Starting in 2008, the Army of Two
series was notable for its commitment to co-op play – an entire campaign built around the interactions between two characters, Salem and Rios, who could be played by humans or AI. With some interesting mechanics, like an aggro meter which drew enemies to one combatant or the other, and plenty of cover shooter chaos, the first two games were decent if hardly spectacular cover shooters.
Five years on, and the mercs are back – only this time you’ll play as Alpha and/or Bravo in a tale which also includes the original characters and places the soldiers for hire in a new and perilous mission. But the myriad changes only serve to weaken the final product.Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel
pits new recruits Alpha and Bravo against some nefarious drug lords and a mysterious killer bent on taking out their politician client. Through flashbacks, players get to see an earlier mission where our new heroes interact with Salem and Rios and gain some insight into the drama which drives the current story.
As before, Army of Two
is designed to be played with another human – with online and splitscreen options available for co-op play – though solo play is also possible. The gameplay takes the form of a series of pitched battles where you’ll move from cover to cover, shooting enemies in the face until you hit a checkpoint and the next area loads.
And, almost without exception, that’s the entire content of The Devil’s Cartel
. This new entry (which gets a new developer in the form of Dead Space’sVisceral Games
) even strips back the mechanics of the previous entries for no apparent reason. So those fun and over the top back to back shooting sections are gone, as are most of the co-op actions, including sniping. Even the aggro meter has been essentially ditched, supposedly in favour of a more subtle system which sees enemies naturally drawn to the more aggressive player.
It’s a nice idea but in practise it rarely feels like it’s working. The approach in previous titles may have been a bit ridiculous (with one player becoming all but invisible to enemies) but at least it allowed you to make clear tactical choices in order to flank and evade your enemies. Here, you’ll just find a cover point and shoot the hideously stupid enemies as they come into range then rinse and repeat.The Devil’s Cartel
does bring one new toy to the party – Overkill. Rack up enough points (from kills and other actions) and you’ll fill a meter which kicks the world into slow motion when its activated. For ten seconds or so, you’ll take no damage and have unlimited ammo, while your attacks do significantly more damage.
At first, the sheer carnage of Overkill is a delirious delight, ripping buildings and enemies apart with abandon, thanks to the new addition of the Frostbite 2
engine. But once it becomes clear that it’s the only significant mechanic the game has to present, fatigue starts to set in. It’s also so ridiculously overpowered that it ends each and every encounter with ease, particularly given the fact that each player has their own Overkill meter.
It would be a little easier to forgive if there was any variety to the gameplay. Instead, every level unfolds with a maximum amount of bloodletting, careening from one ballistic encounter to the next without a pause for breath. After several hours of the same enemies, dying in the same way, I took more solace than I should have in a minor moment where only one player has a flashlight in a darkened sewer, requiring a slight change of pace. My other positive take away? That the explosions during the Day of the Dead celebrations in game looked rather pretty, laced with fireworks and confetti.
Otherwise, The Devil’s Cartel
verges on ugly territory – enemy character models repeat regularly and the levels are mostly dull and grey, with little of the slick sweep of the Hollywood blockbuster the game wants to be. Maybe you’ll be interested to know that players can totally customise their masks in game, alongside changing the decals and details of your weaponry, in addition to buying new hardware with cash you earn in the game. These unlockable extras are de rigueur in a modern action game, but their use is neutered by a lack of significant online functionality beyond the co-op mode. That’s right, this game doesn’t even bother with any kind of additional multiplayer.Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel
is rarely incompetent but a total lack of originality, coupled with repetitive mechanics and unappealing co-op play means it’s also not worth recommending to anyone looking for a cover based shooter. Get Gears of War