By the time this review goes up it will have been more than a week since Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel became available. Considering how much time has passed, I wonder if this review will mean anything to anyone. The vocal and passionate minority that really loves the Army of Two games will have already bought this one, leaving the rest of us to ponder why EA would bother making this. Who is this game for? As a games journalist, playing Devil’s Cartel serves as an interesting academic exercise, because Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is the embodiment of mediocrity.
DC sees the single player campaign focusing on Alpha and Bravo, two rookie recruits who have just joined T.W.O, the titular elite PMC that employs an army of soldiers who wear reinforced masks and fight wherever the contracts take them. The two protagonists from the previous games, Salem and Rios, are also present, but aren’t playable. The story, as you might have guessed from the name, takes place in Mexico where a major drug cartel run by a man named Bautista is attempting to assassinate Cordova, a politician trying to bring peace to the region and who is unwilling to knuckle under for the cartels. Right from the get go the story makes no allusions to anything grander. It’s so boilerplate and by the numbers that they didn’t even give the main characters cool call signs or backgrounds. It’s like the development of the game stopped at the drawing board stage. The result is a narrative that’s not bad, but very bland and steeped heavily in action movie tropes. Predictable and cheap tropes at that.
The gameplay is also what you would expect from a third person, cover-based shooter. Shoot some bad guys, run through a corridor or along a road, get to big open area, and shoot more guys with this loop being occasionally punctuated by a scripted turret or chase sequence. Unfortunately, it ends there. Most action/adventure games of this ilk like Uncharted or God of War present a larger context that’s interesting to the player, and justifies the central gameplay hooks. This game doesn’t do that. In fact, the game doesn’t present any reason to plumb its depths (assuming you can find any at all). There aren’t even collectibles to find, and the weapon crafting system, while implemented well, will lose its flavor once you find a gun or set of guns that you enjoy using more than the others.
One of the major selling points for DC is the implementation of the Frostbite 2 engine and with it destructible environmental objects. In order to take advantage of this DC has added in a new Overkill mode. When toggled you’ll get infinite ammo and invincibility for a limited time. Which is great for blasting away cover and mowing down whole platoons of cartel minions. The game also has an AR vision mode and it also lets you issue squad commands to Bravo using the D-pad. Unfortunately, these tools, while functional, find little use on the normal difficulty. All of it feels put together with this mentality that if you want to use it you can, but it’s completely unnecessary.
The 6-8 hour campaign experience will provide little challenge on normal and once you finish plowing through the boring narrative the game offers some additional online modes. There’s no competitive multiplayer, but there is co-op play. However, the co-op suite is less than stellar in its offerings. It’s not a drop-in/drop-out game and requires both players to play through a whole chapter before it saves. It also restarts the chapter if someone wants to join or if the other player drops out. It’s crazy that the main selling point for this game, and the entire reason that the Army of Two franchise even exists in the first place, doesn’t sport a tighter design or features that are present in other games where the co-op isn’t as popular. There’s also a persistence system which seems to double your income if you play co-op as opposed to single player. As far as connectivity is concerned, the online works with virtually no lag and can find players pretty quickly using the quick match options.
Somewhere in the darkest recesses of the abyss known as the Internet a small, but vocal and passionate minority yelled at the top of their lungs. They called to EA asking for a new Army of Two game. What they got was Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, a game that could’ve been so much more, and barely does enough to justify its existence. After playing through the game, the whole experience while functional is just so bland. If you’re looking for a feature rich package that actually justifies the price of admission look elsewhere. Even diehard fans of the series, that steadfast group, will find this iteration a stripped down version of what was seen in The 40th Day. Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is a game that at its core is functional, but lacks any kind of anima to entice you to play it.