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Review

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel Review

  • Game release: March 26, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3

The elements that made its predecessors interesting have been all but destroyed, making Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel a functional shooter but little more.

by

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is a mostly competent, wholly soulless consumer product, the kind that might briefly satisfy your craving for action because it's new, if not particularly special or memorable. The third Army of Two game usually functions just fine, and its decent third-person shooting might even be enough to keep you gunning down one nameless grunt after another until there are no more grunts to gun down. But any spark the series has shown has been stripped away in favor of homogeneity. Like its two new protagonists, The Devil's Cartel blends into the background, unrecognizable among all the brown shooters that have come before it.

Those two heroes are Alpha and Bravo, whose function is to make the stars of the previous two games seem spectacular by comparison; even their very monikers give off the generic vibe the rest of the game so curiously exudes. If you're a returning fan, don't fear, for Salem and Rios have parts to play, and provide the only glimmers of energy in a story otherwise lacking in momentum and wit. For the majority of the game, the story can be summed up thusly: the titular drug cartel is bad, and so you must shoot up every cookie-cutter mercenary that stands between you and their bossman. The narrative lobs a few surprises at you near its conclusion, but the effect is akin to dropping a bomb on a desert; there's lots of noise and fire, but ultimately, the landscape hasn't changed much.

The path winding toward that bomb has Alpha and Bravo making their way through the usual places you visit when dealing with gaming's many drug cartels: dusty brown streets littered with cars that exist purely to catch on fire, weathered Mexican villages with graffiti scrawled across the walls, scrap yards loaded with rust-coated bins and barrels, and so forth. The two stop here and there to remind you of their mild "bro"ness by accusing each other of being gay, or grunting some nondescript action game dialogue, like "Watch out for ambushes!" For better or for worse, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel lets the action do most of the talking.

With all this fire, it's a wonder The Devil's Cartel didn't burn brighter.

If only it had something more interesting to say. Like its predecessors, The Devil's Cartel is a cooperative experience; either another player or the mediocre AI joins you in your mission of blandness. The cover system has been tweaked for the sake of mobility, allowing you to press a single button to slip into cover spots some distance away. At most times, speeding from one cover spot to another works well enough, making it fun to slide from one safe haven to another. At other times, certain surfaces won't allow you to take cover, or your slick moves could go awry when you go accidentally charging into the wrong side of a wall and leave your back turned to a legion of cartel mercs.

Regardless, the tempo of battle remains remarkably even throughout: take cover, fire at dudes until they fall down, and repeat the process. The shooting is functional but toothless; enemy death animations and lackluster weapon noises muffle the oomph necessary to pull The Devil's Cartel into the realm of power fantasy. Enemies scurry into the levels in predictable ways, and you mow them down, or you shoot the copious red barrels scattered about the battle arenas and watch them explode, taking all these copy/paste gunners with them. Even on hard difficulty, triumphing in battle isn't particularly challenging, and on medium, you may not even see the need to take cover much of the time.

All the cooperative elements that made this series unique have been jettisoned in favor of--well--not much of anything, really.

To the game's benefit, several levels deviate from the corridor-shooting norm, opening up the environments and thus allowing the action to ebb and flow in sensible ways. It's nice to have room to maneuver, particularly when enemies approach from multiple angles, which is, sadly, not so common. It's too bad that mediocre enemy AI causes the game to so often fall on the "ebb" side of the coin, with soldiers sometimes failing to recognize your presence, or running right past your exposed buddy because they're so intent on stabbing you.

Like any given modern-day shooter, The Devil's Cartel fights repetition with occasional set piece sequences, putting you in charge of a helicopter's mounted guns, or behind the wheel of a coasting vehicle. The game ultimately loses this battle against monotony, though such set pieces provide the best moments, letting you momentarily revel in vehicular explosions and enjoy tearing apart the destructible environments that contain you. In many of these moments, you and your partner split up, one of you driving and the other gunning, for instance, or perhaps one of you charging through a small army while the other showers death from the sky. But for the most part, the game handles cooperative play in the most unimaginative way possible: by putting two people in the same place and having them kill stuff.

More brown than ever before, thanks to the power of the cutting-edge Frostbite 2 engine.

That's a disappointing direction for a series that has previously forced players to work together in clever ways. The aggro system has been downplayed to the point where it's not clear if a weapon's aggro statistic even matters, so no one needs to draw the ire of a dastardly fiend while the other winds behind and takes potshots. One of you can grab a riot shield, and the two of you can slowly push forward as a single unit, but The 40th Day's memorable back-to-back shooting sequences have been abandoned. The moral choices of that game have been dropped, too, and while The Devil's Cartel retains a weapon upgrade system, it lacks the personality of the systems that came before.

What a shame, too: blinging out your weapon in the last Army of Two game was a cheeky, self-aware delight. There are no more soda-can muzzles, screwdriver suppressors, or diamond-studded grenades--just the usual shrug-worthy scopes, suppressors, and so forth. You earn money for such enhancements by killing, which is to say, you needn't pay too much attention to this system in battle, given that you rake in enough dough to keep your gear effective. But if you prefer to exploit the economy and earn more money per kill, you can try for more melee backstabs (always a gory delight, thanks to some dramatic animations), flank your foes before shooting them, or fit in more headshots. Yet given the game's ease of play, you won't likely feel pressed to strive for maximum financial gain. In a game this simple, such an extravagant triumph rings hollow.

It's quiet, which makes this a perfect time to unload a few lines of cliched dialogue.

The other reward you reap for the act of playing the game is overkill. Gun down enough cartel goons, and you fill the overkill meter, which in turn allows you to go into a frenzy, temporarily filling everyone in sight with lead without fear of death or running out of ammo. Both players can activate overkill together, which leads to a slow-motion death spree, allowing you to again appreciate the destructible environments, with concrete chips flying about and entire cover opportunities being torn down. Such destruction is unfortunately the only way in which the otherwise dated-looking Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel visually stands out.

Given the game's cooperative nature, it's best to bring a friend along with you, not that you'll find that having a human partner is vital, since working together is usually unnecessary in a game that interprets "cooperative" as "sometimes you breach doors together in slow motion." But at least with another player you can avoid the AI's infrequent but annoying tendency to not properly follow the script and thus break the mission. Should you play on your own, expect one or two checkpoint reloads when your computer-controlled partner decides to hang around a pillar rather than move to the next destination. There's a downside to having a buddy join you, however: the third iteration of a series focused on two-player co-op doesn't support drop-in, drop-out play. If you want to invite someone else, you have to abandon your progress and start at the beginning of the chapter.

Some people hide their true selves behind a mask. With Alpha and Bravo, what you see is what you get.

Previous Army of Two games stood apart in their own ways, not always excelling, but still willing to hew their own paths. Engaging the opposition in a Shanghai zoo, escaping across a collapsed skyscraper, saving civilians from menacing threats--these are small but meaningful moments that might be etched on your psyche from the series' past. There's nothing here to make a mark: no creativity on display, no clever competitive modes, no sense of accomplishment. There's only a seven-hour campaign, optional missions in which you try to keep the overkill meter consistently replenished, and the knowledge that in a month, you won't remember having played Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel.

The Good
Some fun set pieces
The more open levels give you room to maneuver
Cover system encourages fluid movement
The Bad
All of the series' best aspects have been removed or toned down
Forgettable gunplay, forgettable story, forgettable characters
Requires little cooperation between players
Problematic AI
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews
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Discussion

49 comments
Banyek
Banyek

Kevin is absolutely  right! Spot on review! but even so, 5 ? lets just give it a 6......shall we?

Diznale
Diznale

I don't normally comment, but I'm getting concerned about a phrase that I'm seeing more and more in hame reviews: "It's just one more mindless grunt after another". Think about games from the old school days. Metroid, Doom, heck, even Mario. They all came with one mindless grunt after another. All still great games. They may not constantly wow you with a story, but they test your hand-eye, reflexes, and patience. And they could simply be flat out fun to play. I don't think we can assume what a game is trying to be. Even if it seems to be making a poor attempt at a story, you still don't judge it fully based on the story.

I enjoy reading this editor's work, this piece included. Generally speaking, I use this site for gaming reference more than any other. We all see games differently, and find entertainment in different aspects of games. I wish you could take some kind of "gaming personality test" when registering for this site. The site could then show you scores dialed up or down based on a game containing an aspect that you enjoy. Kevin doesn't like shooting mindless grunts. Shows him a 5. I do enjoy shooting mindless grunts (plus I get more money for hitting them in the head? Right on.). Shows me a 7.

Fryboy101
Fryboy101

I gotta say, this game was surprisingly fun. yeah the story wasn't too great, but it was a really fun arcadey type shooter.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this game

trophyboost
trophyboost

YOU GAVE WONDERBOOK A SCORE OF 8... which is pretty much the biggest piece of crap ever. My kids wont touch it.

You are silly

This game is awesome.

carloscanalesv
carloscanalesv

This game makes you be grateful for great third person shooters like Spec Ops: The Line. 

