Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel preview

James Haresign October 1, 2012 - 1:00 pm

Preview: ARMY OF TWO: THE DEVIL’S CARTEL is a sequel no one expected, but does an interesting change in developer as well as new main characters offer hope for the struggling franchise?

When Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel was announced, the majority of people faced this news with “What? Really? Who asked for that?” I, however, didn’t. I was actually intrigued by the announcement for two reasons:  the first game was pretty good in a ‘if you’ve got a decent co-op partner’ type of way, though not good enough for me to actually pick up the sequel; and something in the press release got my attention, and that something was one word. Visceral. EA have taken the franchise off of EA Montreal and passed in onto the studio that brought us Dead Space.

At the heart of Army of Two beats a solid idea. Two highly trained private military contractors face huge odds with excellent co-op play. It was an ’80s action movie you could play and, in theory, could be the modern military equivalent to Gears of War. Unfortunately, the original games never lived up to that.

The co-op action did occasionally show through, but it was marred in awkward moments of scripted events, dodgy plots, and oceans of DUDE-BRO! Visceral could be the ones that finally bring the potential of the idea into reality. Dead Space has proven they know how to make damn good games, and while that series may be slipping away from its horror origins, there’s no denying they’ve all been bloody good. Actually, the fact they are going more action with their own series might be a good indicator for The Devil’s Cartel, as at least we know they can do it already.

Visceral isn’t the only thing the new Army of Two has going for it. Like every single EA game that gets announced these days, The Devil’s Cartel is using the Frostbite 2 engine. I hate myself for saying this, because I feel like the publisher is really starting to over-rely on DICE‘s powerhouse, but it really helps too. As awesome as it is watching a tank obliterate a building in Battlefield 3, Frostbite 2 is at its best in tight quarters when shotguns are blowing chunks out of masonry and grenades are ripping apart woodwork: the combat just feels so much meaner for it.

I got your back, Bro

But there has always been one real reason to play an Army of Two game, and that was the awesome co-op. The entire experience was designed for you and a mate helping each other out. Be it setting up ambushes, flanking manoeuvres, or jumping in vehicles with one driving and the other manning the turret.

Devil’s Cartel looks to keep all of this and take it further, raising the series above its mediocre standing. Sequences like assaulting a rooftop with Bravo manning a turret on a helicopter while Alpha makes his way on foot taking out any RPG wielding foes will accentuate the already over-the-top action.

Of course there’s the aggro system too, which was used to pull attention to one of you while the other sneaks his way into a better position. It’s one of the series defining elements, and was a good concept, but the execution was always lacking. Watching a bar slide one way for the firing always felt a little too abstract for a game that’s supposed to be about getting down and dirty in combat.

Visceral have realised this and hidden it from the interface. It’s still there, but taking advantage of that is more based on your instincts than it is waiting for the UI to tell you to do something. Apart from that, the gameplay doesn’t looked to have changed a great deal, but anyone whose played an Army of Two game before will realise that might not be such a bad thing.

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