Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: XBOX 360, PS3
Release Date: March 26th, 2013
ESRB: M (Mature)
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game
EA has made it a personal goal to release a new shooter every year. It began with the release of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and varied between numbered Battlefield and Medal of Honor releases. Last year, EA faced the hard realization that Medal of Honor: Warfighter was poorly executed and had even poorer sales, shelving the franchise for the time being. It needed something to fill the gap of shooters before Battlefield 4 launches this Fall. The company chose to resurrect the polarizing co-op series, Army of Two. Tapping the creative minds at Visceral, EA looked to inject the ailing franchise with much-needed innovation. Did EA's gamble pay off with Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel or is this just another humdrum shooter?
I won't lie; the new Army of Two is a very mixed bag. Scrapping brotastic mercenary heroes Salem and Rios, Visceral went for the serious-toned Alpha and Bravo. Though these guys tell less jokes about your mom, they still have a slightly humorous nature and never take things too seriously. That said, the script writing for their lines is fairly basic and never makes either soldier feel more than a cardboard cutout. Flawed as Salem and Rios were, they at least had personality. Alpha and Bravo barely stand out amidst the streams of bullets and explosions.
The semi-serious plotline, which seems to have something to do with dismantling a major Mexican drug cartel, never provides more than a passing reason as to why you're blowing people in half. There's a good local politician who gets abducted and, for whatever reason, you're supposed to torch and burn half of Mexico to get him back. It's a little insensitive to the plight of the Mexican citizens who face oppression from cartel rule, but it avoids belittling the conflict either. Police forces will fight with you side by side to bring the gang members to justice, so the writers get some kudos for not forgetting who the real soldiers of the War on Drugs are.
Army of Two isn't about plot or character development. It's about blowing the crap out of everything and everyone around you, and in this regard, it mostly succeeds. Alpha and Bravo have access to a massive arsenal that can be unlocked and purchased as players level up and earn cash. You can equip each character with two weapons and a sidearm. My favorite loadout was a precision-modded L85 bullpup rifle with an explosive-tipped AS-50 sniper rifle, while my sidearm of choice was a silver-colored .44 revolver. Each weapon can be customized down to the paintjob, offering incentive for players to take new contracts and replay missions.
The guns feel punchy and tear apart cover, spraying dust and debris about the destructible environments. Thanks to the Frostbite 2 engine, everything blows up and chips away beautifully. Dust and clouds of smoke obscure the battlefield as tracers stream over your head and damage your cover. It can be intense when everything is working properly. When the occasional cover glitches and visual oddities do occur, it can be frustrating and result in unfair deaths. These glitches aren't terribly frequent but do detract from the experience.
My favorite part of Army of Two's combat is the appropriately named Overkill mode. As you eliminate targets, the Overkill meter fills. Activating it will unleash an invulnerable, infinite explosive ammo warmachine. You can easily lay waste to ten guys without blinking, and if your partner has his filled, activate both for slow-mo and extended Overkill time. It's excessive and gratuitous but fun. The cartel members break apart, piece by piece, in a satisfyingly awful manner.
As fun as the combat is, Army of Two still suffers from a general lack of polish. Hit detection can be fussy and bullets sometimes clip through cover. The visuals, though great when things are exploding, are not great upclose. Character models are especially bad and look a bit like plastic action figures. In contrast, the audio is well done. The voice actors do a decent job of selling their lines and the weapons positively roar. Explosions have that special "oomph" factor and adds weight to the chaotic destruction.
As many problems as this game has, I still find it incredibly fun. If you have a partner who can play splitscreen, I guarantee hijinks will ensue. Rushing to save a downed buddy for that life-saving shot of adrenaline, only to be downed right after, is hilarious. Not to mention dual Overkill is absolutely ridiculous. I can think of few things as entertainingly violent and explosive as Army of Two. It's dumb, simple-minded fun.
If you're looking for a grade-A shooter, this ain't it. Visceral did a good job of trying to overhaul the series but made a number of missteps. The Devil's Cartel takes a few steps forward while taking several steps back. It's not a bad game, but I can't recommend it at the $60 pricetag. When it drops in price, I do recommend it for the crazy gore, ridiculous set-pieces, and huge explosions. It's disposable, but entertaining fun.
+ HUGE EXPLOSIONS
+ Fun with a partner
+ Great combat and weapon building
+ Strong audio and voice work
- Some glaring glitches
- Lines can be hamfisted
- Plot isn't that great
- Visuals can be dated at times
Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10)
Army of Two isn't a great game, but it's fun if you're looking for gratuitous violence and entertaining co-op action.