I bought in to the “dude-bro” hype. I was an avid fan of both Army of Two and Army of Two: The 40th Day. I fell in love with the buddy system and found that it captured something no other game had, with its co-op interaction and camaraderie. It was like I was really playing something that felt like Bad Boys and other buddy cop movies combined with Gears of War (and every other third person cooperative shooter), but better. So when I first heard there was going to be another addition to the family and that they were going to change the central characters I couldn’t help bro-fisting everyone who passed by.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons between sequels, prequels and spin-offs, especially when using the series’ name. It is the same issue faced by both Dead Space and now Army of Two. Both franchises, under the proviso of EA, now have atrocious sequels that are not worth the names that have been stuck on the box. It is an easy way to make money: 1. Slap a well-known name on the front 2.??? 3. Profit. To make things worse, EA have also enlisted the help of Volition in the destruction of Army of Two. It almost feels like a giant “fuck you” to gamers from Volition. We watched as EA picked apart Dead Space, forced micro-transactions and forced dull gameplay down our throats. It was like they intentionally made a God-awful game.
But before we start to look at how Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel went so wrong it is vital to go a bit more in-depth as to what made the previous games so fun. Army of Two is based on co-op. There are interactions, jokes and high fives for everyone when you are playing Army of Two. You can holler “BACK TO BACK” at the top of your lungs and tear down buildings with the whirlwind of bullets spraying forth when you enter the aforementioned mode. It was built around you and your friend just being friends and sometimes deliberately pissing each other off. The game itself even encouraged this by allowing you to drop your friend from high ledges while assisting them up and so on. In a nutshell, Army of Two was the ideal co-op game. You weren’t just playing as Salem and Rios, you were them.
Now the series has moved on and they have introduced two new characters “Alpha” and “Bravo”. They don’t even have real names. It’s so basic they may as well have called them “player 1” and “player 2”. Every other T.W.O. soldier you meet in Army of Two has a name. I wanted to play as every other soldier we met, because no matter if they died or ran away they felt more permanent than these two toss-pots. There is such a distinct lack of characterisation between the two you are left wanting, sometimes even longing, for Salem and Rios to burst back onto our screens with an explosive high-five and tell us it is all ok. The characters were about as permanent as the rub on tattoos they sport in every mission.
Before you even get to play AoT:TDC you are told that the graphics are so badass that you don’t even have the choice to install the 1.5Gb graphics part because it just won’t look good without it. Well I’m sorry but it doesn’t look good with it either. While playing co-op (which really is the only way to play an Army of TWO game) the graphics would struggle to load and draw distances would seem majorly off. Nothing looked particularly astounding or even better than your average “next-gen” game from several years back. It was all rather bland and nothing particularly stood out. The only saving grace was you could literally tear through any piece of cover in Overkill mode, providing a rather sensational feeling as you watch enemies cower behind cover only to be exposed by a hail of bullets.
Much like the flimsy scenery, the story really struggles to hold together. It starts with Alpha and Bravo teaming up with Salem and Rios on a mission in which they save a girl. Fast forward five years later and she magically meets them while chasing after the cartel. They don’t even introduce themselves, and in my game at least weren’t even wearing the same mask. From there on they just assume both parties are the same person and everything goes largely unexplained as to why T.W.O. allowed Fiona, the girl who you meet, to change your objective and turn it into a mission of vengeance as opposed to a well-funded mercenary operation like in previous games.
The game also only focuses on this one mission. In previous Army of Two games there were several missions with a central character or terrorist at the base of an operation. Logically you could stop after each escapade and get that sweet green. Whereas even the method of payment in The Devil’s Cartel makes no sense. You somehow managed to accumulate money when you lose touch with the agency and spend the money in between door frames in secret keyhole armouries.
The gameplay itself is very generic. It feels like a beta build of the first Army of Two. Yeah, it is that bad. They have omitted the bro-fists and high fives. There are no cooperative mischievous actions or even the same level of banterous dialogue. They have even changed the overdrive meter and cast aside the back to back option. You do still get awarded extra points for cooperatively extinguishing enemies, but it is very half-arsed and under-explained. I still don’t know the difference between a “tag team” and a “cooperative kill”. The game could greatly benefit with a tagging system, as you are normally inundated with gun wielding maniacs. You can’t quite shout “The one on the left wearing a hat” because at any given time there could be at least 10 of them. Something as simple as indicating in game which character you want to kill would make a much more enjoyable experience. You could even award more points for it, and it would increase the flow of the game and really enforce the co-op nature of the scoring system.
One great set of features retained is the customization options. A great deal of time can be spent on creating your own mask from the ground up or purchasing another mask from a very elaborate and expansive collection. You can even buy Dead Space 3 masks and a set of body armour made out of meat and flesh, presumably for when Lady Gaga joins TWO. The blinged-out weapons are also still present. There is a great selection to choose from and once you find a gun you like there are even more options to change and tweak your weapon of choice. So if you wanted a hot pink M4 with a drum barrel and a shield on the front it is possible but maybe a bit unsightly.
Overall it’s hard to accept The Devil’s Cartel as part of the Army of Two series in spite of its name. There is so much missing and the game can bug out with characters disappearing beneath the map and enemies not spawning in areas that need to be cleared. With so much missing and so little to keep you interested you might as well pick up the older games for cheaper. If you have never played them, do it to see what the series should really be like. If somebody were to say to me that this was the original beta for the series I wouldn’t doubt it. But it’s not. It’s actually the third and there is so much wrong. I hope they can recover and learn from this because Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel reflects poorly on the series and those who made it.
5 bro-fists left hanging out of 10