It's Army of Two! (Insert Bro Joke Here.)
Army of Two and its sequel are probably most well-known for being more fun than their level of quality should allow through brutish single-mindedness. It's like the devs thought, “If we make enough bad jokes, people will at least start laughing at us… and that's something, right?” It's this type of strong-arm game design that makes them kind of endearing. They aren't really good, but they just try so hard that we kind of like them. So here comes a new Army of Two with a new engine and a new approach. But can a leopard really change its spots?
Perhaps not, but it can sure blow the crap out of them real good! Or hire a pair of rappers to help change its image… okay, this analogy isn't working out as well as I'd hoped. Forget the leopard. Joking aside, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel looks like a serious attempt to bring the franchise up from the farm league and into the majors with bigger action, an altered tone, and a whole lot more unfettered destruction. From the time I spent with it the other night, Army of Two may just graduate from “guilty pleasure” to ”somewhat less guilty pleasure." Baby steps, people.
First off, it's impossible not to notice how much nicer the game looks. I don't have any beef with the Unreal Engine, but especially for that real0world military feel, Frostbite 2 is where it's at. Not only does it help AoT separate itself from Gears of War comparisons, but it facilitates some truly grin-inducing environmental destruction to boot. Explosions light the screen up, cover crumbles around you (or your enemies if you're doing it right), and chaos generally ensues. At times, the carnage approaches fetishistic levels, usually when the new Overkill mode comes into play.
Like the arcade action games it oft seems to be inspired by, Devil's Cartel allows you to fill your overkill meter by doing cool actions, especially if you help your partner. Reviving him when he's down or tag teaming baddies in a crossfire of bullets tops you off much quicker than operating solo. And you'll want this meter filled, because once it is, you can activate Overkill to become a godless killing machine for a limited amount of time, during which you're totally invulnerable, have unlimited ammo and grenades, and generally become a death-spewing bullet sponge. But if you really want to bring the pain, then try activating it at the same time as your partner, further enhancing each of you for even more carnage. It's a maelstrom of building debris and human bodies that will have action junkies grinning ear to ear.
But don't worry, guys, they're totally going to have a serious story. There are fewer jokes, each of which are less bad than before. There are the actual rappers they cast for the game, and something, something, something pathos… it's all kind of blurry, but I'm 84% sure that there's a 50% chance of you caring about the plot. (I'm just making up numbers because I don't really care.) To be honest, I did notice a slightly more somber vibe at moments, but it's hard to take it too seriously when your characters are giving each other fist bumps while it's raining human appendages. I mean, at this point I just don't think there's any chance that people's perception of the franchise can be changed, so why not just have fun in the bed you've made?
Overall, it's safe to say this will be the best Army of Two yet, for what that's worth, so if you count yourself a fan, you'll have another good time to look forward too. As for everyone else? Give it a look if you're an action junkie, as it's definitely more capable than the previous entries. Expect it on shelves this March.