The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
and Bravo, the new protagonists. Guess which one is which, because
chances are you won't remember!
Army of Two is a series often criticized and praised for its core
ideas. A focus on co-op seemed worthwhile, but the overt “dude-bro”
styling to the characters and storyline, combined with some
questionable design decisions, has plagued the series' aspirations to
become a hit AAA shooter. These are my first impressions of the Army
of Two: Devil's Cartel demo (PS3 version).
There was an extreme lack of polish from what I experienced in the
short burst of gameplay. That's not to say the demo doesn't have its
high points, but it is far from a best seller if this is what the
current build of the game plays like.
Aiming feels loosely handled. Snap-to aiming with aim-assist works
at taking out most basic enemies but trying to aim manually is far
less practical. The aiming can be gotten used to, but it's not what
I'd call practical or fluid. This is made evidently clear with the
mini-boss that appears in the middle of the demo. His body is the
definition of a bullet sponge while his head can only take a few
hits. This is lazy enemy design at best as he's the only enemy
besides the regular thugs that you fight for the entire demo. They
also have it play out that your Overkill meter reaches maximum
capacity when you reach the mini-boss, in what is best described as a
passive aggressive attempt at giving a tutorial. I can't entirely
blame them for not being enthusiastic, considering it's just another
“rage mode” ability, giving you unlimited ammo and buffed up
health for a brief time.
The game's cover mechanic is an awkward hybrid of Mass Effect 3
and Spec Ops: The Line's cover systems. When you can find cover,
swapping between a specific points indicated on screen can be
seamless, but the second you aren't on the linear path the developers
intended, you immediately are in the crosshairs of every enemy.
The implementation of co-op specific moments also feels basic at
best, with most of them being so specific that you know that it's
merely an overly detailed transition to the next part of a level.
There are no vantage points for you to boost your ally up to so they
can snipe while you flank. There are no alternative routes to taking
out enemies. It's merely hoist your buddy up, get pulled up by him,
walk down a hall, shoot random Cartel thugs, rinse and repeat, with
graphically different but functionally the same additional co-op
points. Door breaching in particular feels more or less like a
loading screen or a “wait for your buddy to catch up” point.
These types of waits were annoying back in Resistance 3 and Dead
Space 3 and they aren’tt any better here.
Levels feel static at first, but Visceral Montreal tried
making them feel dynamic when the fighting finally starts. Bullets
chew up geometry and send dust flying, setting a great atmosphere and
actually giving both yourself and enemies cover from field of vision
as a result. The destructibility is a highlight, but it feels
underutilized considering the sheer amount of explosions that happen
when things aren't flowing organically.
There's also a
cupholder on the other side of it, in case you get thirsty.
Another highlight is the ability to customize your weapons. I
started with a high fire rate, medium accuracy assault rifle, and
with the cash given to you by default in the demo, I turned it into a
monstrous beast with a ridiculously high rate of fire, insane
accuracy, and 100 shot clip size. This cost a significant amount of
in-game cash (Experience Points), but it pays off. You can stick
sights and a laser sight on a shotgun, you can make an assault rifle
that can hit an enemy from as far away as would normally take a
sniper rifle, and I imagine you could make a sniper rifle be
effective as a semi-automatic mid-range weapon. You can test fire any
weapon without a loading screen, allowing you to experience how the
gun behaves as you modify it, letting you find that perfect sweet
spot in your arsenal.
It's clear some features have not been implemented as of yet, such
as the pistols cannot be customized beyond skins. Likewise, they
don't seem to be open for use outside of the test firing range --
even though you are told in the controls section that holding in the
weapon swap button should switch you to pistol, and just before the
demo starts, a cutscene is shown with you and your partner wielding
The AI is lacking. Most enemies just follow preplanned routes, to
the point of vaulting cover head first at you even if you're gunning
them down. While
their appearances are randomized, they carry the same weapons, most
of which are useless in comparison to your own guns.
While the Aggro mechanic from the past two entries is still present
AI’s response to it was not notable. It doesn't help that the Aggro
meter is now permanently removed from the HUD. There were even points
the AI wouldn’t respond at all. Instead, they would freeze up or
spin in a circle like a confused duckling.
Explosion! Prepare for
screen blurriness! SO REALISTIC YOU CAN TASTE THE DIRT! TASTE IT!
