It was clear from the beginning that Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel wanted to showcase a new level of destruction with the inclusion of the Frostbite 2 engine and a new gameplay feature called Overkill. With an arsenal that comprises of numerous weapons and an unstoppable new killing mode, Alpha and Bravo take to the streets of Mexico to quench their thirst for combat. Will The Devil’s Cartel offer a compelling narrative and memorable environments throughout, or will it lack depth and simply exhibit the Overkill mode by means of repetitive linear firefights? Let’s take a look.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel places you in command of Alpha and Bravo as they travel to Mexico with the hope of rescuing hostages from the drug cartel. Accompanied by Rios and Salem, they maneuver through the streets and engage in idiotic conversations as you progress towards an objective. The group stumbles upon a hostage named Fiona and decide to put everything on the line to save her after Salem openly states his disapproval of getting involved in her rescue. It is the choice of choosing to save Fiona over following Salem’s advice to leave her that would come back to haunt them as they return to Mexico years later to put an end to the drug cartel. The plot is dull and predictable, leaving very little to your imagination. You will even forget what your objectives are at times as you travel along linear routes destroying environments and killing off what seems like an unlimited amount of enemies.
The continual reliance on Overkill lowers the overall strategy that is needed to approach enemy fortifications, but does make for an enjoyable shoot out due to the chaotic and over-populated presentation that it provides.
The visual presentation is a mixed bag as the main characters maintain the highest quality within the game while enemy soldiers lack any real detail that make them distinguishable from one another. Environments tend to look similar as you navigate through the countless rooms and alleyways that Mexico has to offer. There are also instances within cutscenes where there is a noticeable lack of texture and detail. The use of the Frostbite 2 engine is a definite plus as the destruction encountered is a highlighted feature within The Devil’s Cartel. Lighting was one of the better featured aspects throughout the missions, specifically within the catacombs when your pistol, which had a flashlight mounted to it, was used to illuminate the narrow corridors. However, poor AI and questionable enemy positioning ruined the suspenseful atmosphere that it was initially planned to create.
While the sound present within The Devil’s Cartel doesn’t do much to stand out, it also doesn’t lower the bar on the overall product. However, the dialogue can be questionable at times, as it is either mundane or borderline idiotic. Conversations vary from talking about the dangerous profession they have chosen which runs the risk of bullet cancer, mom jokes, or continual remarks about Rios’ sister.
As you move through Mexican streets, a hotel, or a graveyard, mindless combat is what dominates the entirety of The Devil’s Cartel and it is surprisingly enjoyable. At its core, Army of Two is a fun third-person cooperative shooter that welcomes a friend, or an online combatant to join you in the fray. The third installment of the franchise should be taking a step forward with regards to gameplay but that is not the case.
The primary issue with Army of Two: Devil’s Cartel is that it does not cater to a cooperative gameplay experience. Teamwork is the heart and soul of the game, but it is not necessary. Aside from the areas that make you momentarily part ways and when dealing with MG positions, The Devil’s Cartel could easily be beaten with one combatant. Level design should have been drastically improved to accommodate a second player and the variety of weaponry available. The Mexican slums level held so much potential, but it too fell short among the lot of missions played. Linear gameplay ruined any hope of an immersive experience as you crisscross down the terrain. An open area with several routes would have been ideal, not only to improve the game’s overall quality, but also creating a true cooperative experience. Altering the level’s structure so that one player could utilize a sniper rifle to provide cover while the other advances into the Cartel’s one-of-many ambushes would have led to more control on the gamer’s behalf. Developers, especially when dealing with a franchise, should try to include new creative features that will enhance the player’s experience. The inclusion of Overkill successfully brought a beneficial aspect to an overall dull experience.
Overkill, at first glance during the training scenario, seems to offer an all-powerful advantage against your enemies throughout the campaign. However, its frequent acquisition results in a reckless approach to enemy strongholds as you, more often than not, find yourself approaching slowly with no thought of protection as you begin to deplete your unlimited amount of magazines at your disposal. Thankfully, you are invulnerable to enemy fire while in Overkill, but be sure to kill all enemies during the process or else you may find yourself quickly outnumbered in a poorly defensible area. Precision with regard to combat accuracy is also replaced with a momentary Ramboesque gameplay experience, firing at any noticeable movement. The continual reliance on Overkill lowers the overall strategy that is needed to approach enemy fortifications, but does make for an enjoyable shoot out due to the chaotic and over-populated presentation that it provides. Combining Overkill with your partner will increase its duration and initiate a slow-motion sequence that is highlighted by enemy dismemberment.
Enemy AI showcases another problem when dealing with a cover based gameplay system. Enemies will position themselves safely behind cover and follow a predictable pattern of firing. Your most lethal weapon at this point is patience. They also tend to randomly charge you, making it even easier to neutralize them. In the fifth mission you escort a girl who does little to avoid enemy fire as she stands in the open. Thankfully, she does not take damage or else this segment would be extremely difficult. Your partner will also sometimes block doorways, or not have any urgency to move out of gunfire and seek cover. He is mostly ineffective during combat as he merely provides another target for enemies to focus on while you repel the enemy threat singlehandedly. The option to rely on a player-controlled combatant is also available online, but the constant return to the previous checkpoint as a player joins or departs your game will only increase your overall frustration level.
The utilization of the cover system is unbalanced due to the placement of random objects throughout each area that either offer little to no protection as they are destructible, or scattered vehicles tend to lure you in with the hope of salvation from the onslaught of bullets only to find a more immediate threat being your own choices. It is also sometimes difficult to move in and out of cover during firefights resulting in unwanted exposure to an enemy fortification. However, the ability to destroy environments, coupled with Overkill, does make for an enjoyable experience.
Breaching doors, assaulting mounted turrets, and thwarting enemy ambushes in different locations does little to hide the fact that the game relies on repetitive sequences to extend gameplay time. The hope of a new engagement is instead met with tiresome events that must be completed in order to advance. The minimal shift from the repetitive outline is discovered towards the end of the game when you are protecting a civilian from atop a building with a sniper rifle and also firing at enemies with a minigun from a helicopter. Even though these sequences are not groundbreaking, they do provide a welcoming change of pace.
While there are several reasons for the loss of immersive gameplay, the concluding pop-up screen that arrives upon completing a mission will get on your nerves rather quickly as there are over forty missions. It illustrates your skill as a mercenary and the amount of cash you have acquired from your kills, which is used to unlock new gear and weapons.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel provides a third-person shooter that solely revolves around killing countless enemies through repetitive combat sequences and the over reliance on Overkill. The narrative lacks any real depth and the poor AI and environments restrict the player from engaging in a cooperative experience that is normally the heart and soul of an Army of Two title. The intentions were commendable, but the lack of attention to all aspects featured within the game led to an unpolished final product. If only there was a kill counter on the screen, as is depicted in Hot Shots! Part Deux, to update your kills in real-time…
+ Shooting countless enemies is still fun
+ Destructive environments
- Gameplay does not cater to a cooperative experience
- Poor AI
- Repetitive gameplay
- Unimaginative story
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