April 10, 2013
Some co-op games focus on helping each other out and relying on a variety of skills and abilities in order to progress and succeed. Then again, some just want you to blow shit up. Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel fits firmly into the latter camp and has actually toned down some of the in-game co-op shenanigans from the earlier titles in favour of shooting everything in sight – then shooting it some more just to be sure. The game wears its heart firmly on its sleeve, presumably so you can shoot the living hell out of it.
Previous protagonists Elliot Salem and Tyson Rios are still fairly integral to the plot of the new game, as their Trans World Operation (T.W.O. – geddit?) group takes centre stage as events unfold. Though this time you control new operatives Alpha and Bravo, in what can only be described as the laziest bit of naming since I created my last RPG character using my gamertag as a template. If ever EA wanted to create two vapid ciphers to take the lead roles then they have done a superlative job here, with our bland heroes displaying no real redeeming qualities or major characterisation. But then again, in this game, it’s not really needed.
From the get go it’s apparent that your main goal is to get from point A to point B while killing as much cannon fodder as humanly possible. There is no real skill involved in this process as you can just blast away until your enemies drop, taking cover when need be and using the plethora of explosive props along the way to make your life that much easier. This may sound like the template for every first and third-person shooter ever created, but The Devil’s Cartel falls down on the basics time and time again, making for a less than stellar experience.
For a game so heavily reliant on a cover mechanic it also feels far too lightweight to work effectively. Enemies can blast apart concrete structures with impunity, and leave you exposed in a matter of seconds. Fair enough, if you sit behind a piece of wood then you can expect to lose cover pretty quickly but the same shouldn’t be the case with hefty chunks of stone. The enemy AI is also pretty dense and will just run to the nearest cover and then repeatedly stick their head out, in the same scripted way, asking to be shot. All in all cover just doesn’t feel as vital as it did in the earlier games, and flanking foes is never a necessity, merely more of an option.
It’s a shame as the older games had a far more co-operative feel to them. Whereas here it just feels like the developers have set two players down and asked them to blast everything in sight. You could work together or you could just run around like a pair of headless chickens and the results would still be pretty much the same. Each player can also build up their Overkill meter which provides infinite ammo and invulnerability, should you even need it. It doesn’t help that most story missions are broken down into bite size chunks that are over before you’ve ever truly gotten going.
In fact the story here is pretty dire stuff, revolving around T.W.O’s involvement in a war on a local drug cartel and correcting a few past mistakes. The twist, when it comes, is badly telegraphed and because everyone involved is so poorly fleshed out you never really care what happens. New T.W.O operatives are constantly introduced and, just when they are at risk of becoming interesting, are usually killed off a few minutes later for no real reason. Stereotypical bad guys stand in your way and when it's all over, after about five hours, you will have pretty much no inclination to go back. Considering the game is littered with bad dialogue, graphical issues and glitchy coding (AI getting stuck in slow motion, enemies trapped in the ground) then it would feel like more of a punishment to play it twice.
In truth part of the reason for that is because the game really has no replayability when, in theory, it should. The game has a points scoring system depending on how you dispatch foes, whether you perform co-op kills and the like, plus you can buy and equip new weapons, tattoos and masks or even create your own. But none of that really impacts on the game itself and the whole experience is so short and generic that the impetus to go back will never really happen, unless you feel like cleaning up the few achievements you may have missed first time around which shouldn’t take too much effort. The game doesn’t offer up anything in the way of stunning spectacle, interesting set pieces or even an interesting plotline. With multiplayer having been ditched somewhere along the way and co-op play only being a minor diversion, this is an experience that most players will endure rather than enjoy.
This could well be the end of the road for the franchise unless some fresh ideas are given the light of day, as this latest iteration of Army of Two just feels like it was rushed out of the door without much care or support. For a series that was once touted as the next big thing it’s an amazing fall from grace to be reduced to shelf fodder in such a short amount of time. As a shooter Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is sub-par in every department, with graphical issues, dire voicework and glitches being the norm, and as a dedicated co-op game there are far better options out there . Considering Visceral had a hand in the far superior Dead Space series, this seems to be the malnourished little brother, craving a lot more care and attention.
Decent but not spectacular voice acting and the usual array of shooty gun sounds, plus a signature song that is dubious at best.
Extremely rough around the edges and only slightly better if you choose to install a 1.5GB file. Glitches still occur even then, with random hiccups and problems plaguing you throughout.
Simply a boring, rush of a game that sees you blasting idiotic foes as they pour towards you in droves. The co-op side of the game has been nerfed to the point of uselessness too, which is a real shame.
As a co-op experience, Visceral may as well not have bothered, as at no time do you ever feel like you NEED a partner. Instead it feels like a solo experience with a second gunman thrown in for good measure, and the threadbare story and content does nothing to keep you entertained. A waste.
A decent if uninspired list and one that, unfortunately, requires you to play the game twice to get the full 1k. We hate that – and so will you once you have finished this game once.
The first couple of Army of Two games were fun diversions that never took themselves too seriously while delivering solid co-op action. The Devil's Cartel delivers a drab, uninspired shooter where co-op feels like the secondary objective to rushing an average game out the door. Visceral can and has done much better, so the shoddy nature of Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel leaves you wondering why it was made at all.