Review: Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel (Xbox 360, PS3)
Relentlessly promoted for its apparently peerless co-op play by EA’s PR army with a vigor that hoped to match the game’s pace, a release like Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel (TDC) only really needs to do one thing really well: provide that peerless two-player co-operative gameplay experience. If it can do this, EA has a winner on its hands.
Unfortunately, Army of Two: TDC trips over its own feet in the attempt, bringing players pretty much precisely the same experience they had three years ago with its predecessor, only with some of the better stuff taken out.
The most unappealing aspect of Army of Two: TDC is that it is ridden with cliches.
The storyline, such as it is, centres around a ‘ruthless Mexican drug cartel,’ which is about as prosaic as it gets, while the gameplay provides an ‘explosive action blockbuster’ that ‘takes destruction to a whole new level’.
Of course it does.
In reality, the gunplay is formulaic and depressing to both play and watch, with seemingly endless loops of walking behind cover, filling enemies with bullets or shooting exploding barrels, moving on to the next area then repeating. If you kill enough faceless things, you trigger ‘overkill’ mode, which turns the two of you from mindless destructive morons into invincible, mindless, destructive morons.
Occasionally, your path separates, so the two players are tasked with different things.This is a strange design decision, though, and feels like it’s just padding out the game, because it denies players the very experience that the game is built around, playing co-operatively.
It used to be that the most effective approach was for one player to stand and gun, and the other to ‘flank’ the enemy. But when you’re separated, you of course can’t even do that.
Most of the time, though, Army of Two’s idea of co-op play is both players standing together doing the same thing. Co-operation is, in fact, rarely required.
Some of the best aspects of the Army of Two concept appear to have been removed from this game.
This is tragic, because derivative as it is, the series had managed to eke out some distinctive elements that provided some fun moments. You can’t drag your team mate away from danger any more, while he continues to shoot enemies. There are no moral ‘decision points’ any more, and no more of the slo-mo back-to-back showdowns this time, which were fun.
In short, the game is just not as teamwork oriented as previously.
While there’s a bit of humour in the game, the script is mostly humdrum cliches or the kind of macho crap that manboy games developers think that soldiers say to each other (but really don’t) and there’s a really frustrating pop-up system to display various scores.
These translate into the ability to get or upgrade more weapons or customise your gear, including the face masks the two characters wear.
But it’s a measure of the game that, roughly 30 minutes into his first play through, we found our son had derived most pleasure from designing face masks adorned with explicit illustrations of body parts and then having his character just stand there so he could point and laugh at them.