Not too long ago, EA Montreal brought to life one of the most fun, destructive, bad-ass co-op experiences. Army of Two offered a single-player experience but was focused around two players working together and relying on each other to achieve a common goal. EA Montreal set the bar extremely high for co-op shooters with the original Army of Two, only to raise the bar higher with the sequel, Army of Two: The 40th Day.
While some games have tried to offer players a co-op experience where players truly need each other to succeed–most notably Resident Evil 5 and the Kane & Lynch series–none have matched up with Army of Two’s pure co-op. Approximately five years since the release of the first installment, Army of Two is back with its third installment, Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel.
This time around EA Montreal is teaming up with and passing majority developmental control over to Visceral Games, the EA subsidiary best known for developing the Dead Space and Godfather games. The series will also be shifting from Unreal Engine 3 to their ever-improving, highly-regarded Frostbite 2 engine. Frostbite 2 is the same game engine games such as Battlefield 3 and Medal of Honor: Warfighter are built on.
Those whose pre-order the game will have special privileges bestowed upon them. More specifically, gamers will have the opportunity to play as alternate Tactical Worldwide Operations (T.W.O.) agents Charles “Chuy” Rendall and Anthony “Baker” Barnes. The bonus characters were voiced by Big Boi of Outkast and B.o.B, the two hip-hop artists that collaborated to make the game’s theme song.
While new characters take over the main role, Rios and Salem have not completely disappeared. The original T.W.O. team now works as two of the agency’s top executives and will play a significant role in the game. Not only does Rios frequently discuss the mission with Alpha and Bravo over the headset, but both Rios and Salem recruited the new duo. Recruiting and office work are all part of the promotion, but that doesn’t stop Rios and Salem from occasionally teaming up in the field.
Alpha, who has a long history of work in U.S. Special Forces, was recruited by Rios after returning to the states after a few tours of duty. Bravo, recruited by Salem, felt that the by-the-books nature of the military wasn’t his style. After one tour of duty, he decided to move on to mercenary work before being approached about joining T.W.O. The new characters bring with them new personalities, which opens the door for EA and Visceral to apply a more mature tone to the story. In theory, this will help to improve the experience.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel takes place in La Puerta, Mexico. This city is terrorized and run by drug cartels. La Guadana, which translates to the scythe, is most notable cartel and is led by Esteban Bautista. La Guadana has their hands and influence on La Puerta politics and the local police force, so a mayor that passionately stands against drugs is clearly not tolerated by the cartel. This is the plight of Juan Angelo Cordova, mayor of La Puerta. The cartel rules through fear, violence, intimidation and a willingness to kill to get ahead. His family murdered and his law firm stripped away by the cartel, Juan Angelo calls upon T.W.O. to protect him during his political rally.
In order to protect the mayor, players must take down the cartel and free the city, facing carnage, death, deceit, destruction and treachery along the way. Unlike Rios and Salem, Alpha and Bravo do not have the option of playing Rock, Paper, Scissors or spending time doing other frivolous co-op interactions. Alpha and Bravo also won’t be caught entering the back-to-back interaction that allowed the duo to wreak 360 degrees of havoc. Instead, players will watch each others backs with keen tactics and gunplay.
The return of Overkill mode will help with players keep an eye on their partner. When Overkill is earned and activated, the players briefly gain invincibility and the power the rip through the environment (including enemies). Players are rewarded with more cash and Overkill for acting as a team.
Teammates can attract the attention of the enemy by acquiring Agro. Agro has been a major feature in the previous games and is essentially a way of measuring and displaying how much attention the player is drawing to themselves. Each gun is thoroughly customizable in a variety of ways and each gun has an Agro rating. The combination of weapon-specific Agro, weapon customization and emphasis on teamwork allow for different strategies and roles. For example, one player can draw the enemies attention by firing off a loud, golden assault rifle with a shield attachment from behind cover while their partner sneaks behind the enemies with a silenced pistol, quietly terminating the unsuspecting enemies.
In Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel players will have in-game customization of their trademark masks. The first game allowed players to unlock a number of impressive masks. The players were given a wider selection of preset masks in Army of Two: The 40th Day, with the opportunity to visit the Army of Two website to customize masks for in-game use. This year, not only can players customize their masks in the game, but fans get to vote for the baddest mask in a 32-mask bracket title March to the Mask. The top four mask designers will receive an Army of Two VIP kit. While it is too late to submit a mask entry, there is still time for fans to vote on the Army of Two Facebook page. The competition runs until March 25, with Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel set to release on March 26. Those anxious to try the game out early can download the demo from PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade now.