Heavily inked, super-toned, muscled and equipped with a collection of iconic face masks for your own safety, your brutal mission awaits as a T.W.O operative agent. Within the crime ridden streets of Mexico you are sent to confront a ruthless and powerful drug cartel known as La Guadaña, but fear not as you are not required to go it alone. EA’s, Army of TWO: The Devils Cartel has been perfectly designed for co-operative game play action so you can join another player online, or if you really must play in Solo mode an AI co-op buddy will assist in your quest for vengeance as you fast become immersed in an environment laden with drugs, guns and hostages. Not to forget the odd breach and clear here and there.
The importance of co-op gameplay in this game, the third Army of TWO released for the Xbox 360 since 2008 is quite great as it’s a ‘pure’ co-operative third person run-and-gun title. If you are not impressed by the idea of playing a whole campaign with the aid of another player or AI in your ear, then you just will not benefit from the full experience or enjoyment offered to you on an action-packed plate. The Devils Cartel is not story-driven by any means, but what it lacks in plot it definitely makes up for in terms of the combat scenarios, persistency of team-work and way over-the-top fire-fights that compare to some of the most outrageous Hollywood movies. Explosions, dramatic blasts and bullets galore en-gulf you from almost every angle as together you and your partner combine strategic cover to push through some of Mexico’s dangerous rebels and lethal cartels. It’s very easy to miss the point if you’re looking for an emotional rollercoaster as this is designed as a fun run and gun game that doesn’t focus on the reality of war, but instead places you on mission-impossible scenarios to work through in an Arcade style setting. It’s all about having fun with your gun and working through the scenes of brutality together with another player.
Every main chapter within the campaign has missions that are broken down into sections where your efforts and earnings determine your rank which is also based on gameplay performance. Cash is earned by your kills and actions where flanking, using yourself as bait, co-op combo kills with time and difficulty bonuses will rack up the balance a fair bit. It is with your cash earnings that you can further enhance your weapons with unlocks, spruce up your character with tattoos, specialised face masks and additionally buy a selected range of clothing. Once each mission has been fully completed you can choose to visit the Armory to modify your loadout and perform your customisations, but only the weapon purchases affect your gameplay – all other items that personalise your character have no real benefit to you in-game other than looking on-screen how you want to be represented. The weapons on the other-hand can be modified by adding enhancements to the stock, magazine, mounts, sight, barrels as well as buying weapon skins to further customise its colours. Obviously it goes without saying, despite saying it anyway that your weapon enhancements help with your continued effort for survival because the further into the campaign you delve, the level of fighting scenes and quantity of enemies to eliminate increase considerably. A good load-out between partners and learning how to efficiently use the cover system can make all the difference between life and death.
Having now mentioned the cover system, it’s not all that perfect and at times flawed to the point where you wonder what actually the point is! The idea behind it, like many other games with the ability to hide behind cover is that you use the ‘A’ button to crouch behind objects, peer around doors, walls and other environment set pieces, but in Army of TWO: The Devils Cartel – expect it to not work when you really need to cover the most and it does not matter how many times that button is pressed you are still looking at the enemy face-to-face, eye-to-eye and near death! Unfortunately it’s not the only flaw that is highly noticeable because even the enemy AI can be somewhat temperamental in that while most will shoot at you with the intent to kill you, others act very random, glitch into the environments and some not even put up any form of defence at all. The enemy AI is quite glitchy, not that it makes the difficulty any easier, but you witness some strange enemy behaviour and rather bad timing of infiltration on more than one occasion.
What has been perfectly executed in Army of TWO: The Devils Cartel is chapter design with each seeming to centre on a heavy fire-fight with combat scenes intertwined in parts to give the perfect balance between action and intensity. Some parts of the game missions require stealth and almost all involve the combined actions between yourself and your partner in a double-act of disrupting the enemy, saving hostages and sharing the objectives. The feature of an Overkill mode triggered by racking up a hefty combined kill streak takes the game to a level of high extremes and ultimate destruction. Once alerted that Overkill is available with the LB trigger button a single press makes the whole team invincible with single shots taking down and causing a mass of damage in limited time, showcasing the Frostbite 2 engine at its best as walls, buildings and other environmental objects crumble at your feet.
Whilst Army of TWO: The Devils Cartel is heavy on the action and shared team efforts between you and your co-op buddy albeit over LIVE or using the AI alternative in Solo, it doesn’t seem to be anything more than just a shared shooter experience that you’ll likely forget soon enough, or just want to complete for the Achievements. No interesting plot lines, lack of witty team banter or dialogue of interest and nothing in particular to keep you hooked. It’s only selling point in entertainment value is that you don’t have to play it alone and you get to use a variety of guns – but all you really need is an assault rifle with a few enhancements to carry you through. Whilst it’s obvious flaws, screen tears and buggy AI are not all that intimidating to the experience, it makes you wonder how this passed testing at all!
A decent enough game for co-op lovers, but likely to become a chore for Solo players where repetitiveness sets in about half-way through the game. A fun and over-the-top experience, but with the lack of any other multiplayer modes except for online co-op it has no re-play value and will fast become very stale. Ideally suited for those who enjoyed the previous games in the Army of TWO series, you’ll know what you’re getting and the latest release is sure to have a few improvements over its predecessors – let us know when you find them.