Usually, ripping into a game and tearing its heart right out is a fun thing to do. When a game is bad and when developers are lazy, they deserve to be called out on it. If we as the customers are going to be asked to shell out $60, then you better believe that we expect to get our money’s worth.
When it comes to Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel though, there is no fun to be had. It pains me to tell you that the series, which holds a special place in my heart, has now been reduced to nothing more than a recycled, lazy, forgettable and generic shooter running on autopilot that gets just about everything it possibly can, wrong.
I loved the original Army of Two game. I have very fond memories of playing it and having an absolute blast with it. Having always fancied co-op gaming over the single player route, I was thrilled to see a game put such a large focus on co-op. Some of the mechanics were really innovative and though the ball was dropped on multiplayer, the gritty, explosive and edgy single player campaign was excellent. The game also had some awesome weapons, an interesting story and two kick-ass characters.
The sequel, Army of Two: The 40th Day, though not as memorable as the first game, was still a solid effort and one that stayed faithful to its predecessor. So, you can imagine my excitement when Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel flew onto my radar. A third game in the series is exactly what I had been waiting for and even though a new developer was being brought on board and two new characters were taking center stage, I kept my hopes high.
Boy, what a mistake that was.
The people who made Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel should be ashamed of themselves. Not only have they absolutely ruined a series that was once really great, but they’ve brought to market an absolutely terrible game, one that is as bland as that sliced bread sitting on your counter. My extreme and severe dissatisfaction with this game cannot be put into words. But, for the sake of this review, I will try.
In place of Salem and Rios (the heroes from the first two games), we have the stupidly named duo Alpha and Bravo. Salem and Rios are still here, but they take backstage and play more of a supporting role. It’s unfortunate, too, because the chemistry and camaraderie that stood out in the first game is no where to be found here. The characters are thin as paper and boring as hell. Even when they do speak up, their dialogue is uninspired and at times, laughable. Neither of them have any defining character traits either, though we do get to hear that one of them wants to buy a boat!
As for the story, if you can call it that, it involves our tag team heading to Mexico to face off against a drug cartel. Of course, there’s the standard girl out for revenge subplot and central villain who we’re supposed to hate for no reason thrown in for good measure. But really, the story is centered on Alpha and Bravo as they embark on their senseless quest, laying waste to the streets of Mexico.
Gone are the moral choices that made the first game so compelling and gone are the interesting story arcs and genuine humour that made the characters and story so fun to follow along. Sure, the series has never been built on BioShock like storylines but what was presented in the past was always enjoyable. Here, you literally have no idea of what’s going on in the world around you, you simply just keep clearing out area after area hoping to finally make it to the last level. There is absolutely no sense of story or plot holding it all together.
Speaking of Mexico, the city is dull as can be. The environments flat out suck. There’s no life to be found here and each area feels drab and depressing. They all feel very similar too. You’re either fighting through alleys and streets that are absolutely identical, or rusty buildings and corridors that have no spark to them. Nothing about the environments would have you thinking you’re in Mexico and the only life you can expect to find is here is the cookie-cutter enemies, who run aimlessly at you in waves. Admittedly, destroying the city is quite fun as the destruction looks pretty good, but aside from that, these environments make for some of the most boring levels that I have ever played through.
The eight or so hour campaign is literally just one mindless shootout after the other. The nearly indistinguishable enemies (I say nearly because a few times you’ll come up against someone with a shield or body armour), pour out from corridors, hallways and street corners in waves and you’re tasked with dispatching them before you can move to the next area. It’s literally the exact same thing each time. Move from one area to the next, clear out the waves of enemies, who are powered by braindead AI and move on. Rinse and repeat. Each section just kind of bleeds into the next, with no distinguishing factors being assigned to any particular level. Even the few set pieces that they’ve thrown in here for variety are laughable for how basic and simplistic they are.
