Preview: Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel
I know what you’re thinking.
Army of TWO. Not only does it have that whole double-meaning ALL CAP LOCK ACRONYM thing going on, it’s little more than a brotastic extravaganza of all things shoot-y and explode-y, right?
I’ll admit it. I thought that, too. But earlier this week I had the opportunity to hit EA UK HQ (double-dare you to say that quickly three times in a row, friend) to play through the opening few chapters. After several hours in the company of phonetic twins Alpha and Bravo, it’s ever-so-slightly possible that I might have been wrong.
So: what have we got? Well, if you played through either of the preceding Army of TWO games, you should be able to slip straight into Devil’s Cartel without much re-acclimatisation. Once again you’re a tactical world operative, and once again, you’re half of a kickass combat duo on business, this time squaring off with Mexican drug cartel ne’er-do-wells so stereotypical, I was on the lookout for a straw donkey.
Surprised that Rios and Salem had been relegated to the supporting cast? Yeah, me too. If this bothers you, don’t let it; to be honest, you won’t find new leading men Alpha and Bravo all that different from our original leads, anyway. Whilst the whole brotherly love thing has been somewhat watered down since you last traced the footprints of Rios and Salem, you’ll either be saddened or delighted to hear that it’s certainly not disappeared entirely.
And whilst we did get a glimpse of Army of TWO‘s guest appearances, unfortunately, we didn’t get to see enough of Baker and Chuy – hip-hop stars Big Boi and B.o.B. Army of TWO dopplegangers – to comment.
Admittedly, there’s not much here that you haven’t seen before, and I don’t just mean in previous Army of TWO offerings. Yes, all the staples of the bullet-spraying genre are here – chunky, customisation weapons, exploding barrels, mildly amusing one-liners and bromancing bravado – but this comes at the expense of anything meaningfully new. Weapons, tatts and masks are fully customisable, too, enabling those who care to kit out their TWO to their exacting standards.
The gameplay itself is surprisingly smooth, with meaty, satisfying combat that seems perfectly pitched (at least, on the medium setting I was playing on, anyways). Whilst not perfect the cover system helps navigate foe-infested environs swiftly and stealthily, although I could’ve done without the opening tutorial that confused more than it tutored: field experience was of far more benefit.
The game’s greatest strength, however, lies in the excellent tag-team framework that not just hopes you work as a unit, but positively encourages you to do so. Whilst individual kills are noted and tagged accordingly, unite to take down your foes – or act as decoys, shoot away cover or hit the Overkill feature together to be invincible and infinite-ammoing for an extended period – and you’ll be rewarded with more – and shared – XP, instantly erasing any “you stole my kill!” grips between blossoming partnerships. This will mean that splitting up comes with it’s own unique issues, particularly as your buddy won’t be there to revive you should you fall, but it makes the time you do spend together that much sweeter.
Whilst the series hasn’t infused any true innovation or passion to TPS genre, I wouldn’t be too quick to write off Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel. Fast, frantic and fabulously friendly – with its tongue well and firmly embedded in its cheek – to Visceral’s credit, AoT:DC embodies much of what we love about this generation’s most successful shooting franchises whilst dampening down some of the brotastic butt-slapping we’ve come to associate with the franchise. In truth, I’ve been crying out for another satisfying co-op shooter … and I think The Devil’s Cartel might be exactly what I’m looking for …
Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel is available from Friday 29 March on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Download the demo – or watch the opening half hour in the real-time, in-game video above – and see what you think!