Review: Army Of Two: The Devil’s Cartel
The masked crusaders return once again in this shooting extravaganza.
- Worth The Time?Not so much.
- Things LovedThe co-op mechanics work well. Visuals and destruction physics are impressive. The two main character's have a significant charm about them. The customization options are extensive and worthwhile. The soundtrack is good. Overkill is a nice, destruction riddled mechanic. A long game with lots of levels. Masks.
- Things HatedNothing new. It's a standard military shooter. The story is pathetic and worthless. There isn't any variation in the levels and swiftly grow into boring shooting galleries. Not enough setpieces. Characters die as soon as you meet them. Not enough redeeming qualities to make it stand out from the crowd. Stupid betrayals. Mechanics that were removed from previous games for no reason.
- RecommendationIf you're just looking for a fun old shooter to play with your buddy then you can do much worse, but as a standalone game it doesn't have a lot of redeeming qualities to make it good.
- Name: Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel
- Genre: Third-person Shooter
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Yes, co-op only
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
- Developer: Visceral Montreal, EA Montreal
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Price: R559
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
The Army of Two franchise’s strength lies in its name. It’s a game designed for two players and synchronized teamwork. Previous iterations had you fill the shoes of either Rios or Salem. Together they completed contracts and earned enough money to buy a small continent by just shooting a load of dudes in the face. The previous installment, The 40th Day, tried something different by throwing in moral dilemmas and a stronger focus on story even if that’s not what the series is known for. The attempt failed and just came across as unnecessary padding instead of any real substance. So what they did with The Devil’s Cartel is throw all those ideas out of the window and just stuck with shooting guys in the face with other guys that have their faces covered with masks that have enough technology in them to run Crysis on Ultra.
If you have played any of the previous games you will already be familiar with the two man army Rios and Salem. You would be excused to think that they would just continue with those two because of their good chemistry and established characters, but instead you get plopped into the shoes of two new guys creatively named Alpha and Bravo. Alpha and Bravo are new recruits to the T.W.O. corporation that Rios and Salem established because they made so much money that they can afford advanced weapons, helicopters, steel-plated battle trucks and an entire army base. Alpha and Bravo set out to prove themselves on a mission to Mexico where drug cartels roam free and keep the civilian populace under a blanket of constant fear.
The first mission was a fairly straightforward hostage rescue operation that turns horribly bad. After that the story evolves into a tale of politics, corruption, revenge and betrayal. While that might sound exciting, it really isn’t. The story is so predictable and boring that you would hardly even pay attention to it. As I’m sitting here I can’t even remember what it was that drove the story forward, I just continued on shooting things. A really annoying aspect of the story is when any new character gets introduced, they die within the next 5 or 10 minutes. Every time. You meet other T.W.O. operatives on your journey and they seem like they could be interesting characters once you get to know them, but nope, they will all die before you can even remember their name.
The main focus will obviously be put on the the two main characters, Alpha and Bravo, but even their stories are wrapped up in mystery and you never really get to know them. You have absolutely no idea who these guys are, what their motivations are or if they have any past demons that plague their mind. Even with that they have a certain degree of charm that I found appealing. You get instances where everything is all serious and methodical, but more often than not they will engage each other with trash talk, funny observations and lighthearted insults even during the heat of battle. Most of these back and forth conversations have truly made me laugh or at the very least put a smile on my face.
There is one prime boogeyman within the game with the equally creative name of El Diablo. He is a fearsome, battle hardened, masked lunatic, but his identity is supposed to be a mystery even if you know exactly who he is when you first see him. It’s so obvious that you find yourself baffled how Alpha and Bravo continue to act oblivious to it. You would think that the big exposè would happen quickly, but they save the entire reveal for the end part of the game. And the game isn’t that short either with a good 8-10 hours of gameplay on the Normal difficulty setting. It all struck me as rather odd and insulting how they think their audience is so stupid that they can’t put one and two together. Other than that, the story is mostly forgettable and unoriginal.
Moving on from the ludicrous story, we get to combat. The prime core of a game such as this. Like I said, Army of Two has a very close focus on cooperative gameplay where every scenario has to involve some sort of teamwork in order to survive. For the most part Devil’s Cartel pulls it off rather well with you and your teammate having to work together in order to be as efficient as possible. Previous Army of Two games had an Agro meter that signified which one of you are making the most noise and taking fire from enemies while the other person can flank them without the fear of turning into a cheese grater. Devil’s Cartel still has this, but there is no indication of which person is Agro and which person isn’t which strikes me as a rather weird choice. While playing I told my co-op partner to blindfire and draw attention, but when I fired one shot every enemy in the room was shooting at me. There’s no meter or colour indicator or anything even when there was in previous games.
Besides that, teamwork is a very important aspect. There are long range targets and short range targets to worry about and if none of you have a long range weapon and good aim then there might be trouble. There are also many instances where you have to flank a mounted machine gun by having one person draw attention behind cover while the other one sneaks by for a surprise attack. This is where the Agro meter is sorely missed because the mounted machine gun can rip you to shreds and if you shoot only a little bit it will draw all its attention to you if you’re the one doing the surprise attack. You do get used to it after a while, but it’s still a stupid and easy problem to fix.
