Just like those wonderfully trashy popcorn films, games can also be a single serve experience. The kind that is often undercooked, broken beyond repair and yet somehow tons of fun. The Army of TWO franchise returns a third time to give us a short and greasy look at junk food gaming.
Gamers live a privileged existence. Every year we are dazzled with crazy amounts of varied and interesting gaming experiences, be it epic role-playing games (RPGs), fast paced shooters, incredible driving simulators or explosive action adventures. Developers are trying hard to produce the best games we have ever seen and a successful title sets them on the path to a stellar career filled with fortune, glory and the chance of a ton of spin-offs or sequels.
What about the flip-side to that coin, those titles which manage to just stay afloat? The Army of TWO series will never reach the level of admiration series such as BioShock or The Elder Scrolls have and neither should they, but there is still fun to be found in them. Perhaps it’s a reviewer thing born from years of playing average games, but Army of TWO as a franchise falls into a special class of junk food gaming. These are titles rife with bugs, half-realised mechanics and terrible 80′s style action film dialogue, yet still manage to get the blood pumping.
The previous two releases of the franchise embraced the ridiculous nature of it all, adding awesomely unnecessary functions like team fist bumping and air guitaring. It gave players a tangible sense of teamwork allowing a level of personality to infiuse the experience. Fans of couch based co-op ate these titles up and I’m not ashamed to admit I too succumbed to its charms. Far from perfect they were still a fun time filler.
In this third iteration, Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel, I’m sad to say the formula has changed and not for the better. Series protagonists Salem and Rios are replaced by two blue-flame special rookies imaginatively named Alpha and Bravo. I failed to find even the remotest connection with either. Gone are the fun loving antics and team celebrations, instead players are stuck with the B-Team, two arrogant guns-for-hire with little humour or personality.
This could be forgiven if you could see some improvements in the game itself, but no such luck. It handles like a dog as you try to master a cover system that sticks you to walls like super glue and are left shooting over cover until it’s whittled away. Enemies spawn from awkward or unfair locations, bullets hit invisible walls due to poor clipping and the short and enclosed mission structure removes any sense of pace to an extremely lacklustre story.
However, there are some small senses of joy achieved when the gameplay surprises you. The expansive level of customisation for the weapons and apparel is, at times, enough to make you push on. As you begin to build your perfect kit every now and then you’ll even find yourself smiling. This is usually destroyed almost immediately by one of the many aforementioned issues. Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel eventually moves towards large scale spectacles towards its conclusion but overall fails to show enough flash to keep you persevering through the frustration.
This offering is far below that of your AAA titles and unsurprisingly so. The series always has been but previous versions still managed to carve out their own action junkie niche and garner a dedicated fan-base. Army of TWO: The Devil’s Cartel doesn’t live up to its predecessors. Alpha and Bravo are poor lifeless replacements to Salem and Rios and their lack of personality filters through almost every facet of gameplay. Only die hard co-op fans need apply… at their own peril.