Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel
Amid the much larger-budget games released so far this year, such as Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Crysis 3, a smaller series released its third installment to its franchise. If you’re reading this, you are probably curious about it. This is Army of Two: The Devils Cartel; A classic third-person shooter that relies heavily on co-op play, and as expected, has a lot of gunfire and explosions. While this is not a AAA title, I think it’s one of those games that many gamers will ignore just based on perception, when in fact it’s one that many people may actually enjoy.
When I pick up an Army of Two game (well, most shooters really), I don’t invest in it for the award- winning, riveting emotional story. I’m in it to shoot people and have a blast doing it. After playing this game, that’s pretty much what I got. Granted, there were some things I would have liked to have seen done differently, but at the end of the day it’s a solid shooter.
Fans of the Army of Two series will notice a few things that have changed. Gone is the Aggro system. There is still a small bit of Aggro that can increase with certain attachments, but you no longer need to have one player pull agro to get through levels. The one thing that was changed from previous Army of Two games that I was disappointed in was previously, when your partner went down, you had the option to grab the back of their shirt and drag them to safety before reviving them. Now, when your partner goes down, you run up, jab them with a needle, and keep going.
With most third-person shooters, getting into and out of cover is an important mechanic in the game. That’s true in The Devil’s Cartel as well, even more so on Insane difficulty. The cover system here works well — for the most part. There were a few times where I couldn’t find the sweet spot to be able to use a piece of cover, and also a few frustrating parts of not being able to lean against something to push it. Baring those few instances, I genuinely enjoyed the cover system. Being able to slide into cover and move to adjacent cover points was fun and in certain situations really paid off.
Gun play is solid and responsive. The ability to add attachments to guns to help clip size, sway, ammo type, etc. offered just enough choices to make me feel like each was a viable option, but not bogging the game down needlessly with too many choices. There are a few levels where picking the right primary/secondary options certainly pays off as well. There are also a few weapons that you can only pick up from enemies, adding another dimension to managing your weapons.
One big addition to this installment is the Overkill mode. Get kills, melees, flank attacks, partner heals, etc. to fill your overkill meter. Once it’s filled, activating Overkill slows time, makes you invincible, and gives you unlimited ammo for a short window. For an added bonus, when both players activate Overkill at the same time, it creates sheer carnage and loads of fun. Also, later in the game when you kill a brute with a grenade launcher, pick it up and combine that with Overkill for just stupid amounts of destruction.
Story-wise, returning players will no doubt be looking for Salem and Rios, the two protagonists from the first two games. They are relegated to secondary roles in this iteration, yet still provide pivotal story points during the game. The new duo is simply named Alpha and Bravo. It’s a curious deviation from the series where there was a big bond between the first two characters. There is an attempt to get to that level with Alpha and Bravo, but aside from some great one-liners there isn’t much depth to them. I wanted to like them, yet in the end I didn’t have much, if any, real connection to them.
When you first load up Army of Two, you are asked if you want to download a HD Texture pack which runs about 1.5 GB on Xbox. I don’t know about you, but when I am asked to download a 1.5 GB texture pack, I expect to actually see noticeable results. Yet, it’s not overly evident just how much benefit that texture pack is. The vast majority of the levels are shades of brown and grey. In a third-person shooter game, I am not expecting jaw-dropping amazing graphics, but I would expect something a little more than various shades of brown and grey.
I understand when you set a game in Mexico that there will be a lot of brown. Yet, I also know that Mexico is full of vibrant colors and scenery. Unfortunately, in The Devil’s Cartel we are never shown that beautiful scenery. We are shown rather generic buildings and bland set pieces. I understand that this is a shooter, but I still want to see developers push the envelope and go above and beyond what I would expect visually. However, that never happened once while I played through this game.
I also need to point out a glitch that occurred to my co-op partner and me during our two playthroughs. It varied on when it happened, and only happened to the person who was not the host, but when loading some missions when we first started neither one of us had bodies. The second player could only see two heads running around. Thankfully, a simple restart of the last checkpoint cleared it up but it happened about a half dozen times. The first time was funny, but after that it became an annoyance.
Nothing special to report here. Certainly there is in-game music and sound, but none that sticks out and makes you say “Oh, listen to that!” The music is quickly associated with times when enemies are present and when you have cleared the level. However, there was at least one time when after fighting a group of enemies, the music ended and my partner went towards the objective only to be gunned down. So, don’t let the music be the only indicator of when to let your guard down.
- Colorful banter between Alpha and Bravo
- Overkill mode — unlimited ammo and invincibility — is so much fun
- A fun completely co-op game
- At times frustrating controls
- Long load times and starting missions with a head but no body
- Subpar level design
When all is said and done, gameplay wise, Army of Two isn’t perfect. It doesn’t add much to the pool of third-person shooters that have come before it. Yet, what it does is provide a solid shooter with decent controls. I know I have been somewhat critical of the game above, but that’s really a lot of nitpicking. I genuinely enjoyed the game. I am a sucker for anything co-op and Army of Two pulls off co-op play very well. If you are a fan of the series, or are looking for a solid diversion from your current stack of games, give this one a look. There is also a demo available for those that aren’t sure about it. Heck, demos are free, what have you got to lose?
Written by Andy