The original Army of Two received an average reception. It sold itself on the idea of a two man team taking on hordes of enemies. In the Devil’s Cartel, Alpha and Bravo replace original protaganists Salem and Rio who are basically blank slates that gamers are meant to project themselves onto to feel more immersed. Fine in concept, but not so successful in execution.
The story this time around is that T.W.O (Trans World Operations) have been hired to protect a Mexican politician (Cordova) who is opposing the Mexican drug cartel La Guadana (the Scythe). This mission gets FUBAR fairly early as Cordova is taken from the transport convoy right at the start. The rest of the game is spent fighting cartel henchmen and searching for Cordova. The storyline is not going to win any awards, as the first half of the game is spent completing “missions” that will have you trying to remember why you are doing them. It is only towards the end that any sense of purpose emerges.
As expected, the Devil’s Cartel is focussed on a two man team working together to overcome enormous obstacles. If you are playing solo then your partner is controlled by the in-game AI. Overall it works well, although many of the interactions experienced by Salem and Rio (rock, paper, scissors, fist bumps) are absent this time around. There are still obstacles such as high barriers and heavy doors that require the two to work together to pass, but otherwise the main point of the two man team is the combat.
Alpha and Bravo are equipped with three weapon slots (one being a pistol), and you can go to the armoury to purchase new weapons between “missions”. There really seems no point however, as the standard loadout is more than enough to get you through the game. You can pick up cartel weapons if you feel the need for some variety, or the game will provide you with what is needed for a particular area (flashlight pistol, sniper rifle).
The combat is fast and furious, with an emphasis on action rather than strategy. Despite the mechanic of TWO vision (accessed with the back button) which highlights enemies for your partner and shows holographic suggestions of cover or flanking positions, you will find that you don’t really need to use it. Your crosshairs will more often than not take out opponents with little help and ammo is not normally an issue.
Cover is also supposedly a major feature of the combat system, but once again not everything runs smoothly. Objects are highlighted and the simple tap of the A button sends you into cover, even if that cover is metres away. Once you get into cover however, getting out can prove a bit more difficult, especially when trying to move away from a grenade. Also, objects that would seem to be obvious points of cover can often turn out not to be, and the act of trying to get into them sends you hurtling off into the nearest usable cover unexpectedly. The game takes a little bit too much control away from the player while not providing enough else to do instead. Much of the time cover can be done away with entirely, as you can charge forward and take out small groups with little effort.
Enemies are supposed to use tactics to suppress and flank your position, but this more often than not seems to be accomplished by have them spawn through doorways off to the side rather than working their way to your flank. It is especially amusing to see several cartel thugs march single file out of a doorway as you watch and drop them.
Graphically the Devil’s Cartel looks fantastic. Running on the Frostbite 2 engine the environments are a balanced mixture of indoor and outdoor, light and dark with a great level of detail. It is the destruction that really amps up the action though. Almost everything can be blown or shot up, especially in the returning Overkill Mode. This meter builds up and once full turns you temporarily invunerable with unlimited ammo and increased destructive capability. Having extremely conveniently placed explosive gas cylinders and fuel tanks doesn’t hurt either. Despite the improbability of so many explosives in one place the end result is spectacular to watch and fight through.
Perhaps one of the oddest and most frustrating parts of playing through the Devil’s Cartel is “!”. This symbol hovers in a little blue square preventing you from going forward if your partner has fallen too far behind, or stops you from going back so you can “stay on mission”. It is a very jarring way of letting Bravo catch up, especially as it can often linger while both Alpha and Bravo are standing right next to each other.
The Devil’s Cartel features only co-operative multiplayer, either via local split screen or Xbox Live. It also features a small amount of customisation with the ability to choose from various gear and signature masks or create your own mask to stand out amongst the crowd. You can also change out your weapon loadout before starting or between missions, allowing you to choose from various types of assault, SMG, sniper, LMG or shotguns.
Overall, Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel feels like a cover shooter than hasn’t quite figured things out, which is not a great look considering there have been two games prior to this bearing the Army of Two name. It is full of glorious destruction but is is both fun and frustrating to play. A case of having a great concept, but the execution not living up to the potential. [5.5]
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Visceral Games