There’s been a real push this generation to improve game stories. That’s not to say that good stories are unique to recent games, the likes of Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy titles have made attempts to tell grand stories in the past, but it seems like the story has been increasingly pushed to the front of many games. From huge titles like Mass Effect and the recent Tomb Raider, to the smaller ones like Thomas Was Alone, the story has been central to success. As someone who loves a good story I can only hope for more of them.
However this push has, in my opinion, had a bit of an adverse affect on some titles which have forgettable or shallow plots, receiving less favourable reactions than they would have in the past. I recently played through Army Of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, a game that wasn’t met with much fanfare and won’t any win awards for its story telling, but offered something that seems to be a bit of on a decline – silly, over the top fun.
Alpha & Bravo. Generic names for a game.
Army Of Two: The Devil’s Cartel makes jokes about red barrels being explosive and has an Overkill feature that means for a few glorious seconds you become an invincible super soldier with unlimited explosive ammo and unlimited grenades. Sure, it doesn’t feature compelling story telling or a captivating narrative, but it is just unashamed fun.
That’s not to say it’s completely missing a story though, there’s still a core narrative set around the current Cartel problem in Mexico. It’s a situation that shouldn’t be made light of and, surprisingly, the game manages to avoid doing just that.
Instead, Devil’s Cartel keeps the comedy elements to the dialogue between the protagonists Alpha & Bravo (yeah, not a ton of thought there), while the world around them shows the brutality of the Mexican Cartels. That’s not to say that the story is deadly serious though, with the game featuring characters like a hitman named El Diablo who wears a red mask.
This is the kind of plot you expect in a silly action movie, and that’s pretty much what Devil’s Cartel is. You have your standard bad guy, a shallow plot, and even a buddy cop dynamic thrown in for good measure. It’s a game you play when you just want to unwind with something that doesn’t ask too much of you. It’s something we all need from time to time, and maybe the best thing about it is that you don’t have to enjoy it alone.
Sometimes it's all about explosions.
We didn’t care about the story while we were playing, we simply experienced the absurdity of Devil’s Cartel together, laughing at some of the situations as well as our own antics. We cleared waves of enemies together and made jokes about each other’s performances.
You’re probably wondering why I’m so enthusiastic about a silly action game, but more than the game itself it’s what it represents. It’s a type of game that many may well be hoping will vanish entirely, games that focus purely on the spectacle and not the story. It can feel like any game that doesn’t offer a good narrative is pushed aside because it just isn’t mature, with Borderlands and Bulletstorm probably being the major exceptions recently.
Somewhere along the line the message apparently became that gamers want mature stories with big emotional impact. It’s hard to disagree with that, I do want to play those kind of games. However, the thing is, I don’t want that in every game, just like I don’t want every movie to be a Saving Private Ryan or Shawshank Redemption.
Because on some days I just want a dumb, fun spectacle.