Call of Juarez is back and this time is better than ever. Learn why on our Call of Juarez Gunslinger Review
For those of you who may have been living in a cave for the past decade, Call of Juarez is a western FPS shooter game developed by the amazing guys over at Techland and Call of Juarez Gunslinger is the latest installation of the series and it's a blast. The last installation of the serie being that Call of Juarez: The Cartel was, to put it simply, a very bad game. Technically, visually and gameplay wise it was a mess. Gunslinger in the other hand is almost perfect and a blast to play through.
Gameplay is fun, visually it looks fantastic, but what I really liked about Gunslinger is the story or better, the unique way the story is presented to the player. Much like in Black Ops, Gunslinger tells its story through flashbacks, so where is the uniqueness you may ask? Many of the wild west myths and tales might and many have been well, just myths and tales. And here is where the uniqueness of the storytelling comes into play.
An old man walks into a saloon and starts referring to himself as Silas Greaves, the legendary bounty hunter, but we don't know for sure if it is truly him. People in the saloon quickly get around him and poke him to tell his story. So the old man starts narrating Silas story, who he met, who he fought, who he killed and why he did all of the things history books talk about. The narrator is old and sometimes he is pretty unreliable as his audience challenges the lies and inconsistencies in his tales, he quickly manages to "fix" them and progress through the story.
During this narration, you play in first person as a younger Silas Greaves and you experience the story as it is being narrated. While the old man says things like "As I heard gunshots, I took out my revolver and ran to see what was happening", you exactly do the same things. But here is when things get interesting. The narrator is an old drunkard, so sometimes he will screw up the story as he is narrating it. So one moment he may be talking about fighting against gang members and an instance later he will switch them with an Apache army and back again to gang members as someone from the public in the saloon picks up the inconsistency during his narration. The best thing is that you can see these changes happening during gameplay. Or sometime you will play through a whole mission and "complete" it, but as soon as it ends, the old man will say something like "Well I could have gone the long way, but I saw a ladder (or elevator) and I went that way" and the mission rewinds back to the start and you have to "complete" it again using this new path. It is very interesting and kinda unique to see how the environment/level changes on the fly and the execution is perfect.
Revenge is the central theme of Gunslinger. Silas is fueled by revenge, he seeks the killers that took away both his brothers. During his quest he will meet and sometimes fight legendary outlaws like Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, Billy the Kid etc. "I went toe to toe with Jesse James and..." he will say and somebody from the public will go "But Jesse James was shot in the back by his friend" and he will quickly respond "Well I didn't say I killed him, did I?". There are many moments like this in the game and it is interesting to see how these match up with the real story of these outlaws. To learn more about this, there are the collectibles in the game called "Nuggets of Truth", collecting these unlock images of the real outlaws and their real story (maybe I am not sure). Finding these can be difficult cause many times these aren't on the main path and also not in the next logical place where you might go to look for them. Many times they will be hidden very very well, like in a destructible box or under something that is not clearly visible. And the perk that should help you in finding them, it's not that useful.
Perks, yes you heard it right. For every kill, headshot, combo or item you destroy in the world, you gain experience and once you got enough, you level up. After that you can choose where to invest this point that you got. There are three skill trees, one for dual-wielding pistols, one for close range and one for long range. I spend my points mainly on the long range tree as I wanted to feel like a real cowboy, scoring headshots with my rifle or revolver from afar, but I also spend some points unlocking the akimbo skills just to see if it was any fun and oh boy, it sure as hell was! Picking heads from afar with my trusty golden rifle then running towards after throwing a dynamite at them and quickly pulling out my quickshooters to fill them will lead, man I felt like a total badass. Then quickly tapping as fast as I could the square button to reload my rifle in a split-second while getting behind cover to recover from the bullets I took just to jump out of it seconds later, dodging a deadly bullet in Matrix style using the Sense of Death ability then quickly activating my Concentration ability to pick off the heads of the remaining enemies in slow motion...yeah f*cking epic! I can talk about and describe similar moments for hours, but experiencing them in game is a totally different thing.
So spending points on the different skill trees will unlock different skills and upgrades for Silas, such as ammo capacity upgrades, damage upgrades, armor upgrade etc. If you spend enough points in a skill tree, then you will unlock a golden version of a revolver, shotgun or rifle, depending on the skill tree. By leveling up, you also get more time to spend in the Concentration ability which works exactly like the Dead Shot (or Eye I don't remember) on Red Dead Redemption. Slowing time to align headshots or sacrifice some of the time bar for automatic headshots. The other ability is Sense of Death. Once filled this ability will automatically trigger when an enemy fires a deadly bullet at you, which you can dodge by leaning left or right. These abilities work great and make the game very fun to play. The gunplay itself is very satisfying. Bullets have a real impact and seeing that head explode in slow-mo is very satisfying. Along with the gunplay there are also some short platforming sequences, where new paths materialize before you as the narration continues which are cool, but again these are really short. Then there are the duels, which I enjoyed very much even though I didn't really understood how it really worked.
One vs one and sometimes one vs two, these duels can be as tense as they can be tedious. With the right stick you have to aim or focus the reticle on the enemy and with the left stick you have to put and keep the hand over the weapon to be ready to draw and shoot as fast as possible. When executed perfectly or better when the game wants you to win the duel it is very satisfying. Yes you read it correctly "when the game wants you to win". There were times where I lost a duel 10 times in a row, then win it even though the percentage of the focus and draw hand were the same as the ten times before. Strange indeed...
Speaking of the lasting appeal, the main story line can be completed in about 6-8 hours if you choose to find all of the collectibles. After that there a new game plus, where you get to keep every skill that you unlocked and build upon it. But there are also the Arcade and Duel modes. In the Arcade mode, you will play the action sequences of all of the missions while trying to get the highest score possible. This was a very interesting mode and from what I saw from the leaderboards, a very competitive one. In the Duel mode you get to replay all the duels in a survival type of way, where you have only five tries before posting a highscore. Again a highly competitive mode, by the looks of the leaderboard. Unfortunately there is no multiplayer mode. I would have loved to see an online Duel mode, but hey, for a 15$ downloadable game, this was a fantastic package.
Visually the game looks outstanding. The whole presentation is outstanding. Featuring a cell-shaded look, not on Borderlands level, but a slight one that makes Gunslinger one of the coolest looking games on the market right now. Also the cut-scenes in between missions were also very well done, with a cool graphic or comic style. The color palette is full of vibrant colors and the lighting is fantastic. The levels are beautiful and some of the vistas the guys at Techland crafted are some of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen in a video game. Rocky mountain in the middle of a lake during sunset, it is gorgeous! Frame rate is steady even at heavy action scenes. A thing that I didn't really liked though, was the black screen border. I found it very annoying.
The sound effects and the music create the perfect western atmosphere we all know and love. The ricochets, bullet whizzing by, revolver sounds etc. they are all done in a fantastic way. The voice over is phenomenal, Silas really sound like I always imagined a cowboy/bounty hunter of that time should sound too.
Bottom Line: Call of Juarez Gunslinger is a fantastic game that it is worth every dime and every second/minute/hour of your time. A multiplayer mode would have been very welcomed and the duel mechanic could have been a little better, but no big deal. The gameplay is fantastic, it looks really really good and it doesn't overstay its welcome much like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. We really need more of these fantastic 15$ downloadable games. This is a must buy for hardcore and casual FPS shooter fans.
Call of Juarez Gunslinger was reviewed on the PS3 using a promo code provided by Ubisoft. Call of Juarez Gunslinger is now available for PC, Ps3 and Xbox 360.