army of two big

Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel has me worried. The third game in the Army of Two cooperative action series is coming out in early 2013, but the preview that I saw this week fell short on many levels.

army of two 4The title coming from Electronic Arts has found a dangerous new enemy in the form of a Mexican drug cartel. It delivers plenty of huge explosions and nonstop action. But the third-person combat shooting game is glitchy and unimpressive in its current state. I played in two-player cooperative mode and my partner commented, “Wow, that car looks really bad.” And it did. The car we were looking at had jagged lines along its edges and it clearly looked fake. The artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled drug cartel members was terrible. They hid behind cover, but predictably stuck their heads out and waited for us to shoot them.

army of two 1Then there are graphics anomalies. I shot one enemy and he literally bent backwards like a ballerina and did a weird backflip. It’s fun at first to blast away at buildings and cover, which are part of the fully destructible environment enabled by the Frostbite engine used in the Battlefield games. But shooting through wooden boxes or blowing up large gas tanks gets tedious. Compared to other games hitting the market these days, this one is clearly unpolished. My co-op partner and I wandered around trying to find an exit to a scene a few times, since the game didn’t direct us in an obvious way. We played in a team of four players, with two sets of two. But that didn’t seem to add a whole lot to the game play since we followed different paths.

EA is announcing today that hip-hop stars Big Boi and B.o.B. are going to appear in the game as Two operatives Charles “Chuy” Rendall (Big Boi) and Anthony “Baker” Barnes (B.o.B). They will also perform the game’s official theme song “Double or Nothing” set for release in early 2013. EA also announced that fans who pre-order Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel from participating retailers will receive an exclusive Hit-Makers Kit. This kit will give players access to a mission that will allow them to play as Big Boi and B.o.B.’s characters, as well as custom masks and weapon skins designed by the artists themselves.

army of two 3But it’s going to take a lot more than that to make this game acceptable to fans who played earlier installments, which include Army of Two from 2008 and Army of Two: The 40th Day in 2010. This game is being made by EA’s Visceral Studios Montreal. In the game, players take on the identities of Alpha and Bravo, two operatives working for Tactical Worldwide Operations (TWO).

EA ought to hold this one back for more improvement or kill it altogether. On the same evening, I saw the outstanding, graphically gorgeous Crysis 3 game that EA is publishing early next year. That game looks far more polished than The Devil’s Cartel, which debuts on March 26 on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. The Devil’s Cartel looks inferior and behind schedule by comparison.