There are still some lingering questions after completing Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, and they are the exact same questions I had before I even put the disc in the console. Why was this game given green light? And who thought this sounded like a good idea? It’s a little bit surprising to me that this third release in the Army of Two series even exists; as far as I know no one has been screaming from the internet, “We must have another!” Nonetheless, EA and Visceral Games found it necessary to throw this superfluous game into our laps. And in doing so they’ve surprisingly managed to create a title that isn’t entirely bad, but it’s not great either.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel swaps out the original series protagonists, Rios and Salem, with another duo of meatheads named Alpha and Bravo. The pair of specialists from the Trans World Operatives (T.W.O.) are dropped into a Mexican drug cartel war where they are given the job to protect a Mexican politician. From here the story becomes utterly forgettable… so let’s just skip straight to the gameplay.
The campaign is played out entirely in third person co-op, whether it be with an online buddy or partnering up with the A.I. Together you’ll fight though waves upon waves of enemies as you progress through the multiple chapters the game has to offer. Players can issue a handful commands to the A.I. partner allowing them to help you out in specific situations. These range from things like requests to hold a certain area to obtain a defensive position, or using the A.I. as bait to draw the enemy fire away while you flank them from behind. In saying that, the majority of the time these commands aren’t needed as the enemy A.I. is fairly predictable and quite easy to overcome without having to issue orders.
Making a return from the original game is the overkill ability. This is a mode each player can initiate by building up their overkill meter after getting successful kills. Once activated you have a few seconds where you become invulnerable and your weapons have unlimited ammo that don’t require reloading. Overkill allows you to just hold the trigger down while your now overpowered bullets completely shred everything in their path, even the environment becomes destructible as objects explode into the air. This is by far the most fun part of the game; just activating overkill and watching your gun rain destruction is very satisfying.
As you wreak chaos the game scores you points and hands out multipliers depending on how you’re disposing of your foes. At the end of each mission checkpoint you’re given an overall tally of the points you’ve acquired, which enables you to level up and gain extra weapons, add-ons for these weapons, character skins and other customisable options. This incentive included in the arcade gameplay and scoreboard at the end of each mission encourages players to go back and try to aim for something higher than before. You’re also given some diversity with choices throughout some of the levels that split you and your partner up. It could result in one of you taking the high ground path to provide support while the other infiltrates the ground below. It further adds to the replayability of the game allowing you to go back and take a different path from before.
Visceral Games came so close with the cover system but it just falls short. Objects or walls that can offer a player protection come up with a marker to identify them as such, and moving between these objects works well enough. But a problem arises when you’re in the middle of a gun fight and want to get into the cover position; you’re not able to simply press the button and snap into it. You’ll need to take your focus away from firing at enemies, look down at the object, wait for that identifier icon to pop up on the screen, and then push the cover button. It completely stalls the pace of the action and is extremely frustrating when you’re quickly trying to get behind something but you need to stop and look for this indicator that says you can duck there.
All of the weapon unlocks and customisable options actually came as quite a surprise. I wasn’t expecting the depth of choice offered to players in The Armoury – which is the main hub where all customisation takes place. The variety of different parts you can swap out for each weapon provides players with the opportunity to get very creative. However the game doesn’t make it clear that this functionality is available; it took a few hours before I even realised that it was actually a thing. It was only after I got curious about the influx of weapon unlock notifications every few levels that I went searching in the menu to find out the deal was.
All in all there are many problems with Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel. Though there are some solid ideas and mechanics in place, unfortunately it just feels unpolished and doesn’t all come together. While the selection of weapons and modifications really add some variety, the game is only really fun to play when you’re creating havoc in overkill mode. The mechanics suggest that this is a game the developers want you to go back and play multiple times, but with it wrapped in a forgettable story, a frustrating cover system, and bad enemy A.I. design it’s just not something you’ll want fire up for a second time, or the first for that matter.