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Army of Two is a series which has a bit of a reputation, not exactly a positive one either. People think it’s a big gun and brofest with fist bumping and explosions. I can certainly tell you that the third in the series, The Devil’s Cartel, is not like that, as it has no fist bumping. Guns and Explosions? Oh yeah, it’s got all that. Why would you take that out though when it’s the winning formula for the game?
This new romp takes us into the role of either Alpha or Bravo, depending on if you’re in single player or if you’re player two in a co-op session, who are new to T.W.O and are trained by Salem and Rios from the first two games. The game kicks off with us in Mexico protecting the President, when RPG’s are fired on the convoy. We then cut, do our training, and go back a few years to our first operation. The reason for showing this first operation is not entirely clear, not until near the end at least. So when first playing it you’re a bit confused as to why we’ve gone from impending danger to a simple mission, but it does at least act as a good introduction to the characters and the faces of the endless hoards you’ll be fighting against for the next six to seven hours.
Army of Two is most certainly a co-op series and that’s not changed here. You can play with a friend online or split screen on the same console, which is a feature I dearly miss on modern games. I’m the sort of person who still drags out his Gamecube at Christmas to play some Burnout with family and most games don’t allow for this anymore. Even the Devil’s Cartel developers Visceral Games’ last effort, Dead Space 3, didn’t allow for split screen co-op which was a huge blow when round a friends and deciding to give the co-op a quick blast. Even with internet enabled consoles, people are still social. Wanting to play a multiplayer game in the same room is a big deal to me and it should be to you, so it was at least pleasing to see that The Devil’s Cartel catered for that.
Playing in co-op is probably your best bet for fun from the game. Whilst I’m not saying I didn’t have fun, I am saying that my AI Bravo was an utter arse to deal with sometimes. Sometimes he’d run straight into a parade of supercharged grunts, other times I’d need to push a car or open a door to proceed and he’d just stay camped behind a crate. I have wasted many a grenade trying to get him out of his cubby hole. Forcing him to open the door with the d-pad seemed to work most of the time, but still pretty damn annoying especially nearer the end when it escalated a lot more.
The Devils Cartel has a couple of unique features to other third person shooters, with the most enthralling being the return of the Overkill mode. Once you’ve got enough points, slam LB and your screen will be doused in orange and time will slow down slightly. You become invincible, your gun requires no reloading and your bullets are like missiles, blasting away concrete cover making your foes’ arms and head blast away from their torso. It gets better though, if you and your partner go into overkill at the same time then time slows right down and you’re even more powerful. Overkill is what takes The Devil’s Cartel from a boring campaign where you just constantly clear similar looking locations, to an enthralling thrill ride where you can just let everything rip and blast your way through, making people fly as you do. I’m sure if playing it co-op you could orchestrate some impressive kills, but even with the AI you can clear and area and it does something that shooters don’t do much: It makes you smile in glee at the pure insanity of it all.
The second unique feature isn’t as enthralling as Overkill. T.W.O Vision will make a glowing solider show you where you should go, so you can flank people whilst the other player distracts them. I didn’t see a single point where I’d need it. Maybe when playing it in co-op it would be handy. This brings me onto the other point about playing the game solo: There is no point in being tactical. The game tells you at several points, usually when an MMG is in front of you, that one player should distract the MMG so the other can take out the guy manning it. Whilst you can issue very basic commands using the d-pad, there is nothing that lets you say ‘HEY BRAVO, DISTRACT THEM’. It makes these parts extremely tedious.
Branching Gameplay is also something thats utilised. At points you can choose to take on one objective, whilst the other character will do another, splitting the two of you up. This seems to get forgotten pretty quickly though, with a few at the beginning and only one towards the end. A lot of the time one path is much more exciting, letting you board helicopters and snipe whilst the other has to defend a point from endless waves of foes. So maybe if one was always going to be at a disadvantage, it was better for them to be a lot more lax in the middle.
The story of The Devil’s Cartel isn’t anything special and, being a lover of deep stories in games, it was pretty annoying seeing bad writing being slapped across the game and twists that were supposed to be huge, but just wanted me to slam the 360 controller into my face. It’s not a story driven genre, but at times I just wanted retribution for what the cutscenes were showing me, only for a true ending to be pulled out from under my feet in a scene which basically said ‘We’ll sort all this out in the next game’. I was actually surprised at the lack of swearing though. I expected the F bomb to be dropped a lot, but it was only used maybe once or twice in the game and not at moments you’d expect either. I could say thats grown up of the game, but if I’m playing an 18 rated game with a mode which turns your bullets into near explosives, then I won’t mind hearing you call the antagonist a motherfucker. I was also surprised by one sequence which was pretty horror inspired. You’re with your partner, in a dark catacomb, with only a pistol flashlight to show you your way. Men with machetes are after you. It was certainly a lot scarier and put me more on edge than anything I saw in Dead Space 3.
The story shouldn’t matter all that much though, as there is a big influence on you replaying this, with you only ending on around Rank 17 of 25 when you first finish the game. The money you earn in the levels determine your rank but you can then use that money to purchase and attach an insultingly high amount of add ons to your weapons. How much difference they actually make to your gameplay is negligible, but praise needs to be given to the team for creating such an insane arsenal of weaponry that I’m sure is mostly there so you can have a damn good time in Double Overkill mode. Gone from the first two titles which might be missed is any form of online multiplayer. It’s now co-op only, which is a strange admission. Usually modern games are very keen to add in multiplayer where its not needed, but for a game like this I could’ve seen it being a nice addition, though I suppose Overkill might’ve been slightly, well ‘overkill’, for online matches though.
The Devil’s Cartel is the sort of game you should play with a mate on a Saturday night whilst waiting for the Pizza Hut man to come. In small bursts in co-op it’s certainly fun and serviceable. But if you’re sat alone playing mission after mission, then you’re going to see through it’s repetitive level design and gameplay extremely quickly. Even if fist bumping is out of the game, the split screen certainly lets you do it in the real. Then, if you’re as British as me, you’ll put your head in your hands over what Americanism you’ve just displayed.
Then you’re in luck! We have one copy for the 360 to give away. All you need to do is leave a comment below with your Twitter handle or email address! It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately this is only for UK readers. The competition ends at 6PM GMT on April 5th!