Check out our video review:
The first Army of Two introduced some cool ideas and while it has some issues, it’s still a fun game. Army of Two: The 40th Day is a fantastic sequel that improves almost everything established in the first game. And now it’s time to check out the third game, The Devil’s Cartel, which apparently got mixed to negative reviews and is often regarded as the worst game in the series. Keep in mind, these reviews came from top review sites so we were skeptical going in. Developed by Visceral Games and published by EA, Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel was released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in March, 2013. For this review, Jeremy and I played through the Xbox 360 version and we did acquire the Overkillers Pack DLC which adds new contracts, extra weapons, and masks.
The story focuses on two new protagonists, Alpha and Bravo, who have recently been recruited into Tactical Worldwide Operations, abbreviated as T.W.O. In the last game it was called Trans World Operations. The founders of T.W.O., Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem, bring the new recruits on a rescue mission to save hostages from a Mexican drug Cartel compound. They find one hostage named Fiona and the team discusses whether or not they should bring her with or leave her behind. Salem decides to escape on his own but his vehicle is destroyed and the other operatives fail to rescue him. Five years later, T.W.O. is hired by a Mexican politician to bring down the drug cartel and eliminate it’s leader. After the team is ambushed by the cartel, Alpha and Bravo fight their way through the Cartel’s forces in order to complete their mission and learn that the cartel’s top lieutenant, El Diablo, has been killing many of its operatives. We do think the plot here is more interesting than the plot in the last game and I enjoyed the whole drug cartel aspect so I did get into it a little bit. We didn’t really care for the predictable twist near the end of the game which, without spoiling anything, kind of ruins Rios and Salem. It’s almost as if all their character development from the previous games was just thrown out the window. If this wasn’t an Army of Two game, it would be less problematic. However, if you never cared about these guys before, then it probably won’t matter to you and it’s more or less a story about two private contractors against a drug cartel. There is some humorous banter exchanged between the two protagonists and Rios and Salem are once again voiced by different actors who do a decent job. Overall, the voice acting isn’t terrible, although some of the dialogue is laughable.
When you first start playing, there’s three difficulty modes to choose from and hardest one, Insane, needs to be unlocked. Whether you play solo or cooperatively, you do not get to choose which protagonist you want to play as. Player one is always Alpha and player two is always Bravo. Both characters play exactly the same. You can walk, run, dash, crouch, vault over obstacles, perform a melee attack with your knife, and snap into cover. The cover system has seen some changes. Now you can move from cover to cover at the press of a button. You can shoot from cover and blind fire and many objects that can be used as cover can be broken so you’ll always want to be aware of your surroundings. However, getting in and out of cover can sometimes be clunky. I really wish you could quickly jump or roll because it would make evading live grenades a lot easier. At certain points in the campaign you’ll need to push objects whether it’s to progress or to use as mobile cover. Shields can be found in the environments or will be dropped by enemies and can also be used as mobile cover. Some doors can be breached with your partner and in these scenarios, slow-mo is activated for a brief time upon breaching, allowing you to easily pick off enemies. Your character’s mask has T.W.O. Vision built in which means you can use it to see the best tactical routes and it also highlights dropped weapons and ammo. Objective markers appear on your HUD automatically unlike the previous games where they would appear in whatever your mask tech was so to be honest, we never really felt the need to use T.W.O. Vision.
The aggro system returns but it never feels shoved in your face. If you’ve played the previous games, you should know what aggro is all about. The idea is that one player draws the enemy fire, allowing the other player to rush and flank enemies without being seen. It’s basically the core mechanic of the series. However, in The Devil’s Cartel, there’s no aggro meter and it’s easy to forget the system exists. Many of the co-op actions have been removed. You can still order your AI partner to do basic stuff like open doors and you can give each other boosts but each mission is basically you running from point A to B, shooting all the bad guys in between. Let’s be clear that if you’re just standing out in the open, you’ll get shot and take damage rather quickly, but cover seems to be more important than the aggro system. Most of the time, the game feels like a typical third-person shooter. When you’re up against enemies using mounted machine guns, the aggro system can really shine and it proves to be helpful towards the end of the game but more often than not, staying in cover and picking off enemies does the trick. When playing solo, the friendly AI is actually competent this time around and you don’t need to babysit him constantly. He will shoot at and kill enemies, throw grenades, take cover when necessary, and even flank enemies on his own. You can command him to advance, regroup, draw enemy fire, and throw grenades but you can no longer decide if he should acquire aggro or not. I did witness him do some stupid things but only towards the end of the game when you’re constantly surrounded by enemies. If your partner falls in combat you need to revive him before he dies otherwise you’ll restart from the last checkpoint. As you engage enemies, both characters build up Overkill indicated by the Overkill meter on your HUD. When the meter is full, you can activate Overkill mode for a brief time where you’re invincible, have infinite ammo, and do more damage. If your partner’s Overkill meter is full as well, you can activate Double Overkill which lasts longer. Overkill can give you a big advantage in combat and can be a big help when trying to take down some of the tougher enemy types.
The cartel members are stupid. By that I mean the enemy AI is unintelligent. They do the basics like run around, take cover, shoot at you, throw grenades, some use shields as cover, and you’ll often come across enemies using mounted machine guns. Enemies will often run out into the open when under fire, run towards you without firing, and sometimes they’ll be unaware of your presence even when you’re ridiculously close to them. I understand how the aggro system works but sometimes you don’t even have to try to flank them if your partner has the aggro. You can run straight at them and they won’t notice you. The enemy AI is basically on par with the AI in the first game. The enemies seem to throw grenades more often as you progress through the campaign so by the end of the game, you’ll be moving from cover to cover often and as I stated before it would have been nice if you could quickly jump or roll out of the way. The enemies only seem to pose a real threat when you encounter them in large numbers. Sometimes enemy snipers and dudes with rocket launchers can be a problem but you’re always alerted to their presence so as long as you’re paying attention, you should be able to take them down easily. Some areas throw waves of enemies at you and sometimes you’ll be forced to engage them in certain ways but because of their stupidity, it’s not hard to pick them off as long as you approach encounters carefully and stay behind cover. I do like the enemy variety here. You’ve got the standard cartel thugs that run around areas and shoot at you. Some of them rush you with machetes and if they make contact, you’ll be forced to mash a button to defeat them. Later in the game, you’ll encounter ex-military types and every now and then you’ll have to deal with heavily armored enemies known as brutes which are in reality, just bullet sponges. Aggro can be utilized to take them down but they don’t have weak points on their backs or multiple spots like the heavy types in the prior games so you’re not really forced to flank them. Instead, one player draws their fire while the other pummels them with bullets. Just aim for the head and you’ll do fine. Much like the previous game, you’ll want to make sure enemies are actually dead because if they’re just wounded, they can slowly move along the ground and are able to shoot at you.
When you engage enemies, you’ll earn money for killing them in certain ways. You can also earn money for accomplishing certain tasks like a flawless breach for example. When you reach certain areas which I’ll refer to as chapters in a mission, you’ll have the opportunity to see how much money you’ve earned and you’ll be able to access the armory. When you earn enough money, you’ll rank up, and when you reach certain ranks, more items in the armory become available for purchase. You can equip a primary weapon, secondary weapon, and sidearm and the armory is where you can purchase new weapons, weapon attachments, and change your weapon loadout. Unfortunately, there’s not as many options to choose from as the previous game and attachments cannot be removed and attached on-the-fly during gameplay. You also can’t access the armory any time you want so you’ll want to choose your weapons and attachments wisely or you’ll have to wait until you reach the next chapter to access the armory again. However, fallen enemies will drop weapons when killed and you can always pick up and use those if need be. Despite the lackluster weapon customization, there’s still a decent amount of weapons and attachments to play around with. You can buy assault rifles, light machine guns, sub machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and handguns. They each have different stats in damage, rate of fire, accuracy, range, mobility, magazine size, reload speed, and aggro and any weapon attachments you purchase and equip will affect these stats. You can also buy different weapon skins. You can purchase and equip different stocks and sights, under mounts, side mounts, barrels, and muzzles. Magazines will include extended mags, double mags, armor piercing mags, and drums. Under mounts will include things like a grip, laser sight, blind-fire camera, shotgun, and a grenade launcher. The laser sight can also be applied as a side mount and other side mounts include a rail magazine for faster reloads and a ballistic shield. The armory is also where you can purchase and equip gear like masks, outfits, and tattoos. If you’re not satisfied with the signature masks, you can create custom masks in-game. You can choose your mask color and finish, apply different decals, adjust the size and position of the decals, their color and opacity, and each decal is a layer so you can move layers around and get creative. It’s pretty cool. The weapon customization has been done before and was much better in the previous game so with that said, the gear is the standout of the armory since it basically allows you to customize your character, giving you plenty of options in each category. You could equip different masks in the prior games, equip different armor in the first game, and unlock new outfits in The 40th Day, but The Devil’s Cartel has them both beat in terms of character customization. It should be noted that it’s all cosmetic so it doesn’t really affect the gameplay. We think the developers should have done more with the weapon customization.
The Devil’s Cartel will take you to a good variety of locations. The campaign is set in Mexico and you’ll battle the cartel on the streets and in compounds, at a gas station, church, mining town, in the slums, and in a drug facility. You’ll complete various objectives in each mission and after beating the campaign, you can take on contracts in specific missions. These contracts require you to stay in Overkill as you eliminate enemies and work your way to an extraction point. It actually gets old pretty quick but it is a good way to earn a lot of money quickly. The environments are linear and because your HUD directs you where you need to go, you should never get lost. However, the areas where you’ll engage enemies will often be large and/or full of multiple paths for flanking and plenty of objects to use as cover. There’s no items to find or collect so there’s not many reasons to explore areas. Now The Devil’s Cartel is a ridiculously over-the-top action-packed game. Bullets always seem to be flying, you’ll often be surrounded by explosions, and because many objects can break, you’ll most likely be moving from cover to cover often during firefights. The gameplay is faster-paced than what was experienced in the prior games. Explosive tanks and barrels seem to be everywhere and the enemies are sometimes stupid enough to use them as cover and you can imagine how enjoyable it is watching body parts fly through the air as a result of an explosion. The game does include points where you and your partner will have to make choices like if you want to infiltrate an area or take the high ground. You can choose to snipe or go after NPC’s. At some points you’ll get the opportunity to provide air support from a helicopter or stay on the ground and one area gives you the choice to drive a truck or be the gunner in the back. Sometimes the two protagonists will be separated from each other and they’ll be forced to fight through areas solo until they can meet up again. The final areas of the game are significantly more difficult than the areas that came before them and that’s only because tons of enemies and brutes will be thrown at you frequently, resulting in several trial and error sequences that can become frustrating. But for the most part, the pacing is consistent and the action is enjoyable. Unfortunately, you can’t use enemies as meat shields, there’s no hostages or civilians to save, and there’s no reward for being quiet or trying a different approach. This is a straight up action-oriented experience.
When we fired up the game for the first time, we were prompted to install the HD content. We proceeded with the install and the game is easily the best looking in the series. We did witness a lot of pop-in but, overall, The Devil’s Cartel is a good-looking game, at least for its time. The character models look decent, you can actually see sweat on the character’s faces, and the environments are filled with plenty of detail. The weapon models look great and the particle effects look fantastic. Smoke, debris, and dust will fill the air during firefights, bullets will rip through objects, and certain structures will break apart from gunfire and explosions, and the visual effects make every battle look flashy and intense. Enemies will ragdoll when killed which sometimes looks a bit wonky but you can blow off an enemy’s head and limbs which does look and feel satisfying. When it comes to the audio, the weapons fire does sound pretty good with some weapons sounding better than others. Explosions are loud and booming which is good since you’re going to hear them constantly since the game is basically an explosion-fest and the enemies will shout during firefights and moan and scream when taking damage. As for the music, the soundtrack is full of dramatic and intense sounding stuff that matches the action and tone of what’s happening on-screen but I can’t think of many songs that really stand out. On the technical side, the frame rate is up and down frequently and we encountered a ton of screen tearing. We also encountered some bugs. During my solo playthrough, I entered a room that wasn’t rendered so I fell through the ground and died. And during our co-op playthrough, character models would sometimes freeze in place during cut scenes.
We had a lot of fun with The Devil’s Cartel and I, personally, was surprised at how much fun I had with this. I really did expect it to be worse. Contrary to popular to belief, I think The Devil’s Cartel is a great game. A great action game. But the real question is, is it a good Army of Two game? I’m leaning towards no. It’s not as tactical (and I use that word loosely) as the previous games. The aggro system seems simplified to the point of being easy to forget the system exists. And because the friendly AI is significantly improved in this entry, I never felt forced to use the command system as a babysitting mechanic to make sure my AI partner doesn’t die or do something stupid. For the most part, he performed more than adequately on his own and him and I were able to handle most encounters without really focusing on aggro. In the end, The Devil’s Cartel feels like a standard third-person cover-based shooter with a simple command system. The gameplay may be nothing new but the action is flashy thanks to a great visual presentation which in my opinion helps amplify the fun factor. It kind of reminds me of Kane & Lynch 2. It’s the kind of game that offers a ton of action-packed gameplay from beginning to end even though there’s nothing significant about it that really stands out. If you’re looking for something deep, this isn’t it. As an Army of Two game, most of the features that made the prior games unique have been stripped or watered down. The aggro system feels less important and the game more or less feels like a typical third-person shooter but with co-op. The weapon customization is lacking, there’s no collectibles to find, and the contracts get old quick. Ultimately, we think The 40th Day is the best Army of Two game. But I’d be lying if I said The Devil’s Cartel isn’t a blast to play.
We would absolutely recommend Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel to fans of third-person shooters and action games. The game has some issues but those issues mostly relate to the fact that it’s supposed to be an Army of Two game. If you remove “Army of Two” from the title and look at is as just another third-person shooter, there’s not many things wrong with it in our opinion. The enemy AI is shit but it’s still a solid shooter. Honestly, this has become one of my favorite shooters from the seventh generation era of consoles. I enjoy the tone, atmosphere, and more importantly, the gameplay. After we beat the first game we took a trip to GameStop and found this along with The 40th Day sitting on a shelf for about four dollars each. I spent around eight bucks for two excellent third-person shooters. I really do think this series is underrated. Maybe it’s because other more popular third-person shooters overshadowed them when they were in their prime but if you’re into action games, I would advise you not to brush these off. And considering you can find all three games for under ten bucks each, you should at least give them a shot, especially if you have someone to play them with. As for The Devil’s Cartel, it may not be the best Army of Two game but it’s certainly one hell of an action game. Definitely check it out.