|System: Xbox 360, PS3*|
|Dev: Visceral Games and EA Montreal|
|Release: March 26, 2013|
|Players: 1-2 (co-op only)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
While the story isn't exactly good—who would expect that from this sort of game?—it does provide a nonstop thrill ride of explosions, gunfights, and so-bad-they’re-almost-good one-liners. The over-the-top bravado of the entire exercise is infectious once you learn to take it at face value, the music and sound effects capture the Michael Bay spirit, and the voiceover work is competent enough not to be distracting.
The graphics make nice use of the Frostbite 2 engine, too. Much like Crysis 3, The Devil’s Cartel manages to show both the capabilities and the limitations of the current console generation. It looks amazing at times with the textures installed (1.5 GB on Xbox 360)—but plenty of minor hiccups are visible, too, and one can’t help but think that it would look better on a good gaming PC.
The Devil's Cartel does have its share of minor issues, though. The co-op isn't drop-in/drop-out. (Fortunately, the checkpoints are frequent enough that you won’t lose more than a few minutes of progress.) And competitive multiplayer has been removed, though the lengthy co-op campaign and leaderboards make up for it.
More problematic is that, for some bizarre reason, the developers departed from the Gears control scheme in a few awkward ways. Running isn’t combined into the cover button, and sometimes you need to hold the cover button rather that just pressing it to execute contextual maneuvers. This will feel unnatural to Gears vets, and there's really no reason for it.
But perhaps the worst problem here is this: If there’s a way to turn off the auto-aim, I haven’t found it, and I spent quite some time searching every menu I could find. The feature is incredibly generous, too; if you’re facing in the right general direction, pressing the aim button will instantly lock you to an enemy. This doesn’t make the game any less fun, but it does make it far too easy on the normal setting, and there’s no way to change your difficulty mid-game.
The auto-aim also renders the elaborate gun modification system much less important. From the main menu—but, irritatingly, not from the between-chapters menu—you can use the cash you’ve earned to buy more guns and outfit them with great accessories, including crazy stuff like front-mounted shields. You can also customize your operative and the mask he wears. But when your gun automatically aims itself, everything else is secondary. Simply put, this needs to be fixed in a patch.
But unless auto-aim is a dealbreaker for you, The Devil’s Cartel is worth checking out—once you’re done with Gears of War: Judgment, of course. The game sticks too close to its inspiration at times, but it still offers a meaty campaign loaded with non-stop action. If you enjoy Gears, you will enjoy this.
Date: March 27, 2013