Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel Review (Xbox360)

The Army of Two games have never been known for their subtlety, nor their intellectual gameplay. Much like a 1980s popcorn flick, they've been all about huge explosions, satisfying gunplay and that sense of fun that only comes from watching Arnie take out a villainous goon. It's a simple yet entertaining formula and one that The Devil's Cartel has, inexplicably, failed to capture, even despite its predecessors doing the job more than adequately.

To be fair, it's not the kind of franchise to ever warrant huge scores and people lavishing praise upon it. A solid and dependable series, the titles have never strayed far from being fun yet forgettable. In the case of Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, such forgettability kicks in even before you've finished the game. It's utterly soulless and very much a 'by the numbers' title. Even those coming in willing to forgive its flaws will find themselves stunned by the dire script and oddly unsatisfying shooting.

Some levels provide a bit more exploration than others, shying away from typical corridor orientated battle

Action takes place amongst a major drugs war that's kicking off in Mexico. Unlike in the past instalments, players no longer control Salem and Rios, instead affecting the decisions of Alpha and Bravo, two operatives with personalities as interesting as their names. Don't pay too much attention to the script, as should often be conducted during a mindless action movie. Instead, focus on the action. Crucially, any action once the Overkill system comes into operation. Overkill is accrued through numerous kills, especially of the stylish or chained variety, thereby rendering the player invincible and ridiculously powerful. Besides being able to kill any threat in an instant, it also enables players to blow up buildings and mostly any other piece of scenery that takes their fancy. Peculiarly, it's more fun than shooting the actual enemies and a lot more satisfying. To the point that it's worth activating just for the sake of it.

With not enough disparity between the many weapons, there's no real sense of power, even when using shotguns, except when utilising Overkill. Overkill is all the more enjoyable during co-op when double Overkill can be unleashed and all hell breaks loose. Enjoy those moments and try not to notice what's missing from the typical Army of Two formula. Aggro is one such thing lacking here, with players unable to build up heat and aggression from the opposition in order to protect their ally for a time. One of the neatest of inclusions for the series, it's sorely missed here, much like the lack of moral decision making as seen in the previous title.

Issues emerge with the cover system, also, proving to be quite clumsy and awkward with no backup from an all too useful dodge move. There's a little too much targeting required to manoeuvre cover appropriately, meaning it only really works well at quiet moments during the game, rather than when the action is frantic. Similarly, co-op actions don't work smoothly either. Even opening a door together can take a few moments to co-ordinate correctly. Fortunately, The Devil's Cartel is far from a difficult game to complete, but dying through unintuitive controls is always a nuisance.

Overkill really does live up to its name

Co-op play is the only multiplayer to speak of, too, even despite the inclusion of an online pass. There's no competitive multiplayer to enjoy, something that was quite entertaining previously, meaning the levelling system is restricted to 25, something that won't take long to achieve. Bizarrely, for a game so focused on co-operative experiences, drop in multiplayer causes players to be reset to the last checkpoint, adding to the frustration.

The shining light amongst Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel's mediocrity is that sense that while it's not worth £40, once it hits the bargain bucket, it could provide a fun weekend's entertainment for a couple of shooter fans. There's only around 8 hours of game to enjoy here, but much like even the weakest of co-op focused games, playing it with friends can go a long way to making it a fun experience. Brief yet cool set pieces such as one involving a helicopter pave the way to at least leaving the player thinking positive thoughts, even if only for a few minutes. Occasional moments of variety emerge too, thanks to arenas that require a bit more thought than simply running and gunning. Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel's main crime is to not be interesting enough so those brief moments of respite do help.

Taking yourself seriously isn't all it's cracked up to be and that's where Army of Two needs to go back to its roots, with its weapon upgrade system focused on silliness rather than suppressors and useful tools. Scaling itself back for a more "pure" co-op experience just doesn't work for this franchise that benefited so greatly from borderline parody. For that reason alone, The Devil's Cartel is an awkward one to recommend.

Top Game Moment: Activating Overkill for the first time and watching everything explode around you. It's quite the delight.

Platform Played: PS3

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