Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel Review
The level of destruction will appease our most base instincts, fun gunplay.
...but keep that going on for hours and hours, and it'll start testing your patience
ARMY OF TEDIUM
All right, Iâ€™m going to disclose this up front: I have never played the original Army of Two, or its sequel, The 40th Day. Not even the demos. This is both good and bad. Bad, since I have no point of reference for comparing The Devilâ€™s Cartel to its predecessors and being able to tell how the gameplay, graphics, and story have regressed or progressed. And good, because of exactly the same reason: I can grade the game according to its own merits. So, does the game standout among the deluge of first and third person titles that have come out this past year, or does this bombastic threequel fizzle out with a whimper? Read on to find out.
In the Devilâ€™s Cartel, you play as Alpha and your partner is…wait for itâ€¦Bravo (soâ€¦genericâ€¦) Both are initiates in the T.W.O (Trans World Operations) task force, and are fairly wet behind the ears, as far as T.W.Oâ€™s combat standards go. Fan favorites Rio and Salem do return, as do some new operatives, but you only get to play as Alpha and Bravo for the extent of the single-player/co-op campaign.
Thereâ€™s some trouble brewing in Mexico and itâ€™s up to Alpha and Bravo to set things right in the way only T.W.O. can (read as: explosions, carnage, and wanton destruction). There are some slight twists and turns in the story, but overall it plays out just like any other generic action movie or game, meaning that every story revelation is usually a setup for some balls-to-the-wall encounters with the cartel. The plot doesnâ€™t really engage the player much, and the more interesting aspects of the story donâ€™t reveal themselves until later in the game. But by that time, most gamers might be too burned out with the gameplay to actually make it to that point.
Destruction and carnage is the name of the game in Devilâ€™s Cartel. Just about everything can, and will, be destroyed during your sojourn in Mexico. Environmental destruction is up there, with dare I say, Black (PlayStation 2) from Criterion Games. Outside of the expected disintegration of standard fare like clay pots, wooden abutments, and the like, sandbags, pillars, concrete walls, and other hardened support juts are all annihilated with ease with the proper amount of bullets and explosions. So if you see a smug enemy who thinks that by hiding behind a pillar, heâ€™ll get another lease on life, wellâ€¦heâ€™ll be in for quite a deathly surprise. No one is safe behind anything, save for the occasional curiously indestructible half-wall.
Gore is also quite prevalent in this game. Heads will explode like bloody piÃ±atas, arms and legs are blown off as if they were barely attached in the first place. Yes sir. Closed Casket CarnageTM (already trademarked. Donâ€™t even think about it) all the way. And if you happen to initiate Overkill mode, you can place an exponent over that number that represents the level of destruction.
Overkill is achieved by racking up as many kills and multipliers that you can (and this game has quite a few different types). Once you activate that baby, every bullet you fire is an explosive round, and the environment then dutifully erupts in a fury of concrete confetti. You donâ€™t have to reload your weapon during this time, and you also become invincible as well, much to the dismay of your enemiesâ€™ family members. If both Alpha and Bravo initiate Overkill together, both get the benefit of time deceleration as well. This is the best part of Devilâ€™s Cartel. I canâ€™t tell you how many times I have eyed my Overkill gauge with giddy anticipation, awaiting that magic gauge-is-full glimmer, just so I could experience this gameâ€™s version of god mode.
The enemiesâ€™ AI is sufficient for encounters; theyâ€™ll hold back and stay behind cover when the bullets are flying, and then grow a pair once theyâ€™re being led by a Brute (think Juggernauts from Call of Duty MW). Enemies do try to flank on occasion, but due to the mostly linear levels, theyâ€™ll come straight at you most of the time. Which is just as well: more fodder for my bullets! Your partnerâ€™s AI is refreshing, as he does a good job of supporting you and magically being around to pound a needle in you when he sees you down-but-not-out.
Encounters are straightforward: the story sets up the scenario, which usually means you enter into a killzone and have to blast your way through a number of enemies to get to the mission complete screen. 90% of the game is like this, and even though you might enjoy hours 1-4, constantly blasting away at similar enemies, hours 5-8 will test your patience. Sure the game throws a few vehicle sequences at you to keep you guessing, but they are few and far between.
The graphics in Devilâ€™s Cartel are decent enough. You wonâ€™t mistake this game for Crysis 3 or Halo 4, but the graphics are acceptable enough to enhance the settings and environments in the game, especially considering that virtually everything you see will be reduced to its architectural blueprint at some point.
Most of the environments are bland, and donâ€™t adequately convey the setting, aside from cacti, sand, and a few buildings that you definitely wonâ€™t mistake as being anywhere in the continental US. Virtually every area is lifeless, aside from enemies, bullets, and AoT operatives clogging up the works. No civilians seem to occupy the towns and locations that you travel through (maybe theyâ€™ve heard beforehand of how lovely the Cartel and T.W.O. get along). At least throw me some civilians when I play, just so my moral meter gets a workout when I start spraying.
A few locations later in the story, do relay the feeling that you definitely are in a shantytown part of Mexico. Notably, a cemetery furnished with Day of the Dead flair, and a Favela-like town which you play through right afterwards. After you complete that level, the developerâ€™s decide â€œwe hit our atmospheric environment quotas, boys! Time to shut it down!â€, aaaand itâ€™s back to silicon dioxide and slightly annoying, water-retaining plants.
NPCâ€™s in the game are competently modeled, and facial features and lip-syncing are passable. For a B movie type game, Devilâ€™s Cartel pulls its weight.
The soundtrack might as well not exist, because once you complete this game, you wonâ€™t remember if there even was one. Forgettable melodies just took on a whole new meaning.
The tedious encounters. This has to be addressed again, and is a major flaw of the game. The same enemy encounters over and over again will burn through your patience like nothing else, making completing the game to be a major chore. This aspect of the game could have been its most redeeming feature (and it does seem like that during the first few hours), but the playerâ€™s interest and absorption will fall like a rock close to half-way through the single-player. You want a cure for insomnia? Take 4 hours of Devilâ€™s Cartel with a glass of water and youâ€™re done.
The cover system is touchy, and you never really get a firm grasp on how exactly to enter into, and exit out of, cover properly, even when knowing the correct sequence of stick and button gymnastics to do on your controller. The cover system is very unintuitive.
Ranks can be achieved (gradually) upon completion of missions, but it feels pointless. You rank up, unlock some guns here and thereâ€¦aaaaaand thatâ€™s about it. If there were a multiplayer component to Devilâ€™s Cartel (there isnâ€™t, unlike the first two Army of Twos), then it would make sense. But here, it just feels off.
This chronicle in the Army of Two series is pretty spartan. Outside of the deep facemask customization, and the ability to customize the skins of your character and weapons, and add weapon attachments, there really isnâ€™t anything else in the game thatâ€™s notable enough to mention.
Army of Two: The Devilâ€™s Cartel is a standard fare, straight-to-dvd type action game. The gunplay and real-time destruction really do impress, but after a few hours of concrete confetti and bloody torsos flying around, you do get tired of the monotonous gameplay. Aside from a couple of instances, the environments are bland and devoid of life, much like the hollow personalities of Alpha and Bravo. One of the bigger mind-bogglers is the presence of a ranking system, but with no multiplayer to make use of its potential. And trust us, with the amount of shameless destruction present in the Devilâ€™s Cartel, this game screams for multiplayer. All in all, it was a short, and initially fun ride. But much like your third ride on a carousel, the longer you stay on, the sicker you get.