The third instalment of EAís Army of Two series, The Devil's Cartel opts to push the seriesí previous protagonists into supporting roles, instead putting the players into the shoes of new T.W.O recruits Alpha and Bravo.
The mercenary T.W.O organisation is sent into a bleak and possibly racist portrayal of Mexico, where Alpha and Bravo will be forced to deal with the most vicious of the local drug cartels.
Despite that thrilling setup, most people probably arenít heading into this for the story, or at least Iíd hope theyíre not. The storytelling here lies somewhere between emulating a good popcorn action movie and being insultingly bad.
Alpha and Bravo donít get any real character outside of being a straight-laced white guy and hot-tempered vaguely ethnic guy. Throughout the first few stages youíre briefly teamed up with an onslaught of equally underdeveloped fellow T.W.O agents who are killed off in such rapid succession that itís hard to really care.
Thereís some entertaining banter between the soldiers at least, and the game thankfully doesnít take itself too seriously and pokes the fourth wall a bit with some playful jabs at the genre.
Apart from these moments of levity the Devilís Cartel sticks to the traditional action genre formula so much you could make a drinking game out of the clichťs. There are a couple of Ďtwistsí in the story, though if you donít see them coming from approximately half an hour into the game then you must be new to this sort of thing.
The staleness of Army of Two
isnít just limited to its plot however; the gameplay is equally as uninspired. Thereís little enemy variety, even towards the end of the game. Later on youíll start to encounter armoured enemies who can take a little more punishment but apart from that they act the same as their squishier buddies.
The game never really puts much effort into mixing things up with exciting action set pieces either, instead opting to just throw increasingly large numbers of enemies at you in waves until each area is clear. Thereís the occasional five minute long sequence where you drive a jeep into an enemy base or slide down through a collapsing fiery building but theyíre far too brief and infrequent, almost as if the game is scared of straying too far from its formula.
The controls at least feel nice and responsive. Alpha and Bravo are quite light on their feet compared to other third-person shooter protagonists. Where the game runs into issues is with its cover system, which isnít quite as smooth as it could be.
When it works itís pretty good, and you can fairly effortlessly dash from cover spot to cover spot taking minimal damage while under fire. But sometimes it just doesnít work out that way and youíre either taken to the wrong place or left where you are, neither of which are good news in a hectic fire fight.
Fortunately the gameís easy enough to give you a lot of room for error as your hardened mercenary body is capable of soaking up more bullets than anything else in the game. And in a tight spot you can always rely on the Overkill mode, which makes you a briefly invulnerable juggernaut of destruction, to get you out in one piece.
Overkill is a pretty fun little feature. Activated at any time once youíve filled up your bar enough through killing enemies, the result is a highly entertaining burst of power which results in all of your bullets becoming explosive. It doesnít last long but usually gives you enough of a boost to clear an area of both enemies and obstacles. Itís not quite enough to distract you for long from how incredibly dull and repetitive the combat is however.
Even one of the gameís supposedly most important features, the cooperative multiplayer mode, is a little underwhelming. While itís always good to have another human player on hand to help properly strategise and the like, the gameís generally so straightforward that an AI can do the job well enough.
Players do get bonus points for working together to flank or distract enemies for each other, leading to bigger cash rewards at the end of each chapter, but again the AI contributes fine enough to this when left to its own devices. There also too many sections where you have to split up and handle yourself for a while and while these do make things a little more challenging they also seem to go completely against the point of playing with another person.
The Devil's Cartel
does have a few features that help it stand out a little though. The Armoury is quite brilliant. Rather than having to find weapons out in the field or steal them from dead enemies you get to choose your favourite two right off the bat. Well, not quite right off the bat, you need to save up money first in order to buy anything other than the starting rifle, shotgun and pistol combo.
More powerful models require you to level up your rank by completing missions before you can even attempt to purchase them. So thereís a bit of work to be done before you can really get into the weapon system.
The weapon customisation system here is pretty expansive. Every part of each gun can be upgraded or traded out to suit your tastes. Basic tools will increase the weaponís overall stats, boosting accuracy or damage for example, while slightly more exotic accessories will improve the weapon with laser sighting or a scope for sharpshooting. The best part is that you can test weapons out on the firing range before taking them out into a mission.