x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Game Review: Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel is clunky

Big, dumb and violent, the latest Army of Two might have two central characters, but sadly comes lacking in two brain cells to rub together.

In Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, two new operatives, Alpha and Bravo, focus their firepower on Mexico's drug war.
In Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, two new operatives, Alpha and Bravo, focus their firepower on Mexico's drug war.

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Electronic Arts

PS3, Xbox 360

**

You might think that shoot 'em ups had moved beyond the Rambo-esque 1980s and 1990s: days of gigantic pixelated biceps, machine guns the size of single-storey buildings and a lot of meaningless mass murder - largely committed against the population of whichever country the US was trying to force democracy upon that year.

Now, thanks to the likes of Call of Duty and BioShock, it's all complex storylines, carefully crafted characters and deep philosophical thought, right? Not if you'd played 2008's Army of Two, which basically dropped two masked frat boys into a war zone with a heap of weaponry and a dialogue that would make even Sylvester Stallone cringe.

While The Devil's Cartel, the third in the series, manages to remove some of the more tasteless elements of the first two (fistbumping your partner after slaughtering a horde of enemies, for example), it's still nothing short of one gigantic, eye-wincing cliché served without even a slight sprinkling of irony.

This time around, two new operatives, Alpha and Bravo, focus their firepower on Mexico's drug war. Much like Gears of War without the aliens, with third-person duck-and-cover style shoot-outs, Army of Two is designed primarily for its two-player cooperative mode. But two-player elements, such as the aggro system, in which you attempt to draw fire from your partner, and the back-to-back shooting sequences, have been removed.

Instead, we have an uninspiring rage system, which briefly gives you invincibility and infinite ammo. Should you partner unleash it simultaneously, everything goes into slow motion. Whoop.

It just seems as if the past 10 or 20 years never really happened for the game's developers. Had players in the early 1990s been treated to a sequence involving a massive minigun and a helicopter, or given the opportunity to kick a door down in slow motion and take out foreign baddies in a gung-ho brofest, there would undoubtedly have been high-fives a'plenty, with cans of Tab Clear kicked over enthusiastically across the world. But these days, it just seems painfully unimaginative.

But aren't there still gamers who can cope without the faintest pretext of a plot? Yes, but there are too many glitches to elevate The Devil's Cartel to the ranks of "just a good shooter". Despite being able to hang from helicopters, sometimes you're unable to climb ankle-high obstacles. The artificial intelligence, too, is left wanting, with seemingly suicidal enemies who often will pass you by as they charge towards your partner. Then there's an even more basic lack of polish, such as characters and music pausing despite foliage continuing to sway in the background.

To give it some credit, The Devil's Cartel is a high-octane affair for those who prefer their gaming edge-of-the-seat. Cars blow up, big things fall over - often on top of people - and those ever-exploding red barrels make a return from the previous Army of Twos (it actually jokes about this at the start, in the only self-awareness you're likely to see).

But clever it is not.

aritman@thenational.ae

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