We were almost afraid to mention Gears of War through fear of being thrown through a giant window from the top floor of EA's plush Chertsey office. But we did and everything was okay.
EA Montreal's Matt Turner, assistant producer on Army of Two, was a nice bloke and didn't try even once to punch us when we mentioned Epic's 360 shooter and the obvious similarities.
Army of Two was planned for a 2007 release, but was delayed to allow for some extra polish. Now it's just about done and is set for a March release. Perfect time to catch up Turner for a chat. And how it'll sit alongside Epic's creation.
Army of Two has a very gritty, realistic visual style but it's nothing like a sim. What sort of feel were you going for?
Matt Turner: We wanted to have the familiarity of real life to it, with the environments, the realism of the characters you're fighting. But we also wanted to balance that out and give the player the feeling of being in an army of two.
To give players that feeling of being the most elite soldiers there have ever been, and playing with these guys had to be a lot of fun. It was a tough balance, sometimes it feeling to unrealistic and other times it not feeling real enough.
Did any aspect of Gear of War influence you?
Turner: Constantly, we had to be aware of it every day because we knew the comparisons would be there. We tackled the same problems in different and new ways. That was the basis for us - we wanted to do it well, but also different from Gears of War.
How do you deal with being compared to a game that set the standard?
Turner: It's not a worry, but it's definitely an issue that we addressed and that we were aware of when making the game. We're not worried about it because we think our game is different enough and it will attract Gears of War players - ones who like that style of game.
The game looks quite forgiving in terms of difficulty. Was this intentional, to make it more forgiving than Gears?
Turner: The game was set to easy mode for the demonstration, so you can take a lot of punishment.
When we focused on the difficulty we didn't compare it to other games. We did focus testing and found that happy medium where players were satisfied and able to progress the way we wanted them to.
And players can effect the difficulty of the game for themselves by being able to customise their own weapons, right?
Turner: All the weapons in the game are available from the start, you just don't have the money to buy them. They're all based on existing weapons, but you can fully upgrade and customise them to the way you want them to be.
You can add bigger barrels for more power, or enhance their accuracy, increase their ammo. You can also pimp them out, so you can cover them in gold or silver, which affects your aggro levels. All changes have an effect in the game, and you're eventually able to get hold of some super powerful rifles.
The co-op heavy gameplay is obviously online compatible. Xbox Live is usually perceived as the dominant service over Sony's PSN, but how do they compare in development?
Turner: There are extra challenges [with PSN] just because the PS3 is newer to our team so we've had to work through some growing pains, getting used to a whole new system of development.
But it has all of the capabilities, it's just that at the moment we have more experience on the Xbox.