Brotastic fun….But I miss Salem and Rios
*Warning: Hints of very corase language included in video*
Ever since the juggernaut that is Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare, it became nearly impossible to find a shooter that does not feature regenerating limbs and Michael Bay-esque set pieces. In 2008, a breath of fresh air was introduced to the overly saturated shooters market, it was Army Of Two; while every other shooter tried to be self-serious and political, AOT was cheesy and humorous – heck, you were even able to add a shield to your GOLDEN RPK, the game was almost a subtle commentary on how self-serious video games have become. The two protagonist Salem and Rios have some of the most comical conversations in the middle of a firefight; my favorite was a heated debate between their favorite members of hip-hop group The Wu-Tang Clan. The main draw of AOT was in its focus of two-player co-op, the game encourages and actively rewards teamwork instead of a quick trigger finger. Despite not being the COD killer that EA originally intended, AOT managed to sell enough copies to warrant a sequel. The sequel Army Of Two: The 40th Day was released in early 2010 with much fanfare, the game was every bit as fun as the original but was universally panned for the more “mature” setting. So here we are with the 3rd installment of the venerable franchise, Army Of Two: The Devil’s Cartel. This latest installment is being helmed by Visceral Games, the developers of EA’s survival horror franchise Dead Space.
Fans of the original Army Of Two would be sorely disappointed to find out that they would no longer be playing as dynamic duo Salem and Rios. Instead you’ll play as a ultra-generic and one dimensional soldier Alpha and his equally generic partner Bravo. Don’t be too depressed about the exclusion of Salem and Rios; they both still play a large part in the narrative. The personalities of Alpha and Bravo are the game’s biggest letdown, they lack the comedic camaraderie that defined the WHOLE SERIES – you can’t even fist-bump your partner. Bickering exchanges between Alpha and Bravo usually devolves into self-seriousness or into a cringe worthy joke about Mexicans or getting shot at.
The setting and over-arching story of the game is actually a breath of fresh air in the overly saturated Middle Eastern/Russian attacking Washington; the story actually focuses on the actual drug wars happening in Mexico, it’s gritty, it’s dirty and it’s intense but it’s a step in the right direction. The whole game revolves around protecting an anti-cartel Politician named Cordova who has managed to piss off the biggest drug cartel led by their ruthless leader Bautista. The game would take you to several locales ranging from a Mexican slum to a graveyard and even to a luxury resort. Sometimes it’s weird to find the places that you visit to be populated by no one except for cartel soldiers whom you continuously mow down.
Running off the new Frostbite engine, environmental destructibility adds a new dynamic into the otherwise cookie cutter shooting galleries that unfortunately populates much of the game. Conveniently placed chest high walls and obstacles can now be shot away, which actually intensifies the action as you can no longer slowly pick off enemies from a distance. The game FORCES you to work together in order to survive; while the enemy AI isn’t the brightest bulb in the room their sheer number alone is able to make quick work of anyone who decides to abandon his partner, Rambo wannabes and corner squatting snipers would find themselves looking at the game over screen over and over.
One of the staple mechanics of the AOT franchise was the “Aggro” meter which displays the amount of “attention” you are receiving from the enemies; the more “bling” your gun has, the faster you gain aggro. This mechanic actually allows players to actively know when it was safe to silently flank and take out target. Unfortunately, the Aggro meter has been removed visually in TDC; it’s not to say that the you could no longer flank enemies while your partner draws fire, there is just a lack of visual cues to help players know when the right time to do it is.
One of the staples of the AOT franchise was the ability to customize your weapon to your heart’s content and TDC continues this tradition with the ability to apply a myriad of upgrades to your firearms- soda can silencers and diamond encrusted grenades anyone .Unfortunately in TDC, developers Visceral Games toned down the level absurdity but players could still expect to “bling” out their weapons with aftermarket parts like Buttstocks and magazines, I just wish that there was more variety of parts.
The Devil’s Cartel itself is an absurdly fun game on its own however it’s too big of a departure from the original formula that the AOT franchise perfected. It’s ironic to see the game fall into the pit of self-seriousness that the original AOT brutally mocked. Don’t get me wrong, TDC is still an enjoyable game but it just not a great ARMY OF TWO game.
Ratings: 3 out of 5 stars
By Chen Kangyi
© POPCulture Online 2013