in the middle of a game about two mercenary meatheads who kill people by the truckload? Maybe I’m off-base, but I’m having a hard time seeing this as much more than a pointless gimmick. We’ll find out soon enough; Army of Two: The 40th Day is slated for release later this year for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PSP.