With a slew of shooters on the market at any given time, and a reliance on staple mechanics for the genre, each new game should make a deliberate effort to separate itself from the pack. The Army of Two series tries to do this with a focus on two-player co-op and the franchise's latest entry, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, continues with this tradition. Unfortunately, despite being a surprisingly enjoyable experience, the two-player co-op focus is not enough to separate Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel from any number of other run-of-the-mill third person shooters.
In Devil's Cartel, you play as the mercenary Alpha, alongside your ultra-generic partner Bravo, in a two-man strike team under orders from the paramilitary outfit T.W.O. After an unimaginative flashback which sets the stage for the story, you're thrown headlong into what is, for all intents and purposes, an all-out war with a Mexican drug cartel led by Bautista. Your mission is to protect Cordova, a local anti-cartel politician with a penchant for pissing off powerful men supported by their own personal armies. Devil's Cartel tells a fun, if entirely predictable story, but doesn't take itself too seriously as it's throwing out clichéd plot points left and right, even going so far as to have the characters joke in their dialogue about how they saw certain plot twists coming. This sort of humor goes a long way towards making the story palatable and, in fairness; you're probably not playing this for the story anyway.
Even if you're playing single player, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel focuses on the cooperative dynamic, allowing you to issue commands to your AI partner using the D-Pad, which helps you work as a team to take down swarms of cartel fighters. Whether you're moving from cover to cover, trying to outwit the less-than-clever enemies, or working with your partner to flank a fortified machine gun position, the cooperative cover-based combat is the most compelling part of the experience, although even that can get to be a little repetitive at times.
The Devil's Cartel can be played largely solo without requiring much teamwork, but certain situations, like the aforementioned machine gun placements, will emphasize the importance of some level of cooperation. Firing at the enemies from cover will draw fire and take the heat off your partner, allowing Bravo to move in for the flank, or simply stay alive. If you like scoring headshots from behind a wall, tactically outmaneuvering your enemies, or making your AI partner play by your rules by sending him on a suicide run into enemy fire, you'll find a lot to enjoy in The Devil's Cartel's combat system.
In addition to the co-op focused gameplay, Devil's Cartel tries to differentiate itself with the Overkill ability. By racking up enough kills, you'll fill your Overkill gauge which, when activated, lets you wreak serious havoc on the world around you. Overkill makes you invincible, stops your gun from consuming ammo, and gives you bonus damage, allowing you to easily destroy whatever pieces of cover your enemies may be cowering behind. At the press of a button, Overkill turns you and your teammate into a duo of utterly unstoppable killing machines, which is a tad overpowered in most circumstances, but a welcome aid when you are otherwise hopelessly outmatched. As long as you're playing the game for the joy of the kill, and not the thrill of the challenge, however, this mechanic provides some over-the-top fun in an otherwise homogenous experience.