Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel – Overkill Edition – Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visceral Games
Release Date: Mar 26, 2013
Genre: Action, Shooter
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 4 of 5

Army of Two was a pretty cool concept when the franchise debuted in 2008. It featured some nice co-op tactical gameplay that was missing from a lot of the typical shooters of the time. When the sequel arrived in 2010 a lot of that co-op goodness was missing and it seemed the series was doomed to become just another mindless shooter, and now that the third installment, Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel has arrived my worst fears are realized. Army of Two has been reduced to gun-porn, a mindless celebration of guns, ammo, death, and destruction to which I say…SIGN ME UP!

The original premise behind this series was the tried and true tactic of diversion and flanking. You would either order your partner (human or AI) to lay down suppressive/distracting fire while you flanked their position and picked them off from realistic safety or vice versa. As the series has evolved over the years that strategy has become less of a focus to the point where, in this game, I almost never used the D-pad to issue tactical orders other than the 4-5 times it was mandatory to the gameplay (i.e. boss battle).

While the buddy mentality is prominent in the cutscenes and dialogue it is strangely absent in gameplay with the few minor exceptions of a slow-mo team breach of a door, a helpful step-up to a high wall or ledge, or the frequent calls for medical assistance by both you and your partner when you go down. On all but the hardest difficulty it is nearly impossible to die unless you stray too far from your partner or manage to get shot while on any of the split-path missions. The Devil’s Cartel does offer a few branching moments that let you steer the action, either allowing you to pick your path through a level or your team’s path if you happen to be joined by another two-man crew. You can pick the high road and provide sniper overwatch or the low road and Rambo your way through the streets. You can hop in a chopper for aerial cover or stay on the ground and let your partner have all the fun; you can drive a truck or man the gun in the back. It’s a nice way to not only give the illusion of choice but add some minor replayability to some of the missions.

The new hook for The Devil’s Cartel is the Overkill system that is fueled by your agro and your ability to work as a team for co-op kills. When the Overkill meter is full you can activate the orange-tinted rampage mode for a brief burst of invulnerability and epic carnage complete with explosive bullets and shredded architecture thanks to the Frostbite 2 engine that guarantees no cover is permanent…for too long. Your ability to wreak havoc is supported with one of the best weapons customization systems outside of Dead Space 3. As you progress through the game and level up various components will unlock and can be purchased with your earnings allowing you incredible freedom to customize every aspect of your primary, secondary and sidearm weapons – everything from stock, sights, barrel, and magazine to all sorts of paint schemes. And that’s just the weapons. You can also tweak your various suit and mask options to guarantee you’ll never look like your partner or anyone else for that matter.

Check your brain at the door – Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is to games what The Expendables is to movies; a nonstop bloodbath of excessive carnage, witty one-liners, and chauvinistic humor complete with an attractive female sidekick who’s tight form-fitting yellow t-shirt seems to provide as much cover as your bulky body armor. The story deals with Alpha and Bravo and ties directly into events from the previous game with Salem and Rios. To say more would ruin some potential surprises, but rest assured, by the end of the game you will have killed a few thousand Mexican gangsters and put a serious dent in the drug traffic south of the border.

The game is surprisingly long; upwards of 10 hours, and seems even longer when your chapter count starts heading into the 40’s, but most chapters are 10-15 minutes in length which makes this a game that is surprisingly hard to stop playing. Each chapter almost always ends on a note that makes you want to see what happens next and you keep telling yourself, “it’s only 10 more minutes” and then its 5am and the sun is coming up. The game was slow to start but about an hour or two in I was hopelessly hooked and ended up finishing the entire game in an 8-hour marathon session the next day. The pacing is fast and frantic and the designers are mixing up indoor and outdoor levels along with vehicles, turrets, and air support missions.

Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel turned out to be a lot of fun…a lot of DUMB fun but fun nonetheless. There isn’t much of a focus on the co-op aspects of the game design so playing alone is just as enjoyable as playing with a friend; perhaps more so since the computer AI almost never seems to go down – at least as often as human players. There is a split-screen for local co-op or you can play online. I almost wish there had been a 4-player co-op given the frequent appearance of a second team, but I suppose they’d have to rename the series if they did that. This rollercoaster ride of violence is certainly worth a weekend rental, but summer action movie lovers will probably want to add this to their permanent library and relive the chaos more than once and probably with a friend.