What do I mean by that, you ask? It tries to hard to emulate other games. It tries too hard to come off as 'gritty' and 'raw' and whatever other buzzwords you want to use. Except its definition of 'gritty' seems to be 'have characters say "Fuck" or "Motherfucker" every other word. It feel like they are playing to the least common denominator. The very first level has you going to a marijuana field where you burn the weed and one of your partners, the DEA agent, gets high. Then you fight a helicopter. All the while characters are screaming "FUCKER" and "BITCHES" and things like that. Now I'm no prude. I don't mind some swears, but they should tone it way down. I'm playing as Kim the FBI agent and every time I enter Concentration Mode, she says something like "You have the right to get your ass blown off by me, motherfuckers" and "You don't have rights because you'll be six feet under, motherfuckers". And those are the tame ones. It's ridiculous.
Now the shooting has never been super great in the CoJ games, but they've been fine. The shooting in The Cartel isn't great but it's not terrible. What is terrible are the moments where you have to find cover because the cover system they have (they don't have one) is atrocious. Hiding behind something still gets you shot because either your head is poking out or because enemies can shoot through things or something. Often your only source of cover is a car. Guess what happens when enemies shoot at a car. On the positive end, you build up Concentration quickly so often I just find myself going into Concentration and mowing everyone down. Also this game might have the worst death screen in recent memory. There's no death animation. The only indication that you are almost dead is the whole 'screen getting more red' and then when you die all you get is a pop up that says "You have died". On the one hand getting back into the game is quick after death. On the other hand there's no clear indication of how close you are to death even with a red screen. Sometimes I was killed in seconds after getting shot. Other times I was getting shot constantly and lived.
One thing I liked about the Call of Juarez games was the plot, especially in Bound in Blood. The plot in The Cartel is pretty lame. They said it is supposed to be a modern western but the only aspect of westerns so far is that everyone is an unlikable asshole. In the third level, the characters start choking out strippers. I mean, I know they need information but choking out strippers not in the know is not the best way to go about business. Later they chase a suspect down and take turns beating him up on the side of the highway. Kim, at least, seems the least assholish. She cared when the trio got an informant killed while the others just said "Whatever, we didn't pull the trigger." The plot hasn't exactly been gripping. It's like a bad cop movie, with the loose cannon and the wisecracking ethnic partner and the tough as nails girl one and the informant that gets into trouble. It's all very derivative. Plus the fact that every cutscene has a big fat 'Press B to skip' prompt in the upper right makes me wonder if the plot is even important. And the voice acting for Ben is just awful. But now that I'm getting further into it, there is some potential for the story to pick up. The structure of missions is also mediocre. Missions start with you in a car and you either have to drive somewhere or get out and walk; you go through an area killing dudes, then work your way back to a car so you can have a chase where your A.I. partners don't do shit. But before every mission you start in a 'pre mission lobby' which is just either a parking lot or hotel room where you can select your weapons. It is clearly meant for co op.
The side missions you get in the campaign are kind of cool. You will sometimes get a phone call early into the mission and are given a secret objective like "Collect a sample of the drugs for analysis". You are supposed to do these side objectives without being seen by the other two characters who I imagine have different objectives. In solo play, these objectives are easy as piss to accomplish without being seen but I can see it being fun to do in co op. The campaign has a level up system similar to a Call of Duty multiplayer system. Except it isn't tied to kills but rather fulfillment of secret objectives and the acquisition of secret hidden items. As you gain levels you get better weapons. I personally think it is dumb to hide weapons in the campaign in a leveling system, but that's just me.
There's a lot to dislike about this game so far. But I'm going to see it through to the end because I feel like I need to see if the plot gets any better. I don't hate the game, but I'm not loving it. It just all feels like a bland, derivative FPS.
Also the subtitles have grammatical errors aplenty so that sucks too.