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Army of Two: Devil’s Cartel – first game I ever returned

I wanted to love the newest Army of Two game, I really did. Anyone that has read my posts about it can see that I was totally excited about the prospect. When I heard it was in production I started inquiring at my local Gamestop that also had amazing Rated Gamer Gear for sale. The day I finally was able to place a pre-order on it, the clerk had not even known yet that it was possible and another clerk had to say they thought it was, then they looked it up and sure enough, I could pre-order.  I placed a pre-order on two copies, one for me, one for my regular gaming co-op partner. That is how excited I was at the prospect of another Army of Two game. Even after Army of Two 40th Day failed to be as good as the original Army of Two, I was certain that the latest game would make up for any shortcomings that 40th Day had had.

I was wrong.

The first thing that me and my co-op partner noticed was that the game sucked. I made a list even of some of the more aggravating parts that I found sucked.

1) The 2nd player felt like no more than a low-level supporting character to the primary player.

This is not really something I think they had intended, in fact, in the cut-scenes I noticed my co-op partner was seeing things that happened to my character, Bravo, pretty regularly. Bravo had the potential to be a lead character, but… he was never actually made into one. I can’t define it really, he just… felt like Batman’s sidekick, or like Jimmy Olsen being support for Superman. Bravo was there, but the game had a definite feel of Alpha being fully capable of handling the the whole game solo if they wanted to.  There were no scenes that felt like Bravo was essential. Even when the pair split up, a scene highlighted in the demo for the game, there was really no need for Bravo to stay on the ground (he could take the helicopter, but I wanted to run the ground and let my co-op partner plat with the big f-ing gun in the chopper), anyway, there was ONE person shooting rockets at the helicopter that Bravo had to deal with. Nothing in the game was actually dependent on having TWO leads, so player 2 was left feeling like a tag-a-long support character that was there just to make sure Alpha had a buddy to talk to… which brings me to problem two.

2) No character interactions, no air guitar, no… life

EA removed the ability to make comments to one another. In Army of Two my co-op partner and I had GREAT FUN with well timed commentary, with bopping one another in the back of the head, with doing a dual air guitar after a really great battle. This was not a requirement for gaming, but it was so much fun and could have really made up for a lot of the flaws that Devil’s Cartel has. And it was perfectly within the realm of doable. The directional pad was setup to be used for issuing orders to the Bravo AI when there was only one player, this means that in co-op mode it was deactivated and did nothing. The directional pad could have quite easily been designated for commentary by the player’s character. Even if all we had was your basic “Nice!” “Move Out!” “Fall Back” and “Wait”, it would have added so much to the game’s playability. And rock-paper-scissors would have made “who goes over the wall first?” so much more fun.

3) No weapon swapping

While not everyone wants to be able to hand their buddy their gun, it was nice when my co-op partner and I were playing for the two of us to be able to equip the weapons we like to use, then out int he battlefield I could lend him my sniper rifle so he could climb up into a sniping position while I took the AGGRO for a little while and gave him a chance to play the sniper without his having to pack along a sniper rifle he never used. Unfortunately, EA removed the ability to trade weapons.

4) No Player 2 character mods while in a co-op match

When we started playing, just after my partner invited me into the game, I was able to pick out what mask and what body armor I wanted to wear. This was great, I loved it. We played a couple of missions and it unlocked a body armor that I had really wanted to be using, we go into the equip screen at the end of the mission and… I can not modify my character. I could modify my weapons and buy new weapons, but the character modification option was unselectable for me. My co-op partner was able to modify their own character, but for me to modify mine required we end the match, restart the match, and I do the mods I wanted in the character mod screen before we went on the next mission. After we start a mission I once again lost character customization until we ended co-op and restarted it again.

5) Alpha rules, Bravo is support only

I know it seems like I already noted this, but this is a different level of the earlier topic. The primary player plays as Alpha, never Bravo. The game was set up so that if you played solo you were Alpha and Bravo was an AI. No opportunity to swap and play as Bravo instead. If you start a co-op match, you are Alpha and your co-op player is Bravo. Period. It would have been really nice if Bravo had been set to be a character, not an AI.

My co-op partner compared the feel of the game to the feel of White Knight Chronicles, where the player’s character is nothing more than an observer that helps with combat. He called Devil’s Cartel “White Knight Chronicled with guns.” Alpha went forth and did all the stuff the player needs done, and Bravo tagged along in his shadow.

