Community regular Nemesis returns with a BRO-TASTIC REVIEW of this BRO-BASED SHOOTER
By Jonathan Maloney on June 24, 2013 at 7:19 pm
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OH YEAH. STRAP YOURSELVES BROS, BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT TO GET BROTACULAR
FIRST, GRAB YOUR BRO. NOT IN A GAY WAY. THAT’S UNBRO. YOU GOT A HOLD ON HIM, IN A PURELY HETEROSEXUAL FASHION? BROLICIOUS, YOU’RE MAKING ME SWEAT WITH THIS COMPLETELY PLATONIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION. NOW SEIZE YOUR BRO-CANNON. THAT’S THE BIGGEST, BROSPLOSION GUN YOU CAN FIND. GOT IT? AWWWWWWW YEAH SON, ITS TIME TO GET DOWN. BULLETTTSSSSSSSSSSS
There. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Army of Two – The Devil’s Cartel in a vaguely overcompensating homo-erotic nutshell. Review done.
Oh, you want more? Well, just remember. You asked for this.
Army of Two – The Devils Cartel is the third in the mainly forgettable but quite enjoyable series of Army of Two games, where you inhabit the shoes and manly musculature of one of a new pair of characters. For those of you new to the series, the previous games were about two guys called Rios (a big guy with what appears to be some morals) and Salem (a man whose dickishness knows no bounds) who worked for a mercenary company called something like Definitely-Not-Blackwater-Inc who rose up and killed their employers after they were found to be assholes and formed their own mercenary company. Because that couldn’t possibly go wrong.
Except it did go wrong, when they were fighting in China (for reasons that were never adequately explained) and one of the crew, Salem, started to unravel soon afterwards, and we instead find ourselves playing through the events of The Devil’s Cartel, set in Mexico, where everyone is apparently a drug dealer, and it’s not generalist or racist to say so.
So, instead of exploring the dynamic of these two thugs – ahem, I mean heroes – afterwards, we are given two replacements for the third game. The continuing story of Salem and Rios is told through the eyes of these two new characters instead, for anyone who might care.
Trouble is, caring is kind of difficult.
The two new characters are called – wait for it – Alpha and Bravo. Ostensibly, this is because it apparently makes it easier for people playing the game to transplant their own character onto the characters they are playing as – by using a vapid, empty character without a shred of soul or personality, the observer transplants themselves unto it easier. Kind of like someone reading Twilight. This is a reasonable explanation – but equally reasonable to say is that it is actually a result of poorly handled writing and paper thin plot work. But then again, this is an Army of Two game. Plot is not required when one can bling their assault rifle to look like it is plated in solid gold.
But yes, the story, before we get to mechanics. The Army of Two are in Mexico with their fellow mercs, protecting a mayor who is trying to fight back against the cartels running the region, led by a guy I last saw in The Shield as a police captain. There are betrayals, hugely obvious plot twists, and plenty of casual brutality to remind you that these characters are mercenaries, and not to be messed with.
Except these guys aren’t normal mercenaries, because they care about HONOR and RESPECT and BROS. Which makes them rather different from normal civilian contractor PMC’s who instead are paid to be brutes, thugs and bully boys in various theatres of war working outside of normal military doctrine, who fight because they are paid rather than because they believe in a cause. So, while its cool and all that these guys are helping a poor city mayor try and fight the good fight, I believe it about as much as I believe that the two main characters are NOT trying to secretly hide their impossible love for one another, and instead try to assure us of their manliness every few minutes with overcompensation and weak humour. Methinks the pair of them doth protest too much.
But anyway, I’m drifting afield here. I should have warned you this might happen.
Alpha and Bravo are a pair of guys from different backgrounds. One, Bravo, was a thug for a biker gang, or the mob. The other, Alpha, is ex-military. Both of them are aggressive, brutal, and violent, and for the most part, unaffected by the carnage they inflict on the nigh identical hordes of desperados that throw themselves at them, again and again. They are manly men, after all. Honestly, there is no part of this games storyline that could evoke the tiniest bit of surprise, admiration or respect. It’s a game about thugs fighting thugs, and all about who can be the thuggin’est thug overall. Maybe it tries to paint a different picture of the sorts of people involved in these sort of scenarios by the end of it, but I’m not buying it.
