Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel
Lost amid all the news of recent layoffs at EA Montreal is the fact that the studio rather quietly released Visceral Montreal’s final game, Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, late last month. It’s presumably the last chapter in a maligned trilogy, that if truly dead, will have gone down as an exclusively made-In-Montreal series.
History won’t be kind to the trio of third-person shooters. The series began with an interesting mechanic — two shooters who shared an elasticity where one could take lead and pull attention away from the other — but it never quite established a tone or weapon customization system to call its own. The original was also criticized in the early days for starring a couple of fist-bumping frat boy protagonists, which in hindsight was a unique trait they could have pursued further, rather than shy away from.
For The Devil’s Cartel, the new heroes — a pair of nameless mercenaries — are more serious, and stakes are given to rationalize the violence. It makes the game even less distinctive, but once you’re actually in the garden-variety Latin American war zones, the shooting and covering aspects are well done. Most of the cover is destructible, so in addition to having to constantly run around to find new protection, it’s possible to break apart the pillars or walls your enemy is using for cover, making the battles somewhat unpredictable at first (although monotonous by the end).
Co-op isn’t quite the thrill it used to be, as the game’s new overkill mode — where a character temporarily becomes invincible and gains infinite ammo — is more a product of individual achievement than the result of good teamwork. The game also falters by restricting the proceedings to one locale and one main foe, which sort of defeats the fun of being un-allied mercenaries-for-hire.
The Army of Two series was never able to differentiate itself from other shooters, even though the pieces were seemingly in place for it to do so. Despite the aggro/teammate dynamic, the hockey masks and bro humour, after the original the series disavowed its silly roots in a misguided attempt to be more similar to its jingoist peers. The Devil’s Cartel is a really limp way for the series to go out — if that’s indeed the case — but for all its warts, it’s a Montreal original and the first two had their moments. ■
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is available now for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.