Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel Review
There’s a good chance you’ve played an Army of Two game and just don’t remember it. This has been a series that, while solid in the experience it offers, has never particularly excelled in offering anything that sets it apart from the myriad other shooters available. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad series – I’ve had quite a bit of fun every time a friend and I have tackled its campaign cooperatively – but it’s the gaming equivalent to a Michael Bay film.
Unfortunately, with The Devil’s Cartel, this comparison becomes even more apparent.
The Frostbite engine – the same engine that powers EA’s Battlefield series – makes this the most visually impressive installment yet. The locations are big, beautiful, and almost fully destructible, allowing for some pretty substantial mayhem to ensue.
Sadly, the potential of this new technology, or at least new for this series, is squandered on boring and painfully repetitive fights. You – and a partner, if you’re able to find someone bored enough to trudge through this game with you – are forced to endure a seemingly endless onslaught of goons, each indistinguishable from the next outside of the occasional armored guy.
There’s no variety, and that ends up being the thing that turns this into more of an endurance test than a game. It’s entirely void of any innovation in the actual gameplay department, instead relying on sending as many generic enemies at you as it can with the occasional chase or turret sequence sprinkled on to try and break up the monotony.
The worst part is it feels like some people genuinely cared about this game. The weapon customization is extremely well-executed – you have a plethora of options to choose from when selecting and modifying your arsenal, and the guns and their various attachments look great. Even those ridiculous shields make a glorious return. It’s too bad customizing your weapons ends up being more fun than the game itself.
The entire time I was playing this game I couldn’t help but feel The Devil’s Cartel would’ve made a fantastic arcade cabinet game. I wouldn’t mind wasting a few quarters on something like this, and the way its campaign has been broken up into 10-20 minute bite-sized segments works brilliantly for arcade gaming.
But this isn’t an arcade game, it’s a $60 retail release.
I wish I could explain the story – the only problem is I don’t remember it. Other than what is possibly the worst ending in recent memory, the story brings nothing to the series’ fiction. You play as Alpha and Bravo, who replace Salem and Rios from the first two games. Their names are never revealed in an attempt to let you, the player, “project” yourself onto the character you control.
That should be the first warning sign right there. Absolutely no attempt was made at making these characters interesting, instead making them blank canvases for us to transform into ourselves. That’s a horrible idea, and it doesn’t explain why literally every other character in the game – except, to a certain extent, Salem and Rios, who were pushed aside to make room for these bland newcomers – is entirely forgettable.
You have a handful of characters who are introduced for the sole purpose of dying in an ill attempt at making you care about what’s going on, there’s the occasional bromance joke that shows the game also wants to be funny, and that’s about it. I’ve managed to explore the deep well of personality The Devil’s Cartel has to offer in a paragraph and a half.
This is what I find the most bizarre about The Devil’s Cartel: it isn’t funny. It’s over-the-top, hyper violent, the previous entries have tinkered with what should be an extremely easy buddy cop set-up, and yet it tries really hard to be a serious game. Why? To take a bite out of that big serious warfare-flavored Call of Duty pie? This series has had three games now with which to choose a tone, yet it still awkwardly shifts between wacky and serious.
On top of all of the above, this is possibly the buggiest game yet. Maybe the transition to new tech was a little more difficult than its developer expected, because on many occasions I came across obvious graphical issues, disappearing objects, objectives that wouldn’t trigger or complete, and so much more. The AI, too, is just horrible. Enemies would continuously get stuck on the environment and shoot at nothing.
If I had to sum up The Devil’s Cartel in a few words, I’d say it’s all style and no substance. Whereas its predecessors at least tried to be mildly entertaining, this entry has no problem tossing waves of faceless goons at you until you either mow them all down and proceed to the next level or give up and play something else. With this game, I recommend choosing the latter.
Reviewed By: Adam Dodd
Publisher: Electronic Arts
This review is based on a copy of Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel for the Xbox 360 provided by Electronic Arts.