But I knew I was getting into this when my flatmate brought it home with an evil grin plastered all over his mug. I knew this game was going to be ridiculous, have all the plot of a paper bag full of doggy doo left on a doorstep, and be only marginally more humorous.
However, when you throw out all the idiotic chest beating nonsense, the utterly unbelievable possibility of a ‘nice’ PMC, and the blank characters, it ‘does’ have one thing in its favour.
It’s actually kinda fun.
My flatmate and I have been friends for years, and we tend to enjoy co-op shooters when they come out. We’ve played heaps of them. This one was the continuation of a previous tradition. I kinda enjoyed the first Army of Two. Not the second one, which was woeful. But this one does do one thing quite well – you shoot a truckload of people and you have fun doing it. This is not a game which skimps on the destruction either. Each character gets an overkill meter thingy – score enough points through kills, chaining kills together, or simple tactics (such as flanking, distracting, or baiting) and you can unleash your overkill – which goes to the utterly RIDICULOUS measure of giving you invincibility, super powering your weapons, giving you infinite ammunition and grenades, and slow-motion.
Sounds over the top? Yes, it is. But holy BALLS is it fun to flat out level every goddamn structure in sight with a glorious roar of sheer glee, holding down the trigger button so hard you get a cramp. You also get the majority of points earned from doing so. It makes the game slightly too easy at times – but it makes up for it by the sheer Hollywood levels of destruction you unleash. I may or may not have cackled madly. I might even have fist bumped my partner in devastation. I was caught up in the moment.
Why do you want points by the way? Because points mean cash, and after each burst of combat you can go to the game store to buy new gear. You also level up, which unlocks different outfits and weapons as well, which you can then purchase.
Where The Devil’s Cartel excels is in its guns. They are many, varied, and each one of them is heavily, heavily customisable. You can change ammunition type, magazine size and shape, stocks and barrels, underbarrel mounts etc, etc. It’s actually quite fun, as a lot of the weapons, when upgraded, have very different playing styles and feels, and changing them can change those characteristics considerably.
But best of all, you can change how they look, colour wise.
You do not know joy until you have run around mowing down bad guys with a solid-gold M60 light machine gun, spitting heavy calibre death at a ridiculous rate into the faces of all and sundry. You might think you do, but you don’t.
In the end, we won the day, there was a bittersweet ending, and people died all over the place. But fun was had. And I had to ask myself and my playing buddy why. End result of said discussion? This game is nothing special. It’s not unique, it’s not different, it’s not breaking the mould in any way. But it ‘is’ fun, if only because you are playing it with someone. If you see it in the bargain bin, it’s worth picking up, if you’ve got someone to share it with. Otherwise? As a single player experience, I’d wager it’d be shallow, empty and pointless.
Shared, it’s a guilty pleasure — like a kebab at 4.00am while drunk in a gutter, trying to explain the meaning of the universe to a similarly disadvantaged and kebab’d friend – baffling, swiftly forgotten and vaguely enjoyable, with a lingering aroma of garlic.
Oh, and one other thing. This was the first R18+ game I’ve played in Australia since the ratings system changed. Whether or not it deserved it is irrelevant – but admittedly, if the level of violence and other adult themes depicted warranted such a rating, I believe we can expect many more releases to get a similar rating – it was no worse than many MA15+ games on the market pre-R18+ rating era. Whether or not that’s a bad thing, well, that’s up to you.
- Combat can be quite enjoyable, but only in co-op
- Overkill mode is awesome
- Gun modding is awesome
- BROS BROS BROS BROS BROS BROS BROS
- No replay value.
- No point solo playing
- Thinnest of paper thin plots
- Shameful glorifying of a morally bankrupt industry of licensed murder