Army of Two: The Devils Cartel review
The title of this game is quite fitting as Army of Two: The Devils Cartel really is a game that is made up of two large factors – good and bad. Now this isn’t directly aimed at the narrative as the two really run deep in The Devils Cartel, but for everything this game manages to do well there is an equal amount of bad to be found. Ironic? Nope. But it sure is frustrating as this shooter really does show flourishes of awesome potential.
Fans of the series as well as newcomers will be able to pick this up and get stuck in with Visceral Montreal and EA Montreal’s decision to ditch Salem and Rios, stars of the previous two games, in favour of new characters Alpha and Bravo. They are pretty much everything you would expect in a title like this, two large bumbling mounds of testosterone with some of the most puzzling dialogue you will hear in a game. Seriously whoever decided the term “bullet cancer” would be acceptable as a good slice of buddy banter needs to have a word with themselves.
This time the action takes place in Mexico, and T.W.O (Trans World Operations) are up against the vicious force of the La Guadana drug cartel as Alpha and Bravo are tasked with protecting a politician who aims to take them down and clean up the country. Salem and Rios are not entirely out of the picture here; they do make an appearance, albeit a cameo and keep the continuity going for the series which should please die hards.
I need some cover here
The story and the overall feel of the game are actually scarily similar to that of a massive big budget Hollywood action film. It is full of massive explosions, has American lead characters shooting up an international setting and of course is completely over the top. Playing through the campaign players will enjoy TDC all the more if you remind yourself of this. Its shallow and pretty proud of it, which you can’t help but admire.
What gives away the goose on this title is the fact that there really isn’t a lot to love when you are happy to sit on the cusp of greatness. There are some terrific gameplay moments to experience, but it really lacks the killer punch at points and leaves you with the horrible feeling of going through the motions. Once you master the basics of the cover based shooting system it really is just a case of repeat until complete. Luckily the mechanics of the gunplay are good enough to stop it being downright bland.
Anyone who has played a previous title in the series will feel right at home here. The Gears of War influence is plain to see, the only problem is that if you are going to go down the cover-based shooting route at least make sure that it plays the same way or better. Moving from cover to cover, especially vaulting cover, feels sticky and is just not executed well. It works, but in an intense shootout you are going to be cursing to high heavens as you struggle to quickly take cover without being blasted to bits.
Devils Cartel features a lot of major changes for the Army of Two franchise, with the most noticeable beings the aesthetic change. The graphics provided by the evergreen Unreal Engine 3 on previous titles have been replaced by the Frostbite 2 engine. It actually is one of the best features of the game, as not only does it look great but it also features some incredible destructible environments. It might not hit the lofty graphical highs that Battlefield 3 possessed, but it still looks crisp and detailed.
Destruction is by far what Devils Cartel does extremely well. It is simply breathtaking and at points really makes the game shine with some memorable moments. One part in particular, depending on the route you take, features the best use of debris I have seen in a game in recent memory. A massive advantage of possessing such destructive qualities is that when it comes to cover, Devils Cartel forces players into going out of their comfort zone and moving into a gunfight, bringing with it some frantic gameplay. It’s just a pity the controls when trying to navigate through the battlefield can let you down.
All the carnage brought through the excellent Frostbite 2 engine culminates in some of the most brutal damage you could ask for when taking out enemies. At first when you are engaged in a fight at range using assault rifles it isn’t noticeable, but equip yourself with a shotgun during some of the fantastic close quarter combat sections and you will either wince or cheer with sadistic delight as limbs fly off and insides are quickly exposed. It might not feature splashes of crimson, but the way your foes can be deconstructed adds a realistic and devastating feel to the gameplay. It will no doubt please those who crave a more violent end result, which TDC certainly carries in spades.
Better next time
With the many additions to the series, a new graphics engine and new characters, there are a lot of features in previous games that are not present here. No morality system and no online multiplayer are the most notable absences, and it really makes the whole package feel like EA have used this as an opportunity to guinea pig new ideas it has for the franchise.
Army of Two: The Devils Cartel is by no means a terrible game, nor is it a great game. It is simply an OK shooter that features some good shooting mechanics, a passable story and some pretty impressive carnage. It’s the gaming equivalent of a Michael Bay movie; you will pay to experience it, enjoy it at the time and later either feel dirty for doing so or completely forget about it. Next to the other entries it is the weakest in the series, but it has some great features which hint towards the masked mercenaries making another appearance in the near future.