Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel Hands-on Preview -- The Bro-Op Bromance BrotinuesBy Adam Rosenberg - Posted Nov 01, 2012
Bromance reignited! Army of Two returns in 2013 with Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, itself a product of a collaborative development partnership between franchise creator EA Montreal and Dead Space studio Visceral Games. The new adventure places previous dudebros Salem and Rios into supporting roles, with players forming a new co-op partnership as nameless PMC grunts Alpha and Bravo.
EA offered up a first hands-on look at how The Devil's Cartel is progressing during a recent media tour, and things are certainly looking good. That's thanks in no small part to the ever-adaptable Frostbite 2 engine, with scenery crumbling under heavy gunfire and minor details creeping out of every corner.
The demo in question saw the new Alpha/Bravo team dropping into a Mexican town alongside several fellow PMC soldiers. Since the close of events in Army of Two: The 40th Day, Salem and Rios have started up their own private military firm, selling their armed and armored services to the highest bidder.
To be honest, I'm not entirely clear on what brings Alpha, Bravo, and their crew to this remote Mexican town. It's a mid-to-late-game moment that has something to do with tracking down the leader of the game's titular Evil Drug Cartel. It doesn't really matter for the purposes of this preview. Needless to say, things go wrong shortly after our team arrives. There's a surprise attack by the cartel that leaves Alpha and Bravo running on their own against an army of gun-toting drug peddlers.
The Devil's Cartel is cut from essentially the same virtual cloth as the two previous Army of Two titles. Based on what EA decided to showcase, it's a brute-force, third-person shooter that sees you taking on an assortment of guns with bad guys attached to them. The marquee new feature is Overkill, a mode which can be activated once an onscreen meter is filled via your rising body count.
Overkill is essentially an all guns blazing badass mode. The timed boost sees Alpha and Bravo powered up with increased stopping power and bullet-time-enhanced reflexes, allowing them to quickly lay waste to a battlefield of baddies. Overkill also serves as a Frostbite 2 showcase, since you get to watch as each bullet carves a sizable chunk out of the lovingly created scenery.
Aggressive enemy AI forced my partner and I to constantly dive for cover and then seek new cover as whatever we were cowering behind was chipped to pieces by enemy fire. Destructible environments are both a hazard and a tool in The Devil's Cartel, much moreso than in the previous two games.
These elements work together to present a pretty stiff challenge as you're forced to adapt to the changing environment every few seconds. My partner and I eventually found that a select few cover points--specifically thick stone columns--don't ever disintigrate completely, but that doesn't stop the constant forward rush of enemy forces. It all amounts to a hectic yet fun pace as you blast away at your enemies while constantly hunting for new, safer cover.
The demo session concluded with a helicopter soaring in to attack with its heavy weapons. The indestructible stone columns turned out to be the lifesaver here, while streams of sustained fire from Alpha and Bravo--along with the occasional Overkill activation--eventually brought the chopper down.
There's still plenty more to be revealed about The Devil's Cartel with regards to player customization. EA has already hinted that players will be able to mess with the look of the two soldiers, and there's also the question of how the newly revamped weapon customization will work. You'll still be able to apply functional and cosmetic "bling" enhancements in some form, though exactly how has yet to be detailed.
Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel doesn't appear to be aiming for the AAA blockbuster audience, though having Frostbite 2 bring those environments to life certainly puts on a convincing display. The play--again, based on this brief demo--is just a bit too simple and straightforward, a weekend warrior type of adventure that you'll tear through with a buddy over the course of a day or two. Perhaps that assessment will be proven wrong with subsequent reveals, but in any event, The Devil's Cartel looks like it will serve up a rip-roaring good time, if nothing else.