Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is the third instalment of the franchise, co-developed by Visceral Montreal and EA Montreal, released three years after its predecessor. Although it would seem that the time would be enough to have furnished a comprehensive storyline and characters, along with gameplay and graphics to match, The Devil’s Cartel doesn’t quite match the level of the two games that have gone before it.
For fans of the series, it may have come as a surprise that the tag-team heroes, Salem and Rios, have been demoted to background characters in the overall plot, providing little more than instructions and commentary to the newcomers, Alpha and Bravo. Theoretically, this should not have made much of an impact to the game, but the lack of camaraderie between the newbies, compared to that of the old guns, is evident throughout. Returning fans needn’t worry too much about their heroes, as Salem and Rios have some part to play much later in the game, without giving away any spoilers, adding a bit of spark.
The start of the game finds operatives of T.W.O. (Trans World Operations) escorting a politician to safety, as he is due to testify against the cartel, La Guadana, and their boss, Estaban Bautista. The game, then, follows the story of new recruits, Alpha and Bravo, on a mission to rescue the political who was taken hostage after an ambush on their convoy. The team is now tasked with fighting their way through numerous Mexican landscapes (city slums, war-torn regions, scrapyards and even churches), attempting to save the hostage and bring down Bautista themselves. Despite a lengthy build-up to the main the story, switching between past and present, as with the leading characters, the story is, ultimately, somewhat thin.
Switching focus between different landscapes aids only to provide a sense that some attention was placed on the overall look of the game, which it succeeds in doing, but only just. Along the way, the duo will encounter many strategically placed boxes (either filled with fireworks of explosives), which provides a sense of mindless action, as almost every scene resembles that of a Hollywood, slow-motion action scene, which, admittedly, is very pleasing on the eye. The problem with this, though, is that after 5th or 6th hour, is becomes nothing more than a mundane marathon to the finish line, which should take the avid gamer between 6 and 8 hours to complete. Blowing up stuff earns points for the gamer, which matters little, as it serves only to unlock new gear and guns along the way; allowing you merely to blow things up differently.
The developers of Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel have removed the “competitive multiplayer” mode. The reason behind the move is based on them creating a “very intense co-op campaign.” This statement only adds to the confusion, as the game itself lacks the same level of co-op gameplay seen in previous titles of the franchise. Moreover, co-op never feels to be a massive focal point on the story, as playing in single-player mode yields the same results, if not quicker. There are parts spread throughout the game that forces you to pair up, such as with using riot shields and flanking the enemy, but nothing that the pedestrian AI provided cannot handle.
There are a few new gameplay features added to the game, the most noticeable being the updated cover system. With a press of a button, players can take cover behind almost any object, but choose wisely, as these objects can sometimes blow up or be shot to pieces. Switching between covers is also a simple press of a button away, allowing the player to then run in a predetermined route to the next cover, sometime sliding between the two. For most of the game this works well, but at times can put you in an awkward position, running head first into a “cover” where enemies await, while you’re facing the wrong direction.
There are many flaws in Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, but there are many aspects there to still enjoy. The game is fast paced from the start to finish, which means there’s plenty of action to get through. Fans of the series will feel empty after completing The Devil’s Cartel, as there aren’t many memorable scenes to discuss with friends afterward. Although the story would ultimately dictate why the sudden switch to new characters, Alpha and Bravo, fans will still be reeling at the choice of giving Salem and Rios a backseat in the venture.
As a title on its own, Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel doesn’t stand up to much of the competition, and even the co-op mode, meant to be played with friends, leaves the gamer wanting. Although the action scenes and visuals brings something to the party, the repetitive nature of the game quickly squashes this plus-point. If you’re one for mindless action sequences, and simply enjoy explosions and killing the bad guys, there’s enough to keep you busy for a few hours. At least there’s that.