Early on in "Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel," you realize it shouldn't be taken seriously. Characters will debate if shooting red barrels is a good firefight tactic -- referring to video games.
Voice acting is OK, but the writing doesn't get any better. The story, which now follows T.W.O. operatives Alpha and Bravo assigned to protect a prominent Mexico politician, has its predictable twists and turns. Popular protagonists Salem and Rios from past Army of Two games also appear, although fans of the series may not like their new roles.
However, the story plays second fiddle to the actual meat of the game, which involves lots and lots of shooting at bad guys. If you've played any other third-person shooter before, this game is no different. The shooting mechanics work well and are responsive. Turret sections add to the mayhem. A variety of guns can be upgraded to your liking, and a bunch of colorful masks can be purchased for Alpha and Bravo.
However, there's very little that makes this game memorable or stand out from other shooters. The highlight of the package is Overkill mode, which after filling up a meter can be activated to unleash an endless barrage of bullets for a short amount of time. Even the environment takes a good beating, and after it ends you'll want to quickly fill up the meter and do it all over again.
For being a cover-based shooter, getting in and out of cover in "The Devil's Cartel" could have been a more smoother process. Occasionally it won't activate correctly, or you'll get stuck in a spot trying to run over to another area.
Luckily, the enemy AI isn't exactly smart, so you can dispatch them easily on normal difficulty. Auto aim turns the game into easy mode in certain spots. Teamwork is encouraged to flank enemies, including the implementation of a special vision mode to move around the battlefield to your advantage, but I rarely used it.
As expected, co-operative gameplay is the main focus. Your AI partner does an excellent job aiding you in combat, and playing with a friend is always a blast, too. However, hooking up with random people online is a hassle since it requires you to restart a chapter -- even if you're in the middle of it. If your partners decides he/she has had enough, it also restarts. Why couldn't we just seamlessly join a game in progress? Absent is some type of competitive multiplayer, which hurts the game's longevity and value.
Even though "The Devil's Cartel" uses the Frostbite 2 engine, it doesn't look as impressive as it should. Graphical glitches and screen tearing pop up. Characters' mouths don't seem to match what they're saying. Environments look brown and bland. One cut scene featuring a gigantic explosion just didn't look right. Overall, the game needed more polish from developer Visceral Games.
The Army of Two series has its fans, which is needless to say since "The Devil's Cartel" is its third title. While it is a passable shooter, the fanbase may be disappointed in the direction Visceral took this game. It also released at the same time of BioShock Infinite, a much more hyped-up shooter. Bad, bad timing.
2 stars out of 4
The Xbox 360 version of "Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel" was supplied by EA for this review. A PS3 version is also available.
Jeff Hoard writes about video games for The Oakland Press. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHoard921. His blog is www.yay4videogames.blogspot.com.