If there is any fun to be had, it’s with the Overkill meter. As you take out enemies, you earn points which are based on the type of kills you get. You can get bonuses for flanking, headshots, double kills, tag team kills, etc. Your points are what drive your Overkill meter up. Once full, you can activate it and essentially, play God. While in Overkill you are invincible. You have unlimited ammo, deal out double the damage and become even more badass. Time slows down and you literally rip enemies in half, with body parts flying around and heads exploding right off. It’s pretty awesome for the short time it lasts, but once the meter is drained, you have to wait for it to fill up again, meaning you’re back to the same boring, insipid combat.
Speaking of racking up points, your performance is graded after every chapter and depending on how well you do, you earn a certain amount of cash. This cash can be used to buy and customize new weapons or pimp out your character with new masks and gear. So, if you’re into that type of thing, it’s here. That being said, you can go through the entire game with the same gun and gear and it really won’t make much of a difference. Simply put, the whole scoring and cash system doesn’t add much to the overall experience.
Now, you’re probably wondering about the co-op, since that’s what the series is built on. You can play with a partner AI or online with a real person but whichever route you go, you’ll encounter problems. If you play online, you can’t do drop-in and drop-out, which is quite frankly, stupid. Why they left out that option on a game built solely around the co-op experience is beyond me. What this also means is that if you join an open game, if the person currently playing is in the middle of the level, it has to end first so the chapter can start from the beginning. Basically what this means is that if you let someone join your game when you are in the middle of a chapter, you will lose all progress. Once again, just plain stupid.
That aside, playing online with a real person is a lot more fun than playing with the partner AI. Though your computer controlled teammate isn’t awful, he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. Often times he’ll stand still not knowing what to do and more often than not he just generally gets in your way. Admittedly, he’s pretty adept when it comes to reviving you after you’ve been downed but other than that, he’s not very useful in combat.
When it comes to the actual co-op elements, the things that made the first two games so great, well, they’re just not there. They’ve completely removed the Back-to-Back sections which were a lot of fun in the first two games and a lot of the combat here can be done lone wolf style. You rarely, if ever, need your partner. The focus on co-op is almost non-existent, whereas in the first two games, working together was absolutely essential. Additionally, at least the forced co-op moments in the first two games were inventive, fun and exciting. Here, it’s all simple and rudimentary.
In Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel you’ll encounter the obligatory “split up and choose a way” sections and the “here, give me a boost over this wall” moments but those aside, there really isn’t much of a focus on co-op. At least not like we saw in the first two games. The moments of “true co-op” gameplay are infrequent at best and it’s no stretch to go through the game by yourself. In fact, I rarely ever paid much attention to my partner, except for when I needed him to heal me. There is something called TWO vision as well but it’s more or less useless. It basically just allows you to see the best routes to take for you and your partner to flank the enemy. I think I used this exactly once all game.
Then there’s the technical bugs. For one, load times are way too long for a game like this and often, you’ll reach the end of an area only to not be able to advance due to the fact that there’s an invisible wall up since the next area hasn’t loaded yet. Trust us, it’s incredibly annoying. There is a cover system here too but unfortunately, it’s unnecessarily complicated and isn’t the least bit fluid.
To make matters worse, there’s no competitive multiplayer to be found here either. So once you’re done the short and boring campaign, it’s time to trade this one in. Just to recap, they’ve stripped the following things from this once great series: the aggrometer, moral decisions, back-to-back, playing dead, feigning surrender, the ability to tag bad guys, supply crates and competitive multiplayer. Whether this was due to laziness, incompetence or just plain stupidity I don’t know, but at this point, I don’t really care. The series has been stripped of everything that made it great and it has been reduced to an empty, hollow shell of a game.
I can go on for longer ranting about how frustrating and terrible this game is, but I won’t. I’ll make it easy on you: Army Of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is total crap. It’s a laughable excuse for a game and at the end of the day, it’s just flat-out boring. Trust me, there is absolutely zero reason to pick up this game, especially when BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider are sitting on the shelf next to it. I sincerely hope that EA can turn the series around and bring it back to what it once was for the next game, but at this point, I’ve lost all hope.
This review is based on the XBOX 360 version of the game.