Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel review 
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Geoffrey Tim
April 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Mexico, as you know from the stereotypes and clichés perpetuated by countless games, films and TV shows is a place of lawlessness. Criminal gangs, the drug cartels, ruthlessly rule over Mexico’s city streets with an iron fist and a loaded gun. That’s the Mexico we’re presented with in Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, a game that clings to such stereotypes and clichés like an insecure child to his mother’s apron strings.

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Of course there’s a politician involved, one who wants to clean the streets of this criminal underworld – and of course there’s a cartel leader who’s trying to buy said politician, or kill him if his morals are immovable. That’s where our Army of Two comes in. Series stalwarts Salem and Rios have been displaced, assigned to a mentor role to make way for new heroes in the way of Alpha and Bravo, a new set of meatheads with masks who manage to be even more one-dimensional and unrelatable than their forebears. Expect all the character development of your average sea anemone.

Of course one of them’s a stoic, by-the-books kind of guy, while the other is a little more unhinged, favouring reckless abandon. They’re tasked with protecting said politician, and of course it all goes awry. And of course there’s a plot twist, that you’ll probably see coming a mile away.

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What follows is seven to ten hours of you and your co-op partner sticking to the third-person shooter template of shooting absolutely everything that moves.

The Army of Two games have never billed themselves as anything more than big, dumb, fun shooters, but The Devil’s Cartel retains only the the first two of those qualifiers. Devoid of that irreverent bombastic, over-the-top, fist-bumping humour and roguish charm, The Devil’s Cartel strips the series down to its fundamentals, revealing a rotten core.

Mindlessly shooting at things can, and should be fun in a game like this, but the actual gameplay mechanics get in the way of it being a good time. It’s a cover-based co-op shooter that features a fussy, almost broken cover system. Contextual cover locations are denoted by a small cover symbol, and the appropriate button slides you to safety. From this bit of respite, you can then line up a symbol on the next bit of cover, with the idea being that you should be able to slip in and out of cover. That would be great, if it worked. Instead, you’ll find yourself frequently dying as you relentlessly bang your knees against yet another conveniently placed wall, absorbing the bullets you’ve been trying desperately to avoid. 

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Most egregiously, it destroys anything resembling real co-operative play. Gone is the series aggression meter, back-to-back takedown anarchy, co-op sniping, moral quandaries and just about everything that made previous Army of Two games fun, but forgettable co-operative experiences. Instead, the sparse co-op mechanics that are in place; flanking, set-pieces where each character takes on a different section of the level, breaching doors and the like are overused to the point of monotony.

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Worse is that for a game billed as having a “very intense co-op campaign,” the co-op system is backwards. There’s no real drop-in, drop-out co-op; bring a partner in and you’ll be sent back to the beginning of the level. They drop out, and you’ll be treated to the same. There’s an attempt to bring in some competitive co-op with an arcade-style scoring system that punctuates each section of level, declaring a “winner” for each area but even that lacks any finesse, or real point. Scoring does unlock new weapons and skins, which ascribes to the Xzibit “Pimp my Ride” school of customisation. Want a flame-embellished, chromed  scoped rifle with a laser sight, under-barrel grenade launcher and armour piercing rounds? Sure, why not.

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The game’s single saving grace, and the mechanic that will drive you though the tedium is the Overkill mode. Fill up a meter (by what else, shooting people!) and you’ll be able to go in to overkill, unleashing a relentless torrent of explosive gunfire that makes good use of the Frostbite engine’s destructible terrain. There’s a certain fun to be had in absolutely demolishing everything and watching it burn, but that’s about all the fun it’ll deliver.

It’s unfortunate, because like Spec Ops: The Line, Army of Two: the Devil’s Cartel could have served as a deconstruction of its genre, a delightful parody of itself. Instead, it’s an insipid, lifeless and ultimately forgettable shooter; real paint-by-numbers stuff, that’s not explicitly bad, but does nothing to elevate it to being good.

Conclusion

Soulless and bland, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is an utterly generic, paint-by-numbers shooter that’s not explicitly bad, but is far from being good.
5.5

Army of Two: the Devil's Cartel was reviewed by Geoffrey Tim on a Xbox 360

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces.I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.I am also the emperor of the backend

  • Sir Captain Rincethis

    Sounds like a keeper, as in, Geoff, you can keep it!

    • Deon Steyn

      Maybe they are going to give it away in a competition as with Sniper Ghost Warrior 2. I wouldn’t mind winning though. Play it and trade to BT Games

      • Sir Captain Rincethis

        Mmm, do you think I’ve just burnt my bridges then? 0_o

        • Deon Steyn

          Maybe you’ll win as punishment?

          • Sir Captain Rincethis

            Geoff wouldn’t go that far… WOULD HE?!

          • AndriyP

            Remember Erwin and Katy?

          • Sir Captain Rincethis

            Le…

          • Deon Steyn

            That would be trolling at it’s finest.

        • Admiral Chief Erwin

          Like yesterday’s charcoal dude

  • eXpZA

    “bring a partner in and you’ll be sent back to the beginning of the level. they drop out, and you’ll be treated to the same.”

    • Deon Steyn

      Double Dragon and Golden Axe had better co-op than this.

    • Sir Captain Rincethis

      Hahahahah! WINNER!

    • Jim Lenoir (Banana Jim)

      Gaming like it’s 2007! Wohoo!!

    • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

      Have an upvote

  • Deon Steyn

    I was honestly looking forward to this. The first two set the stage for a great third game, o well. Elizabeth at least is a good co-op partner throwing ammo and salt as needed.

    Wait.. That’s it… Geoffrey was too busy playing Bioshock to care about this games review! Busted!

    • Sir Captain Rincethis

      I think you’re onto something there… And I shall be this evening too!

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      Already finished BioShock, actually. ;) Spent my weekend playing this nonsense aftewards. Probably hasn’t helped.

      • Deon Steyn

        Good form, now try it on the 1999 mode. I know I will as soon as I am finished.

  • Eric Viljoen

    Omg played Spec Ops: The Line over the weekend(well… over one day). It made me think of a bastard child between Fight Club and Black Hawk Down.

    • Eric Viljoen

      I know, I know… I didn’t listen to the first rule of Fight Club…

      • Deon Steyn

        Or the second rule…

  • Gerhard

    I have to agree 100% with your review. Me and my girlfriend really like the co-op style, but this game is a step backwards.Their is too much information on screen, not enough over the top humour and no feeling for the character your playing. The game is holding your hand to such an extend that it gets in the way of the actual play.They should have build on the Salem and Rios characters of the previous games.The game mechanics are fine. We also miss the back to back mode. You summed it it up nicely – It is not all bad. We still enjoyed playing the game.

  • Aussious

    Great review Geoff of a rather crappy game of a crappy franchise. Its a real crime when a brilliant game like Mirror’s Edge gets no love from EA but this crappy Gears clone has had two? EA has destroyed some of my fav franchises but games like the Devil’s Cartel are still being green lit, sad state of affairs.

  • Tbone187

    Damn,, how do you mess up a game with a theme of Mexican Drug Lords/Cartels… Was actually looking forward to this…rental I suppose..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=686751624 Darren Peach

    After Bioshock……Everything is going to suck for some time !