Genre: First-Person Shooter Platforms: XBLA, PSN, PC
Platform Played: PC
Developer: Techland Publisher: Ubisoft
Yes, the Call of Juarez franchise may have been tainted with a pretty poor sequel, but Techland came back better than ever, and delivered the best entry in the series yet. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger really puts the wild into the wild west, and shows that you don’t need a full-blown sequel to right all the wrongs of your predecessor.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger features three modes to play: story, arcade, and duel. The developer seems to have omitted a multiplayer mode, choosing instead to focus all its attention on a great single-player experience. Let me tell you upfront that… they indeed delivered.
First, let’s talk about the story.
The game starts in 1910, when our protagonist, Silas Greaves, walks into a bar. He is immediately recognized by some fellow citizens inside, and at everyone’s request, he starts depicting his past adventures.
Unfortunately, the game’s story and characters are its weak points. Even if the premise presents us all these famous outlaws of the wild west (e.g. – Jesse James), they are nothing more than mere enemies ready to get killed, either in simple one-on-one showdowns (which are usually pretty dull), or a duel. There’s no personality to these guys, or to Silas and his friends back in the present. At one point, the story does get a little bit intriguing, thanks to some ominous warnings of an indian shaman, but nothing really comes out of that. Having said this, the ending should surprise you, and as a whole, the conclusion of the game is a satisfying one.
I personally love the game’s way of telling the story. By making Silas recount his past adventures, alongside those (supposedly false, according to him) written in his biography, the game provides different outcomes to different scenarios. For example – in the first chapter, the book says that Silas confronted a certain sheriff and killed him, but our protagonist reveals that he was, in fact, taken prisoner by the man. Sometimes though, even Silas himself forgets what truly happened (or changes some bits to make it more interesting), and the game almost borders on fantasy (e.g. