Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is a dumb, violent and fun arcade style co-op shooter that is something like the videogame equivalent of a Michael Bay movie.
Playing single-player is not all that rewarding, but jumping into this with a co-op partner can be a lot of fun. Very quickly you'll be stringing together bloody deaths and large explosions with various bonuses popping up on the screen, buying new guns and cool-looking masks after each level.
You take on the roles of Alpha and Bravo and get straight into blowing away wave after wave of drug cartel baddies. The story has something to do with a keeping a Mexican politician from being killed by the cartel, but it doesn't really matter. It serves as little more than an excuse to put a bunch of enemies in front of you.
Most of the missions involve simply getting from point A to point B and shooting a few hundred people on your way through. There are some vehicular missions and various mounted guns and whatnot to mix it up a bit, but the majority of the gameplay is cover-based third-person shooter carnage.
The already bloody action is kicked up several levels by using Overkill mode - which is kind of a god mode of sorts. It slows things down, makes you invincible, gives you unlimited ammo and grenades and turns your damage power way up. It dramatically increases you and your partner's score, which is the name of the game.
Although the game is largely intended to be played co-operatively, it is competitive as every level you complete is ranked on a performance-based leaderboard. Going back and doing levels again and again is actually really satisfying, working your way up the board. This gives the game a lot of replayability too. If you charge through it, you'll be able to finish it off in around seven hours. You keep all your weapons and mods though, and can go back and re-do levels to improve your ranking.
Playing co-op, you need to put the difficulty on quite a high level to make it a challenge as flanking and double-teaming enemies is pretty easy. They're not the smartest cartel members in the world and take a 'she'll be right' approach to most combat situations.
For a highly publicised game from publishing giant Electronic Arts, there are a surprising number of glitches. In the opening tutorial, I threw a grenade and saw it explode, but it made no sound. A little while later in a mission, I threw a grenade and it just didn't explode at all - no sound or animation. If my character had quipped 'must've been a dud', this would've been sweet as. But he didn't.
At another point, characters and music in a cutscene paused, while foliage continued to sway in the breeze for four or five seconds. Then it kicked back into gear.
These little glitches aren't too distracting, but they're certainly noticeable and demonstrate that this title lacks some of the layers of polish we've enjoyed in other triple-A shooters recently.
Animations look cool, but there are some little oddities like when you fire, you can see the projectile moving much slower than a flying bullet should be. The Frostbite 2 Engine makes everything look great, but it's still a far cry from the engine's daddy Battlefield 3, despite nice little touches like most objects being destructible.
Hitting melee in close-quarters can trigger some very satisfying little knife-kill animations. Close-quarter combat is a little ropey, however. A lot of third-person games are, especially to someone more used to playing first-person, but this one seems especially clunky when an enemy is right up in your grill.
I really like the game's scripting. I don't mean the storyline, I mean how the dialogue itself is written, and how the characters look when they say stuff.
"Red barrels always explode!" one jokes early in the game, taking the mickey out of itself but also gaming in general.
They also make fairly juvenile jokes a lot of the time, often while being shot at and shooting dudes down. The developers have gotten really good at scripting so you really feel that it is a team at work that quip back and forth in a way that is less clunky than many videogames.
Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel has very little innovation and isn't a very memorable title, despite providing a decent amount of fun. It set pretty low goals for itself and has achieved them well enough, but it isn't a great game.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel
:: Publisher: Electronic Arts
:: Developer: Visceral Games
:: Format: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
:: Rating: R18