Guns, a mask with a custom paint job, and a partner to make smart-arsed comments and cover your back when youâ€™re surrounded by an angry Mexican Cartel. What more could a member of security firm Trans World Operations want? In Army of Two: The Devilâ€™s Cartel, the third in Electronic Artsâ€™ co-op shooter franchise, the answer is nothing.
Which comes as something of a letdown. Especially considering that, even back in 2008, when the original game was released, it was regarded as a bit of a one-trick pony. The in-game cooperation between main characters Salem and Rios, along with the hi-fives and occasional slaps around the ears, were what set the game apart. Especially given that the rest of the game was, at best, a fairly average shooter.
So, itâ€™s a bit surprising that developers Visceral Montreal and EA Montreal have decided to drop most of the cooperative stuff, including all of the goofy humour, relegate Salem and Rios to support characters, and release a generic shooter with a generic story and nothing to do online. The only thing more surprising is that someone got paid to come up with the plan to do all this, and there were other people around who thought it was a good idea.
But, itâ€™s not all bad. While we have seen everything before, there is nothing in the game thatâ€™s broken. You take the part of TWO operatives Alpha and Bravo. They are in Mexico assigned to protect Cordova, a politician running on the platform of bringing down the La Puerta Cartel. From there you know how it goes. The mierda hits the fan, pendejos with bad teeth and AKs pour out of every doorway, and the next ten hours of gameplay is just one big, noisy, blood splattered DÃa de los Muertos.
If a blood spattered Day of the Dead makes you happy, then thereâ€™s nothing wrong with The Devilâ€™s Cartel. Playing as Alpha, with either an AI or human controlled Bravo following you around, The Devilâ€™s Cartel is one running gun battle after another. And with the chargeable Overkill mode, where everything slows down, you become invincible and your guns do extra damage â€“ lopping off limbs and heads and knocking down walls â€“ the game reaches a very satisfying R18 level of violence. But, narrow streets, open land, or inside buildings, there is little to distinguish one mission location from the next. And even the cooperative combat, that was central to the previous two games, now almost seems optional.
In Army of Two: The Devilâ€™s Cartel you get essentially the same amount of cooperative play as you would in any other shooter. You can lift Bravo up to cover you from a rooftop as you draw the enemyâ€™s fire on the street below. You can drive a truck as Bravo mans the chain-gun on the back. Or you can shoot from a helicopter as Bravo tries to stay alive on the ground below. Thereâ€™s a basic cover system that manages to make you stick to burning cars that you want to get away from, an unmemorable soundtrack, and - while there are some nice set pieces and some interesting plot twists - everything in The Devilâ€™s Cartel has been done before.
And - disappointingly for fans of the franchise - itâ€™s all been done better. The enemy AI is fairly limited. The bad guys either run at you, past you, or hide behind walls you can knock down with a couple of shotgun blasts. You earn experience and cash at the end of each mission which you can used to unlock and buy weapons, weapon mods, tattoos, clothes, and the gameâ€™s iconic masks. Or, if youâ€™re feeling especially creative, you can design your own mask. It kind of sums it all up when making your own minimalist mask, lime green with a big black olde-timey waxed mustache, is the highlight of a weekend's worth of gaming.
Worst of all though is The Devilâ€™s Cartelâ€™s online mode. All you get is online co-op. And without being able to drop in and out of games the whole thing just gets annoying as every time you accept a request from someone to join your game you have to quit back to the start of the level. Best to just play online with a friend or stick to the split-screen local co-op.
In the end, it seems that the Army of Two bromance is over (probably as over as using the term â€˜bromanceâ€™.) While I like my shooters, and I enjoyed playing The Devilâ€™s Cartel for what it was, there is nothing there to set it apart from all the others on the market. Itâ€™s violent, fast paced, looks fine, and plays okay. But you canâ€™t hi-five in the game anymore. Maybe thatâ€™s because when they finished making it EA decided there wasnâ€™t any reason for a hi-five.