On the opposite side of the spectrum, your AI partner is a little
too good. He often steals kills from you in an attempt to get
the co-op bonuses for XP (at least I hope that's what he's trying to
do). Normally I welcome a little help in single player so long as it
doesn't get in the way, but Bravo feels like he's trying to show you
up. Commanding him is little more than either telling him to go nuts
or hide beside you, maybe throw a grenade if convenient, at which
he's horrible. I once had one of his grenades bounce back and nearly
blow me up instead of the drug cartel mercenaries and thugs we
were fighting. There is the upside that, at a branching part in the
demo, you two take on different roles and a vague sense of player
agency and control is in play, but then it ends in what could be, in
theory, called the climax of the demo.
The worst part of it cannot be described as anything other than a
complete oversight - the damage indication. I get that developers
want to decrease HUDs to as little as possible, but this:
I keep having this
weird dream where a fiesta goes wrong and somehow I end up with an
This is not how you do it. You do not make a player's vision
blurry, especially not when other in-game actions make the screen
blurry…or when scripted events make it blurry…or when it gets red
and blurry and white merely because an explosion was nearby…or
because you pressed a button…or because you're breathing…you get
what I'm saying? Because it makes the screen white and blurry after a
few hits you have absolutely no indication how many more you can take
before you're down. Likewise, the screen prompt of where damage is
coming from is vague and sometimes doesn't even pop up on time.
Since enemies have a habit of spawning in areas and not realizing
they should fire their guns until two minutes after you shoot one of
their buddies, you might start regenerating then get shot from behind
by someone who literally was not there the moment you looked. Combat
awareness is one thing, but people aren’t psychic. Enemies may go
down like cardboard boxes, but it seems like a trite attempt at
balancing a vague sense of health. Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel
not a serious shooter; a health bar wouldn't be any more immersion
breaking than the Overkill bar that annoyingly pops up whenever you
This distinct feeling of disconnect between the game's element is
present even in the control prompts and loading screens. Pressing
Select PS3 brought up the controls easily, which I appreciated, but
I almost wanted to facepalm the second I read on a loading screen
"You can activate TWO Vision by pressing the TWO Vision button".
No actual button is named. If you don't look it up in the Options
menu (For PS3 users: hit Select in the middle of a cutscene or Start
while in the middle of play),
you're on your own guessing what it is. It's a sad day when you have
to complain about sloppy loading screens.
I can't even think of a
tagline for this.
Based on the demo, I wish I could look forward to Army of Two:
The Devil's Cartel. I'd very much like to see someone deal with
the topic of the horror of the Mexican Drug Cartel wars with more
respect than Call of Jaurez: The Cartel did (i.e. not lie and
spread false ideas about the conflict). It's a war with seemingly no
end that's claimed so many lives but I don't think we're going to see
anything that understands the severity of the conflict coming out of
Army of Two. If everything I've seen is any indication, Army of
Two is a middle of the run shooter with some decent if not really
inventive ideas that just can't figure out how to make itself stand
out beyond weapon customization. I'd love to see the game get the
polish and innovation it deserves, as there were a few moments that
really did feel fun and distinct, but they were drowned out by the
serious lack of polishing that a game of this caliber needs. This is
merely a review for the demo, but with the game simply waiting to
release and the dev team fired, I'd say it's fair to assume this demo
is as close to the final game as we can get until the full package
comes out March 26, 2013 for PS3 and Xbox 360.
If you really are that desperate for a third person shooter set in
modern conflict, and weren't turned off by the gripes I mentioned
here, I'd advise either picking up one of the earlier Army of Two
games or Spec Ops: The Line, as both options feature co-op modes and
content filled single player campaigns, while costing significantly
less. And, well, if you really do like the demo, then go ahead and
pre-order. Just keep in mind that this isn't going to be perfect.
"I shall gut you like a Cornish Game Hen!" -- bonus points if you get that reference
Written by: Paradigm the Fallen
Edited by: Arnulfo Hermes
One isn't the loneliest number. One with an arrogant AI
partner is the loneliest number.
Trivia: Oddly, you can't throw grenades when testing out
on the firing range in the demo.
P.S. With customizable weaponry experience and
destructive tendencies, wouldn't it make sense to have the next Red
Faction game be made by Visceral? I mean even the narrative would be
better, and that's saying something!
P.S.P.S. Wouldn't it be a neat narrative twist if that
rogue chopper blade flying at you actually kills one or both of the
protagonists, leaving Salem and/or Rios to take up the lost men's
jobs and trying to end the fight. It would actually be something
unexpected from such a generic feeling action game.