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Shredding Spanish architecture in Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Bags Hooper

The Army of Two franchise has always been a mixed bag of brotastic co-op shooting. The first game poorly chose to take a lighthearted approach to the war in Iraq and in the eyes of series stars Salem and Rios, everyone was a terrorist. The 40th Day made things infinitely more interesting, sending Salem and Rios over to Shanghai where the pair had to keep a watchful eye out for civilians in danger throughout their exploits.

In the franchise's third outing, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel, the co-op development teams of EA Montreal and Visceral Games have chosen to take the series down another new path. Now Army of Two's third entry, built on DICE's Frostbite 2 engine, ejects the brotacular humor in favor of a more serious narrative.

"We're trying to add a more serious tone to the characters," Visceral Games producer Greg Rizzer told Joystiq at a preview event, explaining the new game is "trying to take some of the frat boy stuff out of there."

Gallery: Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel (11/01/12) | 9 Photos

Love it or hate it, that frat boy mentality gave Army of Two its personality. Realism can only go so far before it hits a wall, where every game looks and feels the same. Rizzer says that in the area of military tactical shooters, Army of Two still fits in its own niche – not too serious, but not "over the top" like the science fiction story of Gears of War. Mixed reviews aside, Rizzer calls the franchise a "top tier" EA series.

"The company stands behind the Army franchise."

The Devil's Cartel plans for Die Hard comedy, over bro-based humor. "We realize that when you make a game that has pretty serious content, you need to mix it up a little bit and create the character's personalities," Rizzer added.

The franchise hopes to move more towards "massive destruction" thanks to Frostbite 2. The 40th Day gave us a dynamic China, where buildings crumbled around the carefree mercs. The Devil's Cartel gives gamers a chance to further participate in the destruction of the environment – in my demo, a ghost town in Mexico.

We asked about weapon swapping, customizing, and the loadout options, but Rizzer remained silent on the details – which he promised were coming soon. He said that there would be lots of guns and attachments, which will all affect your Loadout experience.

Shredding Spanish architecture in Army of Two The Devil's Cartel
When I first entered the Mexican town, I was immediately struck by its architecture. The ghost town looked like the remnants of a tattered monastery, built in the new Spanish Baroque style – blending European renaissance and middle age architecture with indigenous culture. The development team took a modern day problem of drug cartels running amok and set it against historic architecture. Faded red-grey stone buildings and bell towers are lined with sandbags, primed for the stage of a battle.

Rizzer and I teamed up as Alpha and Bravo, the new Tactical Worldwide Operations (T.W.O.) operatives who replace the original heroes. With a new attitude and new characters, The Devil's Cartel feels like a reboot of sorts. As we took cover behind stone columns, our automatic rifles laid waste to crates, sandbags and aging architecture. This isn't a game designed for the stealthy and steady, hide-behind-cover sniper. We indiscriminately tore apart the world like papier-mâché in our pursuit of cartel killers.

Every kill feeds into the new "Overkill" mode. As Alpha and Bravo, we exchanged commands over our headsets (you can also play in split-screen co-op). When we weren't diving for cover in a dried up fountain, we were yelling out which enemy to take down next. Alpha and Bravo might not have exchanged jokes, but they made up for it with shotgun blasts that dice cartel bodies apart like a buzz saw.

Shredding Spanish architecture in Army of Two The Devil's Cartel
Tag team play was essential in racking up combo multipliers. Although you get bonuses for stealthy kills, "multikills" and partner kills, cooperative kills will earn you the biggest bonuses. Once you've built up your meter, you can enter "Overkill."

Overkill mode is like grabbing a star in Super Mario Bros. Your character becomes invincible for a short time – more importantly, your bullets basically become rockets. As a team, Rizzer and I were able to enter Overkill multiple times by performing cooperative kills. It was especially important when we had to shoot down a helicopter.

In Overkill mode, I felt like Rambo and there was nothing I couldn't destroy. Whether it was on land or in air, everything blew up and Frostbite 2 made it look superb. You could also see the ripple effects from explosions – where a distant explosion makes a connected piece of the world move in response. When we finally took down the helicopter, it crashed into a bell tower, turning it into rubble. So much for that historic-looking landscape.

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel launches in March 2013 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Bags Hooper is a writer based out of Brooklyn, New York. He has contributed to multiple outlets, including BuzzFocus, USA Network, Showtime's Pop Tudors, Monsters & Critics and FHM. You can follow him on Twitter at @BagsHooper.

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