Nowadays, it seems like all sorts of beefed-up characters in shooter games can sling taunts and emotes. But back in 2008, Army of Two won a crucial bros'-rights battle when the two leads — whose names, c'mon, no one even remembers — were able to express their bro-love for each other in a series of team-based mechanics.
With elements like drawing fire from hostiles to give the other guy a chance to mow them down or cradling your fingers together to enable a crucial step-jump, Army of Two exemplified what true bro-dude-ness feels like.
Now, Army of Two did have slight aspirations of political commentary, which were focused on what it would look like private military corporations ran amok. Amid all the co-op shooting and fist-bumping, you got the sense that someone in there wanted to say something about organisations like Blackwater being active in geopolitical hotspots. But mostly it was about saving your bro from dying a lot. That game's sequel Army of Two: The 40th Day was set in a Shanghai laid low by an cataclysmic earthquake also had some subtext about the behaviors that bubble up when society crumbles. But, whatever, it also let you do a sweet air-guitar gesture after shooting out a guy's kneecaps.
When a third game in the Army of Two series was announced earlier this year, home slices everywhere wondered what kind of bro-hemian rapture (that's the name of the tune from Wayne's World, right?) was in the works. I got a brief hands-on with Devil's Cartel a few weeks ago and I swear my baseball cap turned itself around on my head. (Note: I don't even wear baseball caps!)
Devil's Cartel aims its pair of protagonists at the bloody drug trade that's wreaking havoc in Mexico. Tequila-based power-ups? Noiiiiice. (Those aren't in the game. But they should be.)
The bro-mance started right off as my character was shot in the dome — which I assume wasn't lethal thanks to a bitchin' faceplate — and had to help my partner fend off a bunch of jerks until he could come get me back on my feet.
From there, the level I jumped in on had the two mercs storming a villa filled with bad guys. I didn't hear any of the sausage party bickering that charactised the previous Ao2 games (no one calls it AoT, aight, guy?). These badasses were getting along? S'all good. Homies can get along. Bros contain multitudes, too, y'know?
Speaking of multitudes, the art style in Devil's Cartel — done up in the Frostbite 2 engine — seemed more high contrast than in previous Ao2 games. And the violence seemed more amped up. The EA rep on hand said that the Visceral Montreal dev studio was aiming for more of an action movie feel, and the gameplay certainly felt like it would be at home in a Jason Statham movie. (Can Brit dudes be bros? Must research.) Cover-chaining lets the player move from safe spot to safe spot quickly and an assortment of pistols, assault rifles and grenade launchers were on hand to blast enemies with. Every kill and co-op move built up an Overkill meter, which feeds a power-up that gives you unlimited ammo and basically turns you invulnerable for a short time. In other words, it turns you into Bruce Willis, blessed be his name.
Lots of environmental destruction was in evidence as we blasted our way through the level, especially when a helicopter gunship — hey, those are NOT cliched — tried to perforate the two main characters. Pumping round after round into the hovering aircraft was kind of mindless but enjoyable fun. And it crashed under our assault, because that's what's supposed to happen. Kicking butt not only earns Overkill but also banks points that you can use to upgrade guns and gear, too. The plot details of Army of Two: Devil's Cartel aren't being discussed now but whatevers to that. You know what the story's about: you and your bro — back-to-back — against the world.