Eno75
Eno75

I must admit that while many didn't like the 40th day, there were some really endearing qualities. My GF and I started playing it together after her son and I had played it through a couple of times... It was her very first time ever playing any kind of game and I think it was the characters of Salem and Rios that drew her into all of the chest pounding violence and associated cacophony. Once her and I had played through at all difficulty levels (and contractor twice)... we decided we'd wait until DC came out. It looked fantastic and we were eager to invest.

Perhaps we let ourselves become unrealistically expectant... but to be blunt our experience thus far has been absolutely putrid- a diabolical insult. If EA had ever wanted to kill the true cooperative (side by side) genre this was definitely the means by which to do it. A plus B = C and C stands for CRAP.  Alpha and Bravo are undeserving of real names and though I wasn't sure why ANYONE would think to replace characters like Salem and Rios with  these two hammerheads, once I saw how little thought went into the rest of the game (pretty much from minute 1) it became clear. Disgusting.

The cliché dialogue and embarrassing lack of originality made me cringe every time we had to reload the levels. At one point I thought they had learned something from the predecessors and set reload points after particularly long and annoying cut-scenes... nope. "You just want to impress our female contact..." Shut the F up Bravo... idiot.

I feel betrayed by this garbage title and though we will play it to the end as an act resembling charity to Salem and Rios' characters... we will do so in a fashion only slightly more committed than that exhibited by EA to our cherished title.

KiriharaZro
KiriharaZro

Since I played the demo I though it was crap, now I know I was right.

Gawnshanning
Gawnshanning

If you've played the last two games of the series, devils cartel is completely dry and unrelatable. This was a perfect review for this game. My rating 4.5 out of 10 stars

Torres_
Torres_

It's not that bad. Play with a friend and the hardest difficulty, the game will make you cooperate. Gunfighting is far more satisfacting than in its predecessor where you often felt like a sitting duck in front of waves and waves of enemies. Aggro still works but is not underlined as in the previous game. I just wish there was a little more room and routes to flank. It's the problem with todays consoles. They can't handle big enough areas with this amount of detail and textures. Ok, it feels a bit half done and it's missing great potential but 5.0?! I see much worse games getting better scores here.

ps2fatboy
ps2fatboy

i would still like to get this game, as i enjoyed 40th day very much shame the multiplayer died in the ass as i liked it very much.

bryanj2006
bryanj2006

This is one of the best games this year, far better than Dead Space 3 which got way to high of a score.

kinetyqq
kinetyqq

army of two didn't pay money for a good review like god of war did.

norman69
norman69

I don't care if the reviews for this game are average- I played the demo, and enjoyed it for the most part- just a bit of mindless fun, so I want to at least try the full game out. 

Derugs
Derugs

I had a feeling ...  

LAboy06
LAboy06

This is an April Fools joke right? I mean, I had a blast with the demo, and the shooting mechanics are a lot more fluid and powerful than the first two games. I might pick it up when the price drops as long as people are still online with it.

Phoneix
Phoneix

I was very disappointed in this game in this game after having played and liked the first two. I have many problems with it. 1.) The game has no escalation the game is the same from the first level to the last no enemy progression. 2.) The characters Rios & Salem have completely different personalities from previous game might as well be new people intend of tarnishing their names with this not very well thought out story. 3.) The characters Alpha and Bravo and about as unique as their names no memorable personality’s here which means no emotional investment in the game. 4.) Don’t even get me started on the lack of weapons you can buy and upgrade, no grenade or rocket launchers really? Yes really. I assume/hope more weapons will be added with dlc. 5.) The game requires no tactics like the other two, other than the occasional manned turrets. I think a 5 for this game is perfect.

hadlee73
hadlee73

The last two games weren't much to write home about, but after trying this one a 5 or 6 seems about right for this game. A bit of effort next time, Visceral.

cm94
cm94

5 seems a bit harsh.

AzulSoul
AzulSoul

Wow, what a difference, i came from the xbox forum and there's a lot of hate for this game. Is it an excellent game? of course not. AO2 never was a great or serious franchise, it's just weird humor and guns. At least for me considering that the lack of co-op games is huge nowadays this is not a bad option, yeah maybe not full price, i bought $40 preordering because my brother and me needed a coop game, and we're having a nice time. The only issues we have found is that the cover system is sometimes unresponsive and loading time freeze a little bit, but the gunplay mechanic is solid, the use of engine frostbite is nice. I hope ea decides to patch those issues but considering the (justified) poor welcoming i doubt it. Imo 5 is too low, 6.5 (maybe 7) sounds more fair.

