With this generation of consoles we saw a slew of new ideas brought to the forefront, but few as big as co-op being implemented in widespread cases rather than a genre specific sort of deal. Army of Two, developed by EA Montreal, has been a prime example of crafting a game that relies on teamwork and makes it clear from the title. The latest entry in the franchise, The Devil's Cartel, built on the engine Battlefield 3 made famous, and developed with the help of Visceral games studio, the folks who brought you such classics as Dead Space or the slightly less well received Godfather games, aims to recapture the magic that made the concept fun to begin with. Bringing a tighter focus to the action while maintaining the multi-optional approach the game is known for, is this Army of Two installment shaping up to be the final fist bump, or does this new duo bring enough to the table to keep the franchise going?
From the onset it is clear that they had a huge budget for this game. If the fact you've been seeing ads for it since Christmas wasn't enough, surely the moment you see the level of detail put into this small army's tale will get you excited for what is sure to be a wild ride. The main menu gives basic options to enter the game or jump into customization, but the level of effort truly put into the customization system this time is absolutely stunning. Not only are there far greater options to create the exact arsenal you want, but the tiered system of leveled unlocks allows for a better sense of weapon introduction, and the very welcome feature to try each upgrade before investing is a welcome change from many shooters around now days, even if its something as minuscule as a small accuracy bump, the game delivers impressively well. Additionally, the fully customize-able masks take on a Forza Motorsport angle of full paint job customization, and much to my discontent, this feature was omitted from the demo version of the game, but does give you a brief look at what you will be able to get into.
The game is running on the Frostbite 2 engine, which for most won't sound special, but Frostbite 2 is a beautiful piece of work, rendering the drug war torn environments beautifully, and sporting some of the most refined lighting and physics the co-op shooter has ever seen. The effort put into making the guns and other weapons sound great is significantly notable too, delivering some cringe worthy moments when you swing your combat knife into a guys neck, or the first time you truly utilize environmental take-downs to their ability. The crisp in engine cinematics are also quite breathtaking if you take a moment to forget the last dozen times you saw a chopper go down in not so near beautiful a fashion. Rather or not you are good at managing multiple enemies on screen at once is key- and the AI here is vastly improved over either previous game, delivering truly thoughtful movements to keep you struggling to survive.
The portion I played was a level well into the game, in which you and your partner must break up the Cartel party with whatever method you choose, granted it is available to you. Wanna run and gun? Go ahead, skillful players may be able to pull it off with backup, but the game is equally able to be tackled from the cover shooting approach. Gone is the aggro meter from the last 2 games, now instead demanding the player pay attention to the battlefield rather than simply play based on a gauge filling up at given times. The new angle is both more challenging and surprisingly well executed, resulting in some of the most brilliant firefights I've had a chance to enjoy. The levels are linear as can be, only allowing branched paths at predetermined points, usually before large group encounters. This is easily looked past however, due to the franchises nature of allowing many different methods to fend of each oncoming attacker. While the chapters seem to have been broken up into more easily enjoyed short runs, the game makes up for this fact by seemingly offering upwards of 40+ missions in the main campaign.
Thankfully, the developers chose to focus their entire efforts on the campaign, offering little in the way of Multiplayer, but with a market so saturated with first and third person shooters, It is almost looked on as admirable that a game would voluntarily omit it in favor or a better story experience. I can personally say as someone who felt the 40th day was more of a step on the way to a sequel, this truly comes off as what a co op shooter is supposed to feel like, and I can happily say it has fought it's way back into my planned purchases. With that, keep an eye out for a full review down the road, but for now don't hesitate to enjoy the demo as many times as you want!
Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel launches March 26 2013 for Xbox360 and PS3.
+Demo now available on Xbox LIVE and PSN.
(full post can be found here - goo.gl/g0PGd)
Army of TWO The Devil's Cartel