Shooting is your standard third person shooter affair with cover, blindfire and normal weapon handling. There’s nothing new or interesting except maybe the Overkill mechanic. Overkill is a state you can enter that temporarily alters all logic and science by having you be invincible with unlimited ammo and bullets that explode and destroy everything. You build up your Overkill meter by doing certain actions for points such as normal kills and headshots for low points and flanking and co-op focusing for high points. Once that meter is full you can activate the mode whenever you wish and turn into a marine Zeus. Just to give you an idea of how ridiculous it is, you can fire a 50 cal sniper rifle with the speed of a machine gun without stopping.
You get two states of Overkill namely Single Overkill and Double Overkill. Single Overkill can be activated by you or your partner that makes your weapons ridiculously overpowered and grants invincibility. Double Overkill is when both you and your teammate activate Overkill at the same time which throws everything into slow motion and make the effect last for longer. There is a level of strategy involved in the usage of Overkill because it does take a while to build up. If you activate it with only a few enemies then you will waste a huge advantage and if you activate it and find yourself in the middle of the battlefield when it ends then you will swiftly die.
Overkill is the only mechanic that makes shooting loads of dudes a bit more fun because of it’s rampant destruction. Speaking of destruction, the destruction physics are impressive for the most part with walls breaking and objects smashing when in contact with explosions. It is very limited though and only really applies to knee high cover walls and random boxes and you can’t destroy entire buildings or shoot pillars to make a balcony fall. But it is fun to see the world just crumbling when you active Overkill and have your tiny handgun destroy everything with the force and velocity of a goddamn speed train.
The missions themselves are a joke. All you do is go from A to B, shoot whatever is in the way and progress. There aren’t any great setpieces and even the few that you do see are just standard fare for any military shooter. You do get to drive a truck while your buddy is on the back with a machine gun, but the road is as linear as the game and the sequence ends in about 3 minutes. There is also no reward for exploration thanks to the complete absence of any sort of collectibles or secrets and you would just find yourself going straight to where you have to go. Every mission is broken up into sections of 5-10 minute shooting galleries with little to no interesting events happening in between. When you finish you get a rundown of how you did and earn money accordingly.
What makes the game more bearable is the customization options. There are a ton of weapons of every kind that you can purchase. You can hold two primary weapons so if you prefer to have a high-powered sniper rifle and a shotgun then you can if you feel like it. You can then customize those weapons further with scopes, muzzles, stocks, magazine upgrades, attachments and what have you. These upgrades are all very cool and useful such as a double drum magazine for an assault rifle that makes the capacity insane. You can also paint your weapons in a slew of colours and patterns to make them unique to you.
You don’t only customize your weapons, but also your character. You can choose from an extensive range of wacky and badass masks to wear as well as tattoos and gear. You can even create your own mask with its own vinyls and colours (you can almost expect people to make a giant penis with this tool). You can effectively make your character look like a total badass or a silly man running around with a massive smiley face on his mask. It’s very extensive and makes you want to play more just to be able to afford the things on offer. You also get rank based on how much money you make that allows you to unlock more things.
The visuals are impressive and feature highly detailed character models and weapons. The environments look great, but most of them are the same brown desert, broken down buildings affair. There were some parts where the vistas looked really impressive, but you hardly get to marvel at them because of the speed of the game. The graphics can be described as above average for the most part and it is a pretty game to play. What really confused me was the layout of the HUD. Your Overkill meter and T.W.O. vision (which is useless anyway) gauges are almost at the center of your screen. It would have been much more user-friendly if they were a little further away or put in different locations. But it isn’t a game breaking fault. There have been instances where the game did in fact break and stopped progress from happening. There were around 3 occasions where the door to the next area would not work forcing a checkpoint reload and 2 occasions where nothing happened after a battle and forced another reload. Also, the game froze once.
The game is incredibly gory as well with limbs that explode and heads that can be shot clean off. You can essentially completely dismember an enemy if you feel like it. If you shoot an enemy in his chest or abdomen, it shows the torn flesh, exposed organs and bones that stick out. It’s a satisfying type of gore and makes the action more intense and frantic.
The soundtrack isn’t really anything to write home about, but it is above average with pumping beats and good composing. The main menu music is impressive in its composition and worth noting. There isn’t really anything special on offer, but it does the job well to give you that feel of battle and frantic firefights. The guns sound a little on the weak side though and don’t really feel that powerful. Even with the insane Overkill damage boosts, guns still sound a little tame.
There are no competitive multiplayer modes which might be a negative for some, but it feels like a positive for me because the game wouldn’t transpire well into a multiplayer game. You can join random people’s game that needs a second player or host one yourself and wait for someone to join. There is a special Overkill edition that you can get that gives you extra missions, but it’s only for people that have bought the game new. I didn’t receive a code in my review copy so I can make no comment on the quality.
Devil’s Cartel is a game you take at face value. It’s something you play with a buddy when you are bored and have nothing better to do than shoot a bunch of guys in the face. It’s a fun game, but there isn’t much in terms of depth and substance and you will swiftly grow bored of the constant shooting galleries and worthless story. The game is not intended for extended play and will only really work in short bursts. A bargain bin purchase if there ever was one. Play this if you’re just looking for another mindless shooter that you can play with a friend. Don’t expect the world and Devil’s Cartel won’t give you the world. A forgettable albeit fun experience.