by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
The Devil’s in the Details
When the first Army of TWO arrived back in 2008 it found itself at the height of the cooperative shooter era, a time in which games like Gears of War and Rainbow Six Vegas were proving that you didn’t need to be on a couch with a buddy to provide a solid cooperative shooter. The game had a rather fantastic marketing campaign, demonstrating many of the Army of Two’s cooperative mechanics as well as making the consumer laugh through the mishaps of the two heroes. When it finally arrived on store shelves what we took home and booted up was a good game albeit with several noticeable flaws.
Two years later, Army of Two received a sequel in the form of The 40th Day and man, oh man, was it a disappointment. Rather than learning from their mistakes in the first game, regarding narrative and gameplay, The 40th Day was a cluster of confusion and lackluster set pieces with less than a handful of smart ideas, things that should have been seen throughout the experience. The story had one of the worst endings for a game in nearly a decade. These items and more should have meant death for this rather short-lived franchise.
Electronic Arts felt otherwise, however, and contracted a branch of Visceral Games, the creators of the quite enjoyable Dead Space franchise, to create a third entry in the series. Can The Devil’s Cartel reclaim the glory of the first game and bring the series to new heights?
Running With the Devil
Sometime after the events of The 40th Day (more than likely rendering the multiple endings to that game non-canon) Trans World Operations has grown to be the one of the biggest private military contractors in the world. Amongst the many contracts coming in from around the world, TWO receives a request from a Mexican politician named Cordova who aims to rid the fictional city of La Puerta of the La Guadana drug cartel. The player takes on the role of one of two new TWO operatives: Alpha and Bravo. Together, the pair must take down the cartel by whatever means necessary.
From a story perspective, The Devil’s Cartel treads familiar territory in entertainment media, making it uninspired at best. The game treads familiar ground and all the traditional shooter tropes like hostage rescue, character indecision, betrayal and more make an appearance as you tear apart the streets of La Puerta and beyond. There’s simply nothing here to really make the game stand out which is simply a shame given the developer’s history.
The real problems with the story begin with the character selection: Alpha and Bravo. Beyond just the rather bland choice in character naming (which is implied by EA to make the player feel more connected to them) the two lack any distinctive personality traits. You never learn anything substantial from the pair as the most you will ever hear is a series of mom jokes and expletives. The decision to replace character stars Rios and Salem for the sake of the story was a rather bad one and the resulting consequences of this decision rend the original dynamic duo asunder.
In short, if there was ever any hope for the series from a story perspective during the development of The Devil’s Cartel, it was ruined with the publication of this title. It would have been for the best had Visceral not included a story in this game at all as it simply drags the experience down.
Bromancing the Stone
Army of Two has always had a rather simple gameplay structure: take cover, kill enemies, move on to the next area, rinse and repeat. This formula hasn’t changed since the series began and despite any perceived intentions on the part of the developer to the contrary the result is rather boring. Visceral Montreal attempted to introduce some changes to the game but sadly it doesn’t aid the experience at all.
fun Overkill mode, strong customization options
heavily bug-ridden, bad story, uninspired gameplay