STAFF REVIEW of Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel (Xbox 360)

Friday, April 5, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel Box art When video game companies want to make a blockbuster intense action game they seem to follow the same recipe as a Hollywood movie. Start with a very generic plot, add some supporting characters that no one will remember or care about, then spend the rest of the entire budget on weapons and creating as many explosions as possible. Then they go through the painstaking editing process to mix everything together, put some polish on at the end, then package it and send it out to the masses to enjoy. EA has been known to follow this formula to the letter and the latest installment in the Army of TWO series is no different. Time to choose your loadout because we are heading in to hopefully see the good, probably see the bad, and most likely the ugly with this review of Army of TWO: The Devil's Cartel. Incoming!

Army of TWO has always put plot on the back burner to focus almost entirely on creating over the top gunfights, executions, and as many explosions as you could possibly fathom. In this regard, the previous games gave you control of the duo Salem and Rios, but in this instance (for whatever unknown reason) you get control of two new overacting contractors called, wait for it... Alpha and Bravo. Either they were named by their parents after military checkpoints, or EA didn't have a phone book handy to pick random names from, and the hits keep on coming. The plot lines of the game itself are incredibly cliche, but more disappointing than that is the feel that EA decided to put more value on creating intense and crazy over the top gun battles than creating a meaningful reason to do so. So because of this decision, ultimately in the end the whole plot of Army of TWO: The Devil's Cartel seems to consist of brief cut scenes of choppy animation that lead right into more gunfire and explosions. We'd like to think that EA wanted more of a parody of iconic action movies and games with this latest Army of TWO, because if you go into this game thinking that the story is going to become a pillar of example for others to follow for the future, think again. If you think that Army of TWO will provide hours of mindless shooting and more explosions than Rambo could handle without any regard to a meaningful story, you're right on target.

If your intention is to create quality scene after scene of firefights and explosions, then you must have at least some adequate play control to support this endeavor. Unfortunately though for Army of TWO the control scheme feels like a cheap knock off of other top tier 3rd person shooters. The movement itself feels slow and unresponsive and the incredibly clunky cover system does very little to help make the game feel fluid and fast paced. There are other bugs and glitches with the gameplay that don't help matters either. For instance, many times when my character went into a melee kill that missed he would continue to swing away with his knife over, and over, and over again and while he was doing that, other enemies were firing off RPG's and heavy machine guns in my direction. Army of TWO: The Devil's Cartel does offer a wide variety of customizable weaponry but unfortunately that seems to be the only thing of any value to the game that would make you want to keep on playing and when that becomes the case, it may be time to totally rethink the series. There is though one innovation to the gameplay that tries like a defibrillator to shock some entertainment and enjoyment back into the game, and that is the Overkill system.

Essentially when you kill enough enemies your Overkill meter will fill up and once full can be activated to temporarily make your character invincible and when both you and your partner activate it the game will take on a slow motion feel allowing you to exterminate any and all living things around you. While this adds a lot to the overall enjoyment of massive death and destruction, it unfortunately can't bring the control scheme back to life. All of these poor gameplay mechanics ultimately give Army of TWO: The Devil's Cartel a massive black eye and when you take into account all that must be done to create a fluid combat system, you feel yourself scratching your head and wondering how EA could see the final product and approve of its release. Even though the plot is almost nonexistent and the play control is about as fluid as concrete, that is unfortunately the tip of the iceberg of issues that face this latest Army of TWO.

As the title of the game implies in capital letters, Army of TWO means that the beating heart of this game revolves around a cooperative experience and the issues that plague that factor almost make this game stillborn. If you are deciding to tackle this game in a single player fashion then be prepared to face a crippling downfall, the online game invite. If you have an open session and someone decides to join it, you must first complete the chapter before they can enter your game, but here is the kicker: you will have to start your chapter over from the beginning. Apparently there is no fluid drop in/out system implemented but there are more faults as well with the whole game invite system. It isn't uncommon to get spammed with multiple invites to join, but the downfall to this is that the game pauses every single time you receive one of these pop up invites and if you are in the process of going into cover, you run a high risk of unknowingly accepting the invite and thus undoing all of your hard work in your current mission. Bear in mind that this is the third installment in the Army of TWO series but you often wonder how much slack you can give a franchise before you totally overhaul the co-op experience and start from scratch because you realize that your current co-op system is relatively poor.

If you thought that the negatives would have stopped there, we're sorry to say that you're mistaken. One characteristic that has made some other mediocre action games somewhat tolerable would be the inclusion of fluid and beautiful graphics. Sadly, this isn't the case here. When you first pop the game in you are given the option to install an extra 1.5GB of data which apparently is an HD graphics pack. Now why this option even exists is a mystery to us but even with this optional content installed the graphics themselves suffer from choppy frame rates and an overall low resolution style feel.

The character modeling is acceptable but given what other examples we have seen from other companies, there is little room for forgiveness here. You could say that the game is held back by the technology of the platform, but where others have succeeded, Army of TWO: The Devil's Cartel falls flat on its face. Along with the average graphical display, there isn't much in terms of supporting sound either. To break this down think of three categories: dialogue, gunfire, explosions. While the dialogue is somewhat comedic in nature there isn't much in terms of quality audio that help bring this game back from the dead.

As mentioned earlier, this is the third game in the Army of TWO series and in this latest release there are far too many issues and problems to just turn a blind eye and forgive. Poor gameplay mechanics mixed with a cliche and overacted story combine with mediocre graphics and choppy frame rates to create a game that by now has had more than enough opportunity to produce a quality title. On top of all of these previous issues, Army of TWO: The Devil's Cartel is priced at full retail price of $59.99 and that almost makes it feel like an insult to gamers. When you add in the disappointing co-op experience, which we may remind you, is the backbone of the whole Army of TWO core, what you're left with is a game that does little to deliver any sort of quality, long lasting, or even memorable gaming experiences.

Completely overhaul the co-op experience and even though it's never been done in the past, try to include some form of meaningful story that compels gamers to want to play more of the game. Also fine tune the gameplay mechanics and the whole online invite system as well. Then develop some way to allow gamers to keep what progress they have made if they decide to join another game in progress instead of just having to start all the way over from the beginning of the chapter. Ultimately, it's time to completely rethink and overhaul the entire Army of TWO.

Overall: 5.2 / 10
Gameplay: 4.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 4.1 / 10


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