There is one good idea here. It is this: given that this inexplicably enduring cover-shooter franchise is built on meatheaded adoration of brutal violence, make the violence as flamboyant as possible. Make the buildings explode, and the enemies explode, and your near-uniformly short-lived allies explode, and add a separate ability that when triggered enables walls and boxes to explode. In slow motion. Make it the equivalent of one of those action movies created around people who are better at bodybuilding than acting.
Had this brief been delivered with any enthusiasm, Devil's Cartel could have been enjoyable. We know this, because the world already contains the equally idiotic but far more entertaining 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, which embraced its fundamental inanity and converted it into a game of wit and creativity. But Devil's Cartel is totally, bafflingly lacking in imagination; a third-person shooter that aims for nothing more than mechanical execution and regularly fails to manage even that.
An unending stream of enemies charge towards you and your partner, spraying bullets and ducking behind cover. You spray bullets back, while attempting to use cover yourself. Enemies die, messily, often with multiple limb loss. Sometimes there are stronger enemies that require more shooting. If you are downed, your partner can revive you. It's functional but nothing else, a weird white-label experience that somehow leaves no impression on the memory.
The story manages to be worse than the previous games, which themselves ranked somewhere below Steven Seagal's oeuvre in narrative credibility. Prior dudebros Salem and Rios are relegated to support roles and you're left to control new boys Alpha and Bravo, names and faces so generic you'd struggle to pull them out of a lineup otherwise composed of housecats. They have none of Salem and Rios' abilities to fake surrender, take hostages, or even fist bump: they can only run, shoot the endless hordes of enemies, and recite meatheaded dialogue that's genuinely remarkable for its total lack of charisma. It's as if somebody decided to build an action film around the goons rather than the hero.
The splode-happy Overkill mode is the only bright spot, a meter topped up by your kills that, when triggered, drops you into gold-tinted slow-motion invulnerability while granting you infinite and explosive ammo. It's generously issued and satisfying to use, and reducing your surrounding to rubble is the only time the game gets close to the guilty pleasures of its straight-to-DVD soulmates.
It's intriguing that while the opening credits list include the full set of EA's B-teams - EA Montreal, EA Shanghai, Danger Close - DICE is nowhere to be seen, despite the explosions coming care of its Frostbite tech. One suspects that either the staff demanded their name removed from something so soulless, or somebody stole the code from an internal server and didn't tell them. The rich profusion of bugs supports both hypotheses, with friends and enemies alike getting stuck in the scenery, missions that won't complete because somebody's fallen through the level, and AI that won't revive you if you're lying on anything other than a flat surface.