Army of Two: The Devils Cartel Hands on Preview


  • Army of Two: The Devils Cartel
  • Army of Two: The Devils Cartel
  • Army of Two: The Devils Cartel
  • Army of Two: The Devils Cartel

New impressions, screens and videos
The Army of Two is back, check out our take on The Devil’s Cartel.

Back in 2008, EA Montreal made a bid to capitalise on the rise in online functionality in gaming by producing the original Army of Two. Its remit was to deliver a tactical third person action title with two player co-operative elements built in from the ground up. Co-op actions were absolutely essential to survival in Army of Two, making play with a friend (locally or online) the best way to survive the gritty campaign mode. A sequel, The 40th Day, followed in 2010 – amping up the action to more spectacular levels as a terrorist strike brought the city of Shanghai to its knees.

Two years on, and EA Montreal has stepped away from the Army of Two franchise to give a new developer a chance behind the wheel. Visceral games were best known for a series of movie tie in titles like The Godfather and The Lord of the Rings before hitting big with original IP Dead Space in 2008.

For their take on Army of Two, Visceral has been clear that they want to honour everything which has come before, while also working to ground the game a little more than the previous titles, focussing on a more realistic combat environment. These decisions are borne out by the introduction of two new playable characters – Alpha and Bravo – with original heroes Salem and Rios still involved as NPCs. Alpha and Bravo are new recruits to the T.W.O. PMC and get caught up in a violent adventure with their more seasoned peers.

The Devil’s Cartel concerns an attempt to bring down a villainous Mexican crime organisation – apparently through the liberal application of bullets. Our recent play session was centred around an incursion into an enemy camp in search of a pair of kidnapped women who were about to become part of a human trafficking ring.

Controlling one of the new protagonists feels very much like the first two games in the series. The third person perspective and cover shooting remain in place, with the changes to gameplay generally quite subtle. Most obvious is the lack of an onscreen aggro meter – a gauge which was used in the other titles to determine which character the enemies were focussing their attention on. Aggressive actions, like firing, even from cover, could previously allow the quieter player to all but disappear from the enemies view, allowing for fluid flanking actions.

Despite the lack of a glaring onscreen meter this time around, Aggro is still an important tactical manoeuvre but is instead integrated into regular gameplay. Naturally more aggressive players will draw more fire and clever partners will find routes which take them behind enemy lines – allowing for some brutal cross-fire.

Shoot em
Shoot emEnlarge Enlarge

Another new addition is overkill. Previous games featured scripted ‘back-to-back’ moments which tasked you with taking out as many enemies as possible with unlimited ammo and some slow motion coolness. The Devil’s Cartel takes this concept, fills it up with awesome juice and explodes it. In game actions will fill your overkill meter which can be unleashed for scant seconds of serious carnage. Time slows, weapons increase in power andeach and every enemy gets pulped to ludicrous gibs by your fire.

Overkill is ridiculously over the top and incredibly entertaining, with the Frostbite 2 engine adding in plenty of environmental destruction befitting the golden age of JohnWoo. But there’s also a tactical element – choosing when and where to use Overkill can be the difference between life and death.

Our playthrough consisted of familiar and competent running and gunning through a poor village environment, with some brief cut scenes along the way. The insight into the characters of Alpha and Bravo wasn’t great but it’s clear they’re not yet used to the rules of the PMC game, while Salem and Rios try to give them some perfunctory lessons on warfare. We got a glimpse of one of the main villains before catching up with the human cargo and experiencing a tender moment where one of the new recruits promises to get the surviving prisoner out alive.

Salem and Rios are also in the mix
Salem and Rios are also in the mixEnlarge Enlarge

One other major new addition to The Devil’s Cartel is EA’s own Frostbite 2 engine. Previous entries were built on the aging Unreal 3 system and the difference is simply astounding. Apart from the destructible environs mentioned above, the graphical fidelity and animation is superb – particularly when you wade into the action in Overkill and start separating enemies from their limbs.

Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel has the potential to be a strong sequel – intent on keeping the best of what has come before while also being unafraid to change up the gameplay mechanics. Some co-op action glitches aside (like navigating level breaks) the experience was smooth and fluid to control, with the Frostbite2 engine adding some top drawer production quality to an already impressive mix. If you’re a fan of co-op campaigns, they don’t come more rigorously designed than this.

Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is coming to Xbox 360 and PS3 from the 26th of March 2012.

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