Review: Army of Two The Devil's Cartel is enjoyable, but treads familiar ground
The original Army of TWO and its sequel failed to live up to the AAA status of other cover based shooters like Gears of War. It never had that dedicated fan base that would stand in line at midnight, the night of its release, only for the chance to be among the first to play it. However, regardless of its lessened status, they were both fun games which allowed you to play as two hilariously deranged guys with tons of guns, who enjoy killing hundred of people, while occasionally rocking out on air guitar amidst dead bodies on the ground.
Devil's Cartel shifts the view from the loveable Salem and Rios to Alpha and Bravo, new recruits to T.W.O. (Trans World Operations). What's lost here is the witty banter between the two. It isn't terrible by any means, but Salem and Rios had a connection, a brotherhood. Alpha and Bravo don't have this connection. They're new recruits. And even though the game shifts between a short flashback and then five years later. Those five years seemed to have done absolutely nothing for these two to get much closer. It's a shame because all I really wanted after planting hundreds of bullets into bad guys' heads is to just fist bump my buddy and perhaps share an air guitar moment. None of this happened.
Despite that, the game is primarily the same from the past Army of TWO games. You'll still be making your way across corridors with conveniently placed objects you'll be using for cover. Occasionally you'll request the help of your buddy to lift you up or help open a heavy door. And obviously, you'll still be pumping enemy after enemy full of lead which can be satisfying, if not utterly repetitive.
If there is one major complaint with Devil's Cartel, it's that you largely feel like you're doing the same task over and over. It isn't just an Army of TWO problem, a lot of cover based shooters share this as well, but where others balance story, exploration and combat, Devil's Cartel seems to only focus on the latter, which thanks to a few mechanics taken out, feels largely the same whether you're shooting people in the first mission, or in the last.
The Aggro meter has been completely scrapped. While it still lives in the game as a gun statistic, it isn't the focus of firefights anymore. This is a shame, since the Aggro meter further promoted co-op play. One player would blind fire at enemies, building up his Aggro, while the other player could successfully flank them from the side. This all still works in Devil's Cartel, but it's certainly not at the forefront anymore.
A new addition to the game is the Overkill meter. As you plow through enemies, a bar on the right hand side of your HUD will gradually fill up. Activating it will grant you invincibility and more damage. It's a good mechanic to rely on when you're facing tougher enemies, as it makes those encounters way easier. However Overkill almost makes co-op play feel way less impactful. Since you're mostly focusing on just killing enemies to fill up your Overkill bar, you lose the sense of camaraderie and teamwork. You're essentially looking out for yourself without taking your co-op buddy into account.
The inclusion of Alpha and Bravo as main characters over Salem and Rio does have its place in the plotline. I don't want to give anything away regarding spoilers, but you can see the plot twist a mile away, which makes its reveal much less impactful. I've already expressed my lack of love for these two new guys, and while some lines can be genuinely funny, they're no Salem and Rios.
Devil's Cartel is an arcade shooter through and through, as it awards points/cash for every kill, and more so if the kill is done creatively. Flanking, baiting, environmental kills are the money makers here. The game has a constant progression through a familiar leveling mechanic. Every checkpoint allows you to rank up given you have the right amount of cash, and each rank unlocks a plethora of equipment such as new guns, gun attachments, skins and even outfits and masks. If anything, it's this progression that pushes you to be more creative with your kills. Also outfitting your weapons with a myriad of attachments is always satisfying, and just looks freaking awesome.
There is no competitive multiplayer included, however given the game's co-op nature, it certainly would have seemed more out of place had it been in the game.
The problem with Army of TWO The Devil's Cartel is, just like God of War Ascension, it didn't really need to exist. While the inclusion of two completely new characters make sense within the plotline, for the most part, playing as Salem and Rios or a duo that had much better chemistry would have been a lot more enjoyable. With that said, it can be a fun romp, especially if you have a buddy to play it along with you.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]