Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel Hands-on (Xbox360)

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Just two weeks before gamescom kicked off in Cologne, EA held their Summer Showcase and revealed that Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel was in development at Visceral Games. No surprise then that the publisher chose to demo the game at its pre-gamescom press conference, giving gamers from around the world their first look at The Devil’s Cartel in action.

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What was surprising though was when we arrived at EA’s business stand at gamescom, expecting a presentation of the game, and actually getting hands-on time! A very passionate and enthusiastic team from Visceral Games was there to walk us through the demo, give us more insight into the game, and even took the time to answer the questions we had about The Devil’s Cartel in an interview which you can read over here.

The game sees players stepping into the roles of Alpha and Bravo, two new private military contractors working for Tactical Worldwide Operations, as they face off against a deadly drug cartel on the streets of Mexico. Army of Two is a tactical co-op shooter, so you’ll need to work together with your partner to strategise and bring as much firepower as possible to survive the ruthless criminal operation that is known as The Scythe.

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After the surprise of actually being able to play the game wore off, I took no time in jumping right in, and enjoyed it so much that I returned the next day to play it again! The mission saw us fighting our way through the cartel’s stronghold and moving to the rooftop, clearing enemy forces as we moved forward to rescue our allies. The control system was very intuitive, and will be easy to pick-up-and-play if you have played a third-person shooter before. There’s also handy on-screen prompts at first to show you how both the control and cover systems work, so you won’t be lost if there isn’t a Visceral Games team member standing by to show you the ropes!

The cover system works incredibly well in the game, you’re able to follow blue arrows to move from cover to cover very easily. You can also blindfire from behind cover, but don’t get too complacent because the cover is destructible and the advancing enemy troops can easily destroy it. Of course this means you can destroy their cover too, but with Frostbite 2 powering the game you can pretty much destroy anything! The AI in The Devil’s Cartel is pretty smart, if you do tactical manoeuvres they will try to do the same. Their movements and reactions to your movements will never be the same, it will change depending on how you play.

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As you and your partner work together tactically, defeating enemies and creating sheer mayhem, you will build up your Overkill meter. Once activated Overkill makes you invulnerable for a short time, giving you the opportunity to bring even more devastating attacks against your foes. You can even unleash this fury together with your partner, giving you Double Overkill, which slows down time and provides the perfect opportunity to take out the more difficult mini-bosses and bosses within the game – provided you play strategically that is, by earning Overkill and keeping it to use when in a tight spot. The development team was quick to point out that Overkill will be difficult to get, and that you may only earn it once or twice in an entire level.

As with the previous Army of Two games, you can take different paths to achieve an objective. Sometimes this will mean splitting up from your partner, an action that can be nerve-racking once you’ve got used to having them watch your back. You can choose which approach suits your gameplay style more, with one staying above and providing covering fire while the other takes out enemies down below. Just remember that there is a survive feature in the game, so if your partner is down and you don’t get to him in time to save him the level will end and you’ll both respawn at the beginning of the level again.

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You’ll also see these new split screen co-op features as you progress in the demo, giving you one objective but two ways of completing it. For example, one player provides covering fire from a helicopter while the second player moves to take out the RPG on the ground. The player in the helicopter will assist by targeting enemies using the machine gun, but also creating new paths for his partner by blasting down an antenna to form a bridge across two buildings.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is an explosive shooter, and I have no doubt that it will provide an excellent co-op experience when it launches for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in March 2013. It’s the kind of game that you can look forward to enjoying with a gaming buddy, one that’s certain to keep you on the edge of the seat with fast-paced action and immersive gameplay.

We’ve included the debut trailer from gamescom below, along with the gameplay demo from EA’s pre-gamescom press conference and new screenshots from the game. You can also read our interview with Executive Producer Julian Beak over here, where we discuss destructibility, cover systems and guilty pleasures.

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