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Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel PS3 Review

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Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Image © EA
"Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel" was initially billed as a change of direction for the franchise, which is akin to saying "Transformers 3" is drastically different from "Transformers 2." Sure, there are some new leads and some new gameplay mechanics but it's largely more of the bombastic same. Blow things up, kill a lot of enemies, decimate the world around you, and do it all with your best friend. Yes, there's a bit less macho nonsense in the dialogue than in previous "Army of Two" games but this installment definitely throws the same pitches as the previous ones, and, as much stupid fun as there is to be had here, it's impossible to ignore the corners that were cut in its production. It's a game that could be called be called escapism but its repetitive nature and overall monotony hampers what could have been a truly good time. It's more of the first word than the second in "dumb fun."

Game Details

  • Publisher: EA
  • Developer: Visceral Games
  • ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
  • Genre: Co-op Shooter
  • Pros: Explosions! Guns! More Explosions! More Guns!
  • Cons: Repetitive, Shooting Gallery Combat with a Plot That's Impossible to Care About

The macho, murdering, sociopathic numbskulls with masks and arsenals from the first two games, Salem and Rios, have been replaced by the generically-named Alpha and Bravo. (Get it? Player A & Player B. Sigh.) They get entangled in a violent plotline that involves a notorious drug cartel but the incredibly-thin plotline is nothing more than an excuse to kill hundreds of gun and/or machete-wielding enemies. The lack of variety in the settings is disappointing even if there are a few memorable set pieces like the climactic hacienda and a bloodbath in a cemetery.

Gameplay

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Image © EA

The emphasis on co-op firepower isn't as strong as past games ("Army of Two" and "Army of Two: The 40th Day") but "Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel" is still best-experienced with a friend. Part of the problem with playing it on your own is that the AI-controlled Bravo is kind of a big dummy. You can order him around but it's much easier to have someone who just knows to flank to the left when you go right instead of following you like a lost puppy.

Most of "The Devil's Cartel" is just a two-pronged attack on a shooting gallery of enemies. You take cover. You and your buddy take turns killing the mindless morons who pop up on the other side. Melee combat is initiated through a right-stick press. You carry three weapons -- Primary, Secondary, and Sidearm -- which can be upgraded and modified through currency earned through in-game combat. Shoot a guy, get $10 to spend on a new weapon. Kill him more creatively like with a flank or by serving as a decoy for your partner, get more cash to upgrade your arsenal. Creative kills and strategy get better weapons. Don't tell the people who think video games are too violent about this one.

The main addition to gameplay here is actually the neatest thing about "The Devil's Cartel" -- Overkill. I know what you're saying. Isn't the whole game overkill? Of course, but there's actually a meter that grows through combat. When it's full, you click the LB button and enter Overkill mode, which is basically just a title for absolute destruction. Bullets bounce off you and your weapons essentially turn into rocket launchers. Realizing that I was about to be faced with a room of enemies and had a full meter to unleash Overkill on them was kind of cool in a testosterone overload kind of way.

Most of the problems with "The Devil's Cartel" don't kick in until you think about what the game could have been. Why is every enemy stupid enough to pop up like a shooting gallery duck? Why do so many levels just seem like repeats of what's come before? Why is the plot SO uninteresting that I could barely recap and I finished the game just a few hours ago? It's almost as if the developers knew they were making a "dumb fun" game and just focused on the excess instead of the elements that could have really elevated it overall.

Graphics & Sound

I thought to myself that a game based on destruction with a reported emphasis on environmental combat and DICE's Frostbite 2 engine would at least look amazing. And there are parts of it that do. But, once again, corners feel cut. The enemy animations are boring and repetitive. Cover blows up in interesting ways and it's fun to reduce most of the rubble of the settings to even more rubble but it's surprisingly inconsisent and glitchy with floating bodies and disappearing enemies. The sound is your typical action game nonsense but the voice work is better than average (even if the dialogue it serves is stupid).

Overall

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Image © EA
I can't say I ever hated playing "Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel". It taps too much of a vein of macho, silly fun to ever be boring. It's just a missed opportunity more than a total disaster. In the grand spectrum of recent games, we've played a masterpiece ("Bioshock Infinite") and a total disaster ("The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct"). It seems appropriate that we would now have a game in the middle of those two extremes.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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