The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
When we featured Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel on the cover of our magazine last year, it was pitched as a new direction for the series. Visceral Games would be handling the creation of the game with a new Montreal-based studio. New protagonists would take center stage, and they’d be more serious than the air-guitar-playing, fist-bumping Salem and Rios. To go along with the more mature tone for the characters, the story would tackle the deadly serious Mexican drug cartel situation in a respectful manner. Playing through The Devil’s Cartel, I often wondered if I was playing the same game that we had featured.
Alpha and Bravo may not play air guitar, but they still fist bump and make jokes about getting “bullet cancer.” They’re not quite at the level of silliness as Salem and Rios (especially in the first game), but they aren’t exactly somber, ultra-professional mercenaries either. As for the cartel-based storyline, don’t go into this game expecting a narrative that’s any deeper than the typical generic action game. And Visceral? You won’t see its logo anywhere on the box or during the opening splash screens. Outside of two brief mentions buried in the EA Redwood Shores section of the credits, there’s no indication whatsoever that the studio known for Dead Space touched this game.
Once you’re past the fact that the finished game isn’t quite what was promised, EA’s shooter manages to deliver some silly thrills. Alpha and Bravo build a rage meter as they destroy enemies and the environment around them, and they can unleash the ridiculous Overkill mode once it’s full. In this state, you’re granted invulnerability, infinite ammo, and you never have to reload. Also, every bullet you fire can separate limbs and heads from bodies. At the end of Overkill sessions, rooms are filled with piles of stumpy torsos.
Outside of the awesome Overkill sequences, not much separates The Devil’s Cartel from other co-op shooters. A system is in place that rewards you for flanking or distracting enemies, but it’s entirely possible to blast through the game without ever thinking of team tactics. While the first game had forced co-op moments like the back-to-back shootouts, you won’t be required to do much with your partner outside of the occasional step jump.
DICE’s Frostbite 2 engine is capable of great environmental damage, but this aspect isn’t utilized often outside of the occasional scripted setpiece moment. You can chip away at specific cover points, but most objects just disappear in a brief cloud of grey dust. I wasn’t expecting Battlefield levels of destruction, but the new engine doesn’t do much to shake up the gameplay experience.
Glitches rear their head occasionally, but rarely required a restart in my experience. One prevented custom masks and outfits to load, so our characters were nothing more than floating heads, arms, and feet. Others caused odd line-of-sight issues and floating environmental objects. At one point, after a thorough search of the environment yielded no further enemies, my co-op partner and I had to restart the whole fight because the game didn’t think we had cleared the area.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is a tricky game to recommend. On one hand, the lack of polish and the glitches cause me to give the game a less-than-stellar score. On the other hand, I can’t deny that my co-op partner and I were laughing and enjoying ourselves for the large majority of the campaign. As a mindless co-op shooter, it delivers. If you’re looking to grab a friend and have some fun while slaughtering hundreds of drug runners, you won’t be disappointed with The Devil’s Cartel.