By John Gaudiosi
SAN FRANCISCO—With private military contractors (PMCs) like Blackwater topping news stories, the timing couldn't be better for EA Montreal's new cooperative shooter, Army of Two, which has just been pushed back to a Q1 2008 release.
"Army of Two should help PMCs," said Woodie Mister, a former Navy SEAL and current PMC operator for an undisclosed company who consulted with EA on the new game. "PMCs do a job that nobody else wants to do. They're willing to put liability on the line. Some governments out there aren't even doing that. The way Army of Two portrays the PMCs is the way the top tier operators perform on the field in the real world."Army of Two Producer Reid Schneider said Mister has been an outstanding resource for the Montreal team, shedding light on things that otherwise would never have made it into the game.
"He showed us these pictures of a Jeep with an interior that had a big red button," said Schneider at a recent press event in San Francisco that mixed paintball with Army of Two gameplay. "We were thinking this was some kind of James Bond thing that would shoot a rocket or a missile. We asked Woodie what it did and he explained that it was the ignition. You don't want to be looking for your keys when you're in the middle of a firefight. And when you think about it, that makes perfect sense. But for us it was a foreign concept."
Another example Schneider pointed out is that in the field, when soldiers get shot, they stick a tampon in the bullet hole to stop the bleeding. One of game's designers brought that into the game as a mini-game.
"Woodie's brought these little nuances from his vast experience to the game," said Schneider. "The weapons customisation system in the game allows you to change the barrel and the stock. You can even put a grenade launcher or a shotgun on the M16. What they do in the field is duct tape all types of crazy stuff on the gun, and that was the genesis of our weapons customisation system for Army of Two. Our conversations with him have really helped us shape the product."
"I worked with them early on lining up details and concepts, looked at how the writing was and told them what was feasible and what was fantasy," said Mister. "We have to have that entertainment level, as well. No one wants to play a game that's so realistic that you don't even want to finish it. They covered all of those bases."
In addition to having worked on games like SWAT 3 and 4 and the Splinter Cell franchise, Mister is also an avid gamer. He said if he had the room, he'd buy the arcade version of Silent Scope.
"Holding that weapon in your hand and shooting terrorists trying to save the president was pretty exciting stuff," said Mister. "Now they're making it even better with Army of Two coming out."
Mister said many PMC soldiers travel with their own gaming consoles in combat. He said Xbox 360 is the console of choice. One of his favourite games, besides Army of Two, is Gears of War. He said although it's fantasy-based, he enjoys the way the soldiers take cover and communicate during battles.
"We'd be stationed in a safe area and someone would bring out a console. I never brought out a console myself, but I'd always bring the games along," said Mister. "Out in the field you're not playing, but in the safe zone you're playing. Some guys carry the console with them. A lot of guys have PSPs, as well. But nothing's better than playing a next gen console on a 52-inch screen."
Although Mister's own background is classified, he's seen action around the globe, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. That enabled him to help the team in creating their own missions.
"In Army of Two you have a mission in Iraq to rescue a hostage and he's an enlisted soldier in the Army," said Schneider. "That happens a lot in Iraq and Afghanistan. We're seeing more and more that when the US government needs black bag or certain operations carried out, they aren't going to their special forces, they were going to companies like Blackwater or Aegis. When they want things done quickly and not on the books, this is the popular option."
Another mission in the game takes a more fictional approach, as the players are sent in to assassinate a terrorist and are tricked into killing a US Senator. Shneider said he doesn't think that kind of thing happens in the real world, or at least he hopes it doesn't, but the team was taking creative liberty for the point of making the storyline more dramatic.
"As you go through the game, you realise how much better off soldiers for private military companies are then enlisted men," said Schneider. "They're better paid. They have better gear. And that's ultimately why you choose to join SSC (Security and Strategy Corp.) in the game."
"After 9/11, the US began hiring soldiers for hire to get the job done," said Mister. "There's not a lot of bureaucracy between the private military firms and the guys on the ground level. You can communicate with higher authorities a lot easier than in larger corporations that just deal with simple security or government organizations.
Mister said there are a lot of different mission types in the real world, as well as in the Army of Two game. And the bottom line is the same in both worlds, at least for the PMC soldiers—it's all about getting in, making your money, and then getting out and getting ready for the next mission.