Two is usually better than one except in EA Games' Army of Two III, where one is more fun.
The series has always focused on partnerships, with two human players slugging it out side-by-side against wave after wave of enemy grunts.
But in the Devil's Cartel, playing solo is a better experience than gaming with a friend, at least for the first time. You still have an in-game partner, but he's controlled by the computer.
The game offers good sport when you are forced to shoulder the better part of the combat. If you walk into a room with an artificial-intelligence partner you will draw more fire and have to do a majority of the killing. Obviously, it's more difficult but it also allows you to utilize the cover system that the developers have set up as a base for combat tactics. Through most of the game you will crouch behind burning cars, concrete barriers, and oddly misplaced crates of watermelons — lots of watermelons.
While behind cover you can blind-fire in order to draw shots away from your partner who is trying to advance or flank the enemy's position or vice versa.
You also can pop up with a well-timed aim and take out the bad guys one at a time, which is easy given the automatic targeting system, which is similar to Call of Duty's. Duck and set your reticle close to where your target will be and then when you come out from cover your sites will automatically lock onto a target if it's within a close enough distance.
The story is so weak that it's not worth exploring. In general you are a mercenary. You, your partner, and everyone in your "squad' is a brooding, muscle-bound, tough guy with an attitude, a history, and a general inability to meld into society. People pay you to shoot things and blow up things and all the fun stuff that comes with first-person-shooters.
Once you get enough kill points, you can enter Overkill Mode.
This is a sort of Berzerker mode, where you freak out, fire continuously with an unlimited supply of ammo, or toss grenades, all without taking any hits yourself.
This is combat rage at it's best, but if you're not careful your meter will run out and you'll find yourself in normal mode exposed to enemy fire.
Combat is fun even when it isn't that challenging. Mostly this is due to the majority of the commands having a one-button activation: Fire with one button, launch grenades with another, access Overkill Mode with another. There aren’t a lot of heavy combos and difficult time-based moves to perform. Everything is in the right place and easy to access. This ease of use and the on-screen prompts for nearly everything make it nigh impossible to fail.
Graphically the game was almost on par with other EA releases this year if you download the HD content, which is preferred and recommended but not necessary to play the game.
The visuals were a level higher but there was very little difference in game play. There also wasn't an overdose of cut-scenes or an overuse of needless animation, which means more game-time and less down-time, which is always a good thing.
I'm afraid that the Devil's Cartel isn't going to find the love from series fans that the first title did. Nor will it cause a fuss like the second. But it is a better than average shooter.
It just needs a little more attention to detail, more meat to the missions, and more variety in the visuals. It's not as fun with friends, which is odd given the series history and title.
Contact Tom Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.