With co-op play being so important to the franchise, I insisted that the best way to work on the guide for the newest Army of Two was to run through the game with an assistant. It’s one thing to play through any action game alone, but having an actual intelligent partner to rely on changes a lot about how you approach a challenge. We’ve come pretty far when it comes to the artificial intelligence of computer controlled allies, but they still can’t beat having a friend at your side.
While playing The Devil’s Cartel alone, you take on the role of Alpha, a T.W.O. merc handpicked by the founders of his contractor, Salem and Rios. Bravo, your ever present partner, follows you closely. If you tell him to grab the enemy’s attention, he’ll do it. If you need him to toss a grenade, he will throw one with the accuracy and speed of a professional baseball pitcher. He’ll spot a threat and engage it without needing to be told to do so, and if you go down from enemy gunfire, he’ll quickly be at your side to get you back on your feet.
Despite how good AI Bravo is at his job, having someone you know controlling him lets you get a little more creative. There is something you get to do with a friend that you can’t do when the AI is supporting you: proper communication.
Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel doesn’t have a form of radar for you to rely on. In most modern shooters, there’s a convenient method for you to track where your enemies are, which makes it easier to plan ahead. The game does provide the special TWO Vision mode that, for a limited time, allows you to track enemies who are Aggro’d at you, and highlights potential flanking routes, but it’s not the same as proper radar. You’ll know the general direction from where you’re getting shot, thanks to hit indicators, but this only gives you rough positioning. And unless the badguy in question is a priority target necessary for you to take down, the game rarely marks hostiles on the HUD. You’ll have to pick your targets out from the chaos of the firefights yourself the majority of the time. Sometimes, a cutscene will reveal the nature of a very specific threat, and that’s about as generous as things get.
Alpha and Bravo themselves get in on the act. They’ll call out a sniper or RPG user on the rooftops. Sometimes they’ll tell you a general direction. “Sniper up high in front!” “RPG on the rooftops!” It’s not always very specific. The characters often notice the enemies before you do, but you might struggle to find them even after the warnings are called out.
As Russ (my writing/gamplay partner) and I worked our way through the Hard difficulty of the game’s campaign, we’d naturally started getting very specific about calling out threats. The game itself doesn’t really tell you to do so, but clearly we were encouraged to do it. Here’s a general breakdown of how many combat encounters would go down:
1. Russ and I round a corner of a street.
2. Alpha or Bravo shout a warning about a sniper.
3. One of us (usually me) says aloud that we can’t find the sniper.
4. The other player soon locates the sniper “I see ‘em, check the rooftop to my left, next to the burning vehicle.”
We basically went through the whole game like this, and it really enhanced the experience of working together. If the game did all the work for us, we wouldn’t have communicated as often, and I honestly think the firefights wouldn’t have been so effective at getting us caught up in the moment. Where so many games basically let you see clearly through the obstacles of the environment in order to locate and destroy the enemy, Army of Two expects players to work together, to communicate. Because you don’t get a convenient marker above the heads of every enemy you look at, it actually pays to get specific.
A certain popular FPS on the market gives its soldiers dozens of canned phrases that match up to the very specific environments, to let the player know where every threat is. “The enemy is by the red car,” or “hostiles located in the yellow house on the right!” In Army of Two, we are expected to do this ourselves. So yes, there was one point where I said “There he is, right side of the car in front of the futbol store at the end of the street” and it actually helped Russ sight in on some cartel scumbag to deliver a much deserved death.
This more-or-less expected interaction between players worked to really enhance the moments in the story where Alpha and Bravo are forced down separate paths and don’t always have the ability to cover eachother. I legitimately started to miss the support I had from Russ whenever we had to take different paths. We’d end up telling eachother what our progress was on our particular side of the battlefield, even though our only recourse to assist the other guy was to use Overkill in a last ditch effort to prevent death from visiting us. Just letting the other guy know what was up helped us avoid retrying many difficult firefights too many times.
And speaking of Overkill, check this space in the next few days for a little chat about the joys of more virtual firepower than I’d ever be allowed to legally possess.
Read Alex's other Army of Two: The Devi's Cartel blogs on Saving a City by Destroying Large Parts Of It and Overkill: Totally Justifiable Expenditure of Ammunition
For complete Army of Two: The Devi's Cartel walkthroughs and strategies, get the official, complete Prima eGuide