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Army of Two The Devil's Cartel review: All Killer, all filler

Frostbite breathes life into banterous bro-op

"Watch those red barrels", says Alpha (or Bravo) to Bravo (or Alpha). "They explode." "They can't all explode", quips Bravo (or Alpha). "Heh, you're obviously not a gamer", replies Alpha (or Bravo) to Bravo (or Alpha)

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Such exchanges exemplify a game in reckless pursuit of fun. Characters are interchangeable and bodies are expendable like bullets, both dropping thick and fast in destructible levels built on Battlefield 3's Frostbite 2 engine. A loose story bridges them.

Set in Mexico, Devil's Cartel tasks players with assaulting desert compounds, luxury villas and inner city strongholds to end the reign of bloodthirsty Mexican cartel La Guadaņa (Spanish for "The Scythe"). Alpha and Bravo replace Salem and Rios as your new playable operatives, but the switch is inconsequential. Everyone here is distinct in so much as everyone's got a face.

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In fairness, the mid-level co-op tasks diverge quite nicely, veering from the dull (push cars/ boost buddies over ledges/choose to flank either left or right) to the dramatic. The most memorable jaunt took place in a construction yard, where we grabbed a sniper rifle and hanged off the side of a chopper while our teammate below provided suppressing fire with a souped-up grenade launcher.

Later, choosing whether to drive a truck or shoot its turret down a festive Mexican street, toppling stone arches on groups and exploding multiple rows of parked cars, came a close second.

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You can revive each other too. Adrenaline-filled syringes are an inexhaustible resource, but AI partners in singleplayer are so hopeless you might find yourself doing all the medic leg-work. Meanwhile, tag-team gestures are history; no longer can you make spontaneous celebratory fist-bumps. They're good enough for Portal 2, so why not here?

Behind its co-op stylings lies standard cover-shooting fare, with turret-manning and on-rails vehicle bits being the brightest of dimly lit ideas. It may sound crude, but what elevates Devil's Cartel is its sheer bloody carnage. Fizzing grenades constantly kick holes in walls and abundant red barrels ignite at the slightest bullet knick. In one cut-scene, Alpha (or Bravo) chucks a grenade at a convoy conveniently parked in the middle of several. For everything the story lacks, the game tries to make up for in explosions.

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