The Cartel utilizes Techland's Chrome Engine 5.
Multiplayer contains Two game modes. Standard Team Deathmatch, and objective based game modes. Unlike previous games, players can select character skins (similar to the original Call of Juarez), and select a weapon loadout. There are no longer Character Classes.
There are Two main maps, and then in Team Deathmatch, The maps are split into four smaller maps.
CampaignOn July 4, 2011, the offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration are bombed by unknown assailants. Assistant Deputy Director Shane Dickson enlists Ben McCall, along with FBI agent Kimberly Evans and DEA agent Eddie Guerra to track down the culprits, with the Mendoza Cartel and Antonio Alvarez as prime suspects. She informs them of the late Patrick Stone, who was investigating the Cartel up until his death in the bombing. They are also tasked with protecting Stone's only daughter, Jessica, a key informant in the investigation, whom they place under witness protection. Kim reveals that the Cartel has been purchasing military-grade hardware from an unknown source.
The trio proceeds to strike at the Cartel through their distributors—domestic street gangs, such as Araña and the Rolling 50’s, and clash in skirmishes with Araña's rivals, the Vatos Locos. The team burn cannabis fields, raid a gang house, disrupt a sex trafficking ring (which also was housing shipments of cannabis), and intercept a large shipment of cash following an extensive car chase and gunfight.
At Eddie's behest, the team decides to move Jessica to a different safe house across the city in a car driven by one Sergeant Dempsey. Almost immediately, they are intercepted by Araña gangsters and chased along the freeway until their car is hit by a semi truck. Dempsey is killed, but the rest manage to escape in stolen transportation. Realizing that someone let slip their plans, they resolve to trust no one—not even each other—until their mission is complete.
Afterwards, they find a number for Stone's retired acquaintance, Kevin Donleavy, who received a package upon his death. They arrange a meeting at the Panorama nightclub, but upon arrival Ben notices Alvarez among the crowd. After approaching her at the bar and handing her a key, Donleavy is killed by a sniper, uttering only the words "Eagle Pass" before dying. Jessica flees the scene in terror, with Alvarez in pursuit; despite their best efforts, the three are unable to find her afterwards.
Eddie and Kim learn that Jesús Mendoza, son of Cartel boss Juan Mendoza, is headed to Los Angeles in response to the stolen money delivery. Realizing that abducting Jesús would lead them to the Cartel's arms dealer and grant them a powerful bargaining chip, Eddie asks his street dealer, Hector, to tell Araña to mark anyone asking about the stolen cash, then convinces another dealer, Flaco, to contact Araña about the exact topic. Armed thugs promptly arrive and execute Flaco, and retreat to the El Dorado nightclub to inform their guest, unaware they are being followed; there, the agents fight through Araña gang members and chase down Jesús, stowing him into the trunk of their van.
Ben interrogates Jesús about the Cartel, learning that Alvarez has indeed captured Jessica, and that Jesús was to meet with Michael Duke, CEO of the bankrupt PMC Peacekeepers International, and the Cartel's contact for high-end weaponry; satisfied, they lock Jesús inside a development building.
The next day, the trio rendezvous with Duke at a ghost town (in Jesús' stead, Eddie dressed as Jesús, Kim as his escort and Ben as "Harris", a weapons expert. However, Duke reveals Alvarez has arrived, as well; Alvarez recognizes them immediately, but sardonically plays along with their disguises. After a weapons demonstration and unexpectedly dangerous live-fire exercise, Duke rejects the Cartel's payment, and states his new price—Monteczuma's legendary treasure, The Gold of Juarez, long since unearthed and relocated to the National Museum in Juarez, Mexico.
