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Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel Review

Posted by Matthew Hewson On Tuesday 16 April 2013Comments Off

Available on 360 and PS3 l Published by EA l Developed by Visceral Games l Classified R18+ l Supports 1-2 players

REVIEW IN BRIEF > As the third entry in the competent yet unexciting Army of Two series, The Devils Cartel does little to improve what is a somewhat stale formula. There is nothing particularly wrong with it, but then again there is nothing particularly right either. The co-op shooting is tight, but with so many superior options on the market, this is a hard game to recommend at full price. There is fun to be had, but it’s a “2 for $50” kind of fun.

REVIEW IN FULL > The Army of Two franchise has never lit my world on fire. While the first two games were solid, if uninspiring, entries in the co-op shooter genre, I always felt there were better options to get my “kill stuff with a buddy” fix. So when I was offered the chance to review the third game in the series, I took it as an opportunity to see if my previous opinions were a little harsh. After all, the franchise had reached its third entry so it had to be doing something right. So, with an open mind, I launched into the blood soaked world of protagonists Alpha and Bravo as they attempted to take down a Mexican drug cartel by killing dealers, cracking jokes and killing more dealers.

The Devil’s Cartel felt like a game with a bad case of split personality disorder.

The Devil’s Cartel felt like a game with a bad case of split personality disorder. On one hand, it presented me with a score chasing, gung-ho, humorous shoot ‘em up. On the other, it tried to tell a rather sombre tale of two soldiers determined to stop the drug cartels preying on the people of Mexico. This effort to do two things at once meant that neither was done very well and the end result was the very definition of mediocrity. Visceral would have been far better off embracing the over-the-top possibilities of the concept and really pushing the limits. Its attempts to delve into the serious world of consequence and reason were poorly thought out at best and shockingly crude at worst. A dark and serious tone isn’t necessary to justify every shooter’s existence.

Luckily the gameplay was more competent than the tone. Initially I had quite a bit of fun with The Devil’s Cartel. The shooting mechanics were solid, the guns had a nice feeling of weight and the ability to order my partner around mixed things up quite nicely. Unfortunately, the joy of combat lost its lustre rapidly, mainly because the first level featured practically everything the game had to offer.  Apart from a few on-rails sections, the gameplay was exactly the same the whole way through. Go there, hide behind cover and shoot the bad guys. That was it. The game did tease me with the possibility of some stealth missions, but it was just that, a tease. There was so little variety on offer that even the enemies were almost identical. I think there were only 10 different types of drug dealing psycho in the game, all with the same very basic AI behaviours.

As with the previous instalments in the series I found that playing with a friend dramatically improved the experience. I found the co-op system to be well implemented and this was clearly how the developers wanted the game to be played. On the harder difficulties, it was a real challenge to progress (simply due to the sheer number of enemies) and I had to make sure I was on the same page as my partner, otherwise a quick death was sure to follow. I had a blast knocking through some of the later levels with a mate and it was easily the highlight of the game for me.

As with previous instalments, I found that playing with a friend dramatically improved the experience.

The other thing that The Devil’s Cartel did well was the graphics. The Frostbite 2 engine was again in play and it looked as gorgeous as ever. I think it even looked a bit better than Battlefield 3 did on the consoles. The detail on the two protagonists was exceptional and more than once I was struck by the beauty of the surrounds. It was a shame, then, that the engine’s trademark environmental destructibility proved to be nothing more than window dressing. I would have loved the chance to collapse a building onto some goons or even a passing car, but alas all I could do was destroy some basic cover. The absence of Frostbite 2’s most famous feature felt like a real missed opportunity.

In the end I had little choice but to see this game for what it is, a bargain bin title masquerading as AAA. The gameplay is solid but repetitive, the story is bland and the whole experience reeks of “ho hum”. There is certainly some fun to be had, but it is the same fun that you can find in a thousand other titles, many of which are superior. What makes this game even harder to recommend is that it is currently sitting on shelves next to Gears of War: Judgment, the latest entry in the franchise that so clearly inspires it. The problem is this: as with Cornflakes, the original is still the best. Get your shooter fix elsewhere folks because while The Devil’s Cartel isn’t a bad game, we shouldn’t support mediocrity.

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