The Army of Two series continues the co-op action with its upcoming title Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel. This time, players will take on the role of two new characters, Alpha and Bravo--leaving the dude-bro attitudes of the previous protagonists Salem and Rios on the sidelines. The duo takes on a dangerous cartel lead by the ruthless crime lord Estaban Bautista and his army of no-good, machine-gun-toting henchmen.
In addition to the standard cover and flanking maneuvers, the game’s co-op features seep into the gameplay in the form of isolating, branching pathways that force players to assist each other from a distance. The level we played took place in a drug lab housed inside an old warehouse building in Mexico. There were several instances when the masked partners were separated, either by falling debris or strategic purposes, like having one soldier cover the other from a machine-gun-mounted helicopter as they crossed enemy-infested rooftops.
The split co-op sections offer up the explosive set pieces you’d expect from most blockbuster shooters these days. In the branching helicopter section, one player guns down drug-dealing thugs from the chopper’s vantage point, while his partner stays on-foot and takes down RPG-carrying soldiers that are trying to shoot down the munitions-spewing eye-in-the-sky. The extra explosions and sheer volume of gunfire from the helicopter really ups the ante of the action sequences, and provides a bit more gameplay variety than the typical cover-based shooting.
One revamped mechanic that got the spotlight was the game’s cover system. Players can stick to cover like any other third-person shooter, and moving from cover to cover is simple. Just aim the camera where you want to move, press a button, and your character automatically moves to your new hiding place. One nice touch is that you don’t have to be behind cover prior to activating the automatic animation (like most third-person shooters). You can stand in a wide-open space, point to a cover position, and auto-run to safety. It comes in handy when armed goons suddenly break down a door, and you don’t have a cover spot to immediately hide behind.
Another component that plays into the multiplayer cooperation is the overkill system. As the players scores kills, they slowly fill their Overkill gauge. When the meter is full, activating it loads the player’s weapon with explosive rounds and unlimited ammo (for a limited time) that they can unleash for devastating results. If both players activate their Overkill simultaneously, both will receive a damage and duration bonus. Not only does it make quick work of even the most armored baddies, but it also turns everyone in range into flying chunks of meat--making Overkill’s strategic use essential to taking down the tougher foes.
The gore is absolutely brutal in The Devil’s Cartel. Limbs get blown off, heads explode in a shower of blood, and even shotgun blasts to the chest expose enemy rib cages and shredded innards. Overkill-powered melee kills sever legs with a quick knife slice, and the explosive rounds blow enemies to bits. This doesn’t look like a game for those with weak stomachs.
We also got a quick look at a newly revealed level called Ghost Town. This area took the pair to one of Bautista’s strongholds, in which they attempt to capture the crime lord (resulting in an ambush that leaves two of Alpha and Bravo’s masked squadmates with bullet holes in their heads). After plowing through a dozen thugs and exiting the compound, the two encounter a boss fight against an armored helicopter. Enemies surround Alpha and Bravo in a courtyard while the chopper circles overhead.
There's only one way out of this tense situation: The players needed to build up their Overkill meter by killing the standard enemies, then focus their supercharged firepower on the helicopter. We did find it a bit odd that the players were required to shoot down a helicopter with bullets (rather than, say, a rocket launcher), but after a few Overkill barrages, the chopper went down and the demo ended.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is said to include additional customization options, such as alternate masks, and weapons upgrades such as sights, magazine modes, and rail attachments. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get more details on those features. Keep an eye out for Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel when it hits stores in March next year for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.