That night, gangsters attack the team at their motel, demolishing the walls with a wrecking ball. Despite his multiple attempts at escape, the agents retrieve Jesús and bring him to the Mexican border in exchange for Jessica. However, as the two hostages pass, Alvarez shoots them both with a sniper rifle, killing Jesús and wounding Jessica. The team manages to rescue her, but she soon dies. After an argument in which Ben reveals that Kim shot Donleavy, Eddie then reveals to the rest of the team that Donleavy gave him a key to "Eagle Pass" earlier.
The team use the key to open a locker at a bus station, inside is the package that Donleavy mentioned, which turns out to be a cd that Patrick Stone recorded, on the cd, Patrick says that Shane Dickson is corrupt and was the one who introduced Michael Duke to the Mendoza Cartel, he expresses regret at not testifying against Alvarez back in Vietnam (where Alvarez was tried for raping and murdering a Vietnamese civilian in Saigon back in 1972, but was deemed innocent) and reveals that Ben is the only person he trusted to look after Jess.
Soon after, the team head to a farmhouse and after fighting through some thugs, find a secret underground smuggling passage, the tunnel leads them under the border to an old fort (Juarez' Alcazar) where Mendoza and Duke's men are loading up the Gold of Juarez into trucks, the team manage to kill all the men and then decide to plot Duke and Mendoza against one another by taking the Gold and pinning it on Duke via text message and sending Duke a letter about Mendoza deciding to take the weapons and the Gold all for himself.
The next day, the team plans to capture Mendoza at Jesús' funeral, but Duke's men arrive and the team chase after Mendoza, fighting both men's armies until they corner him in a church. Duke then tries to kill Mendoza himself in an attack chopper, which the team manages to destroy, killing Duke in the process. They then chase after Mendoza, only for Alvarez to show up and rescue him.
The team then storms Mendoza's hacienda, killing more of his men and finally manage to corner Mendoza, who promptly surrenders. Ben tries to strong-arm him into testifying, only for Mendoza to be killed by an unmanned aircraft drone, which fires upon the rest of the team, who realize that Dickson must've sent the drone after them in order to cover up her tracks. Ben says that Alvarez is the only one left who can testify to Dickson's involvement. The team chase him into a cellar, where they split into three paths. Kim and Eddie are contacted by their superiors who encourage them to kill off their teammates, while Dickson orders Ben to walk away, or "things will go badly" for him. The team manages to corner Alvarez, who reveals that Eddie's debts have been paid off in exchange for his agency to hold him responsible for his illegal actions, Kim reveals that Alvarez is a federal informant and was their link to the Cartel. Ben wants to kill Alavarez in retaliation for his crimes, Kim wants Alvarez alive so Dickson and Watters can go to prison and Eddie wants to split the drug money three ways where they can start with a clean slate.
The team engage in a Mexican stand-off and the player is presented with a choice to either kill his/her teammates or decide not to fight, choosing to kill your teammates results in Alvarez detonating a grenade and escaping, after which you kill your teammates and get different fates for each character, Ben goes to prison while the US prepares to go to war with Mexico, Kim slaps Dickson after being awarded a medal, and is apprehended, and Eddie gets killed (presumably by the person who was blackmailing him). If you choose not to fight, the team lets Alvarez live.
Later on, Alvarez testifies against Dickson's involvement, resulting in her arrest. Eddie and Kim both end up in jail for their actions and Ben is shown placing flowers on Patrick and Jessica's grave, and pulling out a Bible, finally seeking redemption.
(List under construction.)
For a full list of achievements, see Achievements/Trophies article.
- The Cartel is the first game in the series to be set in the 21st century.
- It is also the first game developed by Techland to run on Chrome Engine 5.
- The Cartel is the first game in the series to use Secret Agendas
- The Cartel is the first game in the series to use co-op.
- The events of the game span 25 days.
- The game is the second game in the series to have blood splatter (which was absent in Bound in Blood). It is also the first game in the series to have blood on enemies when shot (excluding the PC version of Call of Juarez).
- The game is also the first game in the series to have weapon melee.
- The Cartel is the first game to let the player use concentration mode with any weapon.