Back in the '80s, the world was introduced to Lethal Weapon--yes, the film with Mel Gibson, before he went insane and ruined his career. In that film was born the buddy-cop movie: two regular guys--one messy, one clean--trying to rid the world of evil while crap blows up and lots of funny stuff happens. And that was the formula adopted by EA's Army of Two, which attempted to mix comedy with third-person shooter action. Unfortunately for EA, that mix didn't hold up well, particularly when the storylines were, quite frankly, absolutely ludicrous.
With Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, developer Visceral Games is dropping the bro-tastic comedy double act all together. Its focus, says the developer, is on gritty narratives and seamless cooperative gameplay. Yes, it's another reboot of a famed franchise, but don't hold that against it. The Devil's Cartel might have gotten more serious, but the action itself is still wonderfully over-the-top. In a mere 15-minute demo, buildings collapsed, miniguns were fired from helicopters, and a pilot was shot in the face in super slow motion. Lovely.
There are tweaks, though. For one, co-op actions, such as giving each other a leg up, breaking down walls to create paths for each other, or covering enemies, have been enhanced so they're easier and smoother to perform. If you get separated from your partner, you're often given separate objectives too, so it's not always a case of the game telling you to cover each other endlessly.
Also new is the overkill function, which lets you and your partner indulge in some fantastically gory killing sprees. Each action you take as a pair, whether that's performing headshots, flanking the enemy, or covering each other, charges your overkill meter. Once it's activated, you're dropped into a bullet-time-like mode, where your bullets cause a lot more damage and time slows down. And the screen turns yellow for some reason. It's a lot of fun, particularly with the shotgun, which sprays enemies across the walls, and the floor, and usually all over your teammate's face.
If you both have your bars charged up you can activate Double Overkill, which is standard Overkill times 10, with more blood, more slow motion, and a lot more time in which to kill people. For all the seriousness that The Devil's Cartel is supposed to have, it's a silly feature, but one that's lots of fun. Speaking of that gritty seriousness; there wasn't much of it on show in the demo I played. Sure, the environment was an urban disaster area, and yes, the shooting felt weighty, and satisfying, but there was little in the way of memorable dialogue--I couldn't even tell you why I was trying to get to the roof of a building, to board a helicopter, to fire a minigun, or to blow up an entire warehouse block. Then again, when you're doing something so nutty, it hardly matters.'