6) Weapon mods limited

I was disappointed when I went to modify my weapons and the only thing I could do with the handguns was change their colors. There was no ability to add a silencer, or scope, or… anything. You got the basic handguns and could paint them a variety of colors. That was it.

There was okay modifications on the other weapons, but it was still limited and left me wishing for a more Army of Two feel. I happen to have liked strapping an aluminum can to the muzzle of my rifle.

7) Salem and Rios

What can I say here without spoiling things? How about I know that EA had some changes in the CEO this past year, but COME ON!!!! Having ZERO respect for the players of the games might have something to do with the poor sales that lead to John Riccitiello’s resignation. Okay, I am going to get into a spoiler here, so please skip to the next paragraph now if you do not want to know what I am going to be spoiling you on. —- SKIP NOW… Okay, so, I spent the entirety of the original Army of Two game playing as Elliot Salem. I LOVE Salem, he is my character and I had a great time giving my co-op partner a hard time via Elliot. And my co-op partner had a majorly fun time giving me a hard time via Rios’ interactions with Elliot. Army of Two was what a co-op game should have been. We became instant fans of the game series before it even was a series. Then along came 40th Day and once again I had my Elliot Salem with his oh-so-cool flame mask and the nifty tattoos and the smart-assed wisecracking between me and my co-op partner was off and running once again. We had major fun despite any shortcomings the game had simply because we had OUR characters and we were partners in an adventure. And.. along comes Devil’s Cartel and… well… EA really pissed me off with this. The character I adopted as mine. MY CHARACTER was made the antagonist for the newest game in the series. And why? Because they turned him into a pissy teen drama queen on PMS that got mad at Rios because Salem was presumed dead and left behind. That pissed us off so much I can’t even describe it. It was a slap in my face that the character I had chosen as MINE in the series was made into a vindictive jackass that wanted to kill his best friend and destroy their company over what SHOULD have been a “oh, hey, you left me behind, jerk. Do you know how many cartel morons I had to kill to get to safety? You’re down 500 points on the head-shot competition now. :-p” Really, EA, I can tolerate my character being killed off at the end of Mass Effect, that was really aggravating, but I can live with it, but — I am not going to pre-order any more EA games thanks to this. I REALLY wanted to LOVE the game, I would have been more than willing to love it no matter what – except for making my beloved Elliot Salem character into a vindictive jackass. I spent the entire game hoping and rationalizing, “well… maybe he has amnesia from the explosion and the cartel boss has convinced him he works for the cartel?” But nope, it is a simple case of the game’s writers and production team and EA all got together and said “What can we do to loose the support of one of our most vehement fans?” If you are trying to loose all gamer support so you can file bankruptcy, this is the right track!

Okay, so, for those of you that skipped the LONG rant with spoilers above. Let me get back on track.

After Devil’s Cartel, I have to wonder if EA had plans to decimate their remaining loyal gamer base so they could show unbelievably poor sales and thereby be allowed to file for bankruptcy. I can think of no other reason for why they made some of the decisions they made with the game. I am going to think more than just twice before I pre-order any future EA games.

For all of the problems the game had, however, it did have a few good points. Just over halfway though the game my co-op partner and I actually started having fun on the missions, there was still a lot to dislike, but at least we had some fun playing. Particularly when it came to the close quarters combat (CQC), there were some nice moves in CQC that I enjoyed. And the mask customization capability was really nice.

Overall, we took both copies of Devil’s Cartel back to Gamestop on our next trip to town (only a couple of days after buying them) and got $22 each for the games. (ouch, less than 1/3rd of what we paid for them!) We did manage to get a used copy of Metal Gear Rising and an old copy of Bioshock for both copies of Devil’s Cartel, plus $6 more. And we have already had more fun with each of those than we had playing Devil’s Cartel.

My score for Army of Two: Devil’s Cartel – 2 out of 5 stars. Which seems to be pretty in line with what others are giving it if you look online. As of my writing this the game has…

IGN 2.5 / 5

MetaCritic 2.5 / 5

Gamespot 2.5 / 5

Army of Two: Devil’s Cartel is a nice run for anyone that has either not already played the first two games, or who played solo as Rios and did not like Salem. If you played the first two games, particularly if you played them in co-op, and ESPECIALLY if you played them as Salem, then you will be better off to save your money and wait for this game to hit the el-cheapo discount racks before you spend anything on it. Or rent it and play through before you decide to buy it.

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