Np_Pro
Np_Pro

It really irritates me that there's no animation between being in cover and aiming down the sights...it just like teleports to an image of the scope. Come on now.

axelx666
axelx666

apparently if you PRE-ORDERED it you get the rappers B.O.B and BIG BOI as playable characters..

im not a fan of rap, and even if  was, that's just the stupidest marketing gimmick ever!

ivory_soul
ivory_soul

Doesn't EA get it? The AoT series has been a failure since game 1. Just kill the series already.

dannymalt
dannymalt

This game is practically one of the only offline co-op games, shame it's complete garbage, otherwise I'd play it.

Fryboy101
Fryboy101

If i recall correctly, the Army of Two series has always been talked to upon because of it's over the top bromance and humor. Then they tone it down in this, and they bash it for that as well? 

samus_my_life
samus_my_life

i dunno but it's from EA ??? lolz 

nah,

i just play games that's all lol 

josevazhi
josevazhi

kevin suck at reviews need to be fired !!!!!!!!!

Chui_GamingX
Chui_GamingX

Long Live Kevin VanOrd ! And his fat cat, Ollie !!!

Chui_GamingX
Chui_GamingX

Well done Kevin! For crush this piece of garbage type of games! i knew this will be awful game , just like Resident Evil 6 does! Thank You Kevin! If i knew you live in my street i definetly invite you to cup of tea and food ^_^

axelx666
axelx666

another game this year didn't live up to expectations..how SHOCKING.

but speaking on behalf of the series:  

the army of two series was never really that good to begin with, i mean i enjoyed 1 and 2 (more 2 then 1) but even with a couch buddy, it was always SO DAMN HARD!

rico and salem were never MEMORABLE anyway, all we can truly remember about them is they we're best friends who turned into mercs for hire.(feel free to disagree with me on this)

the plot in 1 and 2...well the first game was pretty good, i mean 2001,9/11 go kill some taliban etc. the 2nd one..ehh.

im not surprised this game got the reception it did (that trailer was horrible imo)

the critics may hate it, but like all the other Army of Two games, the players are gonna love it.

VintAge68
VintAge68

Wow, 5/5 for the new Army of Two release, thank you  @Kevin-V  for a so generous score...!   

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

Call of Juarez: The Cartel, third game in series, gets 5.5. Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, third game in series, gets 5.0. Okay developers, stop using 'cartel' in the subtitle, and maybe your game won't become cursed.

residude
residude

disagree here, I've found it a bloody good game so far! Great co-op action, (unlike Dead Space 3 which I traded in to get this)

bluebird08
bluebird08

I don't believe kevin vanord, the gun play of this game is way better than both the other army of two games.

SpicaAntares
SpicaAntares

@Fryboy101 It's a great game, incredibly fun to play with. Me and my girl friend played it 15 times, in all difficulty settings. Very few games we enjoyed that much. This one is probably the best of the 3 Army of Two, although the first 2 were fun to play with. As a game to play with a friend it's up there with the best and they're aren't many of them. The closest would be Gears of War II, which was much better than 1 and 3, and we enjoyed much.

AzulSoul
AzulSoul

@dannymalt if you really like offline co-op games you should try it, definitively no full price, a drop is close, ds3 drops 20 bucks in less than a moth, this one will be half price really soon.

axelx666
axelx666

@josevazhi  actually kevin is one of the few people i respect around here,

while i may not agree with all of his reviews, he does a good job,

unlike Ign and all of the other crappy review sites,

Kevin proves that not all hyped up games are what they appear to be.

after watching/reading kevin's reviews i used to (and i say used to because of the economy and video games becoming more expensive) go out and buy the game he reviewed and he was actually dead on with some points.

and as the gentleman said before me, YOU SIR, ARE A COMPLETE IDIOT!

axelx666
axelx666

@Leboyo56  it's not just that, there's a couple of similarities

1: both games are reboots/remakes of the named series

2. both series never really took off to begin with

3. both games deal with street gangs

4. both games are mexican/hispanic themed

5.  both games have a Female who is killed.

and a couple of other ones but i don't want to spoil.

VintAge68
VintAge68

@Leboyo56 Maybe: I already fear the worst for The Rise of the Hutt Cartel, the new SWTOR expansion... (out April 9th)

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel More Info

  • Released
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is a third-person shooter where players assume the roles of mercenaries battling a Mexican drug cartel in the town of La Puerta.
    6.8
    Average User RatingOut of 277 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel
    Developed by:
    Visceral Games
    Published by:
    Electronic Arts, Media Five
    Genres:
    Team-Based, Shooter, Third-Person, 3D, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language