The Army of TWO franchise started soon after Gears of War set the standard for Third-Person Co-op Shooters. While it was only one of many games that copied GoW‘s play style, Army of Two stood out from the crowd by adding some style and innovation to the gameplay. I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of the first Army of TWO and I’ve played each game in the series. After the mixed release of the sequel, Army of TWO: The 40th Day, Visceral and EA Montreal have had three years to work out the kinks and release the third game. Have they recovered the franchise from the mediocrity of The 40th Day? Let’s not get too excited…
Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel shifts the players from the previous protagonists, Rios and Salem, to the new agents of the T.W.O. organization: Alpha and Bravo. Alpha and Bravo follow Rios and Salem on a mission to Mexico, where they are hired to protect a local politician. Try not to be shocked, but the mission doesn’t go as planned. Their convoy is struck by a rocket attack, blowing everything straight to Hell. Thus begins Alpha and Bravo’s riotous romp through Mexico’s seediest barrios and drug lords’ finest mansions. The plot of The Devil’s Cartel never wavers from, “CHASE THAT GUY, YO!” and, “GOTTA CLEAR THIS AREA OF BADGUYS, BRO!”. You can imagine that, in a game where the objective is usually based on killing people, there are plenty of people to be killed. The Devil’s Cartel makes it perfectly clear that Mexico is filled to the brim with expendable, mindless cartel soldiers. I’m fairly certain that myself and my partner cleared out an entire generation of the Mexican population.
Where the original Army of Two allowed players to earn money by completing side-objectives, The Devil’s Cartel pays players for killing enemies. Before, spending your hard-earned cash on weapon upgrades and masks felt very satisfying. Now, you have to quickly spend all of your cash on upgrades and outfits before you drown in all of the money that the game rams down your throat. Luckily, that isn’t the only interesting feature from the franchise that has been removed from The Devil’s Cartel. The previous games of the franchise had a variety of interactions available to act out between players, ranging from the useless and fun (high-fives, Rock, Paper, Scissors, etc.) to the combat oriented (flipping tables to create cover, back-to-back fighting, feigned surrender, etc.). The Devil’s Cartel felt that those were too likely to create enjoyment, so they have been removed. The interaction is mainly limited to boosting each other up.
While the game still talks about Aggro, it has either become impossible to notice or unnecessary. Aggro was the mechanic that let one player to draw all of the attention of the enemies, allowing the partner to become near-invisible and flank. With the amount of enemies that are tossed at you during every second of gameplay, strategy goes out the window. The Devil’s Cartel desperately wants players to tactically maneuver the battlefields, but the core gameplay boils down to the mindless and uninteresting slaughtering of enemies. There is a new feature, aptly named, “Overkill”, which makes players invincible, gives infinite ammo, and makes your bullets explode. While I can always enjoy punching an enemy’s head off, I’m not sure if it was necessary to give the gamers another way to simply walk through the waves of badguys.
There is still a plethora of upgrades and weapons to attach them to, as well as 25 or so outfits to purchase. Combine this with the new Mask Creator mode and you’re able to customize your character to a fair degree. I have to admit, I usually spend too much time customizing things in games, but I wasn’t that tempted in The Devil’s Cartel. Even though you can make your character look as pretty or cool as you like, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re playing The Devil’s Cartel.
The style and attitude that was poured into the marketing for The Devil’s Cartel, unfortunately, didn’t seem to make an appearance in the game. With a premise of drug cartels and Mexican culture, you could easily make a stylish and striking game. Instead, The Devil’s Cartel sticks with the overdone blend of drear and sepia that’s plaguing shooters these days. I’m not really certain that game’s official theme song, “Double or Nothing” by B.o.B. and Big Boi, is in the game. Maybe it plays in the credits? There’s an utter lack of anything defining or interesting in this game. Even playing some booming rap during the shootouts would have set the mood of the game, but The Devil’s Cartel takes no risks in making it anything but another shooter. Sadly, that’s exactly what this game is: just another shooter.
The Army of TWO franchise had a promising start, but the series is steadily declining with each new release. The Devil’s Cartel has a weak plot, boring gameplay, absent multiplayer, and the features that set the first games apart have been removed. Even if The Devil’s Cartel didn’t have a previous record of games to stand against, it would still offer nothing new to the genre. Does the game function as it was intended? Yes. Is that a good thing? No. Sadly, I’m rapidly losing faith in Army of TWO. It might be time to lay this franchise to rest.
I give Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel 2 “Tactical Warriors” out of 5
By Blake Edwards