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Making co-op matter in Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, like the previous entries in the franchise, is built around co-op.

Developer Visceral Games is putting a slight twist on cooperative play with what it calls "co-opetition," a report card of sorts that shows up at checkpoints to measure your exploits versus your partner's. But instead of highlighting something like a kill/death ratio to compare players, the report card rewards you for being a good teammate.

"Anytime you're playing a cooperative game, you want to ... be able to say, 'Ha ha, I did better,' just for that little snippet in time, and it's still fun," said Greg Rizzer, producer of The Devil's Cartel, during a recent interview with Polygon. The game will tell you which one of you did better, but it's tracking actions like the number of times you revived your teammate.

"It's really about playing together," Rizzer explained.

Rizzer spoke about the design challenges inherent to the kind of game Visceral is building with The Devil's Cartel. One of its fundamental mechanics is a power meter called Overkill, which, when activated by either player, makes both partners invincible for a limited time and lets them unleash a torrent of bullets without having to reload. Doling out Overkill sparingly enough to make it feel like a precious resource is tough, said Rizzer, and the developers also have to do their best to create levels that let players build up the meter appropriately and give them a place in which to use it.

"We always want to make sure we have a great environment that's highly destructible that comes right around when you earn Overkill," Rizzer told us. "So there's this additional layering that we have to do."

In essence, Rizzer explained, the developers lay out the game's combat encounters and use it to estimate the locations where players will have filled the Overkill meter. Those points are when the level designers want to give players a wide-open space filled with plenty of objects to destroy and enemies to take down.

Rizzer also took us through the deep weapon customization system in The Devil's Cartel. While it was present in the first two games, Visceral is expanding the options this time around to try to provide players with meaningful tweaks to their firearms.

As long as you have the cash to purchase the modifications — money that's earned in missions, since you're playing as mercenaries — you can make whatever alterations you want to your guns. Any change you make, like swapping sights or stocks, will affect a weapon's performance on the battlefield.

Visceral is hoping that players will explore the system and the choices available to them, and is attempting to encourage experimentation by giving them the opportunity to adjust the customizations during mid-mission checkpoints. Most pieces have pros and cons, so putting an attachment on a gun may increase its accuracy but negatively affect its mobility. Adjustable elements include sights, stocks, magazines and under-barrel mounts.

"It's really about putting these accoutrements onto your gun and feeling like [it] has a profound gameplay impact," said Rizzer.

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel launches March 26 on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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