At first glance, the two biggest console titles at EA's booth seem to be par for the course for a company that's often derided for unoriginality. One could argue that Army of Two is just another of the countless futuristic war shooters--as an aside, where's my Revolutionary War FPS?--while Superman is yet another licensed game set to suck alongside a sucky movie. Take a closer look, though, and you may just see how EA is changing its game plan.
For many gamers, this one included, the squad-based military shooter has become a bit daunting. How can I be expected to control a 30-man special-ops squadron when I can't even manage two credit cards! At this level, Army of Two, the first wholly new IP from EA for the next-gen consoles, does much, much more by doing less. Quite simply, you take command of a team of two supersoldiers. You control one, and the other can be handled by a second player--online or split-screen--or you can order number two around with some pretty nifty voice activation. At specific points, you're offered a choice of four commands. Say it, and it shall be done. There were many instances of co-op gameplay on display during the demo. Cooperative sniping (replete with a tense "on three" count) and rappelling (one provides slack for the other to jump down--it's more fun than it sounds) were pretty clever, but aiding a wounded teammate proved to be the simplest and most striking example of the dynamic. With one player downed, the other provided a shoulder for the wounded to lean on, while both players used their free hands to continue shooting. True to its name, Army of Two will hit two consoles--the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3--in mid-2007.
The Superman franchise hasn't been very kind to the video game industry; the Man of Steel has produced games of crap for quite a while now. Superman 64 for the Nintendo 64 has long been regarded as the standard of suck. With the film's release creeping up at the end of next month, one might expect a rush job to coincide with the theatrical release. In a surprising move, EA is delaying the game until the fall to finely tune its dynamics. The game, which is based partly on the upcoming movie and partly on the DC Comics universe, looks to adapt a similar formula to Spider-Man 2 which was notable in its relative nonsuckiness among superhero games. A wide-sprawling Metropolis is yours to explore, from rooftops to city streets with all of Supe's powers--flying, superstrength, heat vision, and freezing breath--at your beck and call. An interesting twist is brought up in the fact that Superman can't really die (we'll forget that whole terrible "Doomsday" storyline for a minute); instead, you're managing Metropolis's health, and you must balance your supervillian battles with attending to local crime that will tear that city apart. Killing a city is a pretty foreign concept too, Pompeii notwithstanding, so it'll be interesting to see a what a city on a sliver of health looks like. There are some kinks in Superman's cape--combat looked pretty dreary at this point, but EA has provided plenty of time for this game to get off the ground. Superman Returns is hitting a wide variety of consoles, including the Xbox 360, the PS3, the Xbox1, the PS2, the PC, the PSP, the DS, and even the GameCube! If this game ends up sucking, it'll suck in a big way.