Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel Hands-On Preview – The Power of T.W.O.
Written Thursday, November 01, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Do you like the movies of Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Sylvester Stallone and vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger? Then you probably love The Expendables movies. You'll more than likely fall for Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel too, what with its own brand of balls-to-the-wall action that revels in slow-motion mutilation and OTT set-pieces. It might have shifted in tone, but it looks like the third Army of Two is business as usual as far as its action-packed third-person shooter remit is concerned.
Former Army of Two heroes Eliot Salem and Tyson Rios are out this time around however, promoted to running T.W.O. (Tactical World Operations), while two new masked gimps named Alpha and Bravo get things done out in the field. The new protagonists have been made intentionally more generic to allow the player to project their own personality upon them apparently, although really, the duo are essentially ciphers with none of the charisma that Salem or Rios brought to the previous games. You'll still be able to customise them with a range of options though. And while there's no longer any juvenile fist-bumping or air guitar silliness (we'll sort of miss it), there's what EA calls “the co-op loop”, rewarding smart teamwork and co-operative tactics.
Flank an enemy while your buddy distracts them with gunfire, and you'll accumulate more points for doing so, as well as earning a boost to your 'Overkill' meter. Scoring is straightforward, with a paltry sum of points rewarded for a vanilla kill, while more elaborate co-op kills earn you substantially more. If a standard kill is worth 10 points, then a smart flanking kill will net you 50 points. This is all cumulative too, so you can rack up score combos with your co-op buddy if you're smart and strategical enough in working together. You'll build up your Overkill faster too.
“What's Overkill?!” we hear you cry. Dan explained this in his Gamescom preview, but we'll elaborate a bit. Overkill is something that can be quickly accumulated with successive kills and can be activated to render you both temporarily invincible, as you fire off an endless stream of explosive bullets without having to reload. It's not only outside the realms of possibility and completely ludicrous, but it can reduce an area to rubble in no time. Giving the Frostbite 2 Engine a serious workout, Overkill sees Alpha and Bravo tearing chunks out of an environment, while reducing enemies to lumps of twitching giblets in the blink of an eye. It'll no doubt be a source of endless hilarity.
For our hands-on, we're introduced to one of the main villains who's a member of one of the eponymous savage cartels. He callously executes a couple of Alpha and Bravo's T.W.O. Colleagues and proceeds to leg it, prompting the pair to give chase. We soon find ourselves breaching a doorway, which as video gaming convention dictates, initiates a slow-motion blast at the foes awaiting on the other side. There's a twist to this bit though, as the slow-motion breach sees Alpha and Bravo's bullets tearing through flesh to expose bones and organs, dismembering limbs, decapitating bad guys and generally making a bit of a bloody mess. It's pure, unadulterated OTT violence that's a clear indication that despite a slightly grittier theme and tone, Army of Two still doesn't really take itself all that seriously.
Leaving behind entrails, torsos and other viscera, we find ourselves in a courtyard with a fountain sunk into the centre, providing the perfect place to find cover. There's the good old, ever-reliable red barrels to shoot, and plenty of columns and other scenery just waiting to be chewed up by bullets. What follows is an all-out firefight, as an army of cartel scum pours out of every door firing upon our entrenched position in the fountain. It's not completely safe, so we choose to move around a bit, executing flanking manoeuvres and unleashing Overkill where necessary.
When you're downed, you can still use your pistol to protect yourself while your buddy revives you, and the core shooter mechanics feel remarkably robust. Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel actually feels rather meaty overall, with a reliable cover system that's up there with the best, and a real sense of feedback as you blow enemies away. Utilising the Frostbite 2 Engine also helps in that department, with destruction occurring all around you as the heavy duty gun battles unfold.
It all ends with a helicopter battle, demanding a lot of gun fire directed at the whirlybird as it dive bombs the courtyard of the Mexican Ghost Town and attempts to bury Alpha and Bravo in the process. Soon, after a brief battle of attrition the chopper is set aflame and sent spinning into a belltower, which comes crashing down in a suitably spectacular fashion. And with that, the demo concludes. It's worth noting that this demo is not nearly as brown as our previous hands-on session, with a few terracotta shades and crimson bricks on display, mixing up the palette a little bit. It's not exactly a graphical tour de force, but it does the job well enough.
Silly action is what Army of Two has always done best though, and The Devil's Cartel looks to follow suit, with stupidly overblown violence and explosions, complemented by pleasingly chunky gameplay. It doesn't do anything particularly big or clever, and it's riddled with clichés, but Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel looks poised to be a daft, yet entertaining slice of co-op shootery nonetheless. Arnie would be proud.
Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is out on 26th March, 2013 in North America and March 29th, 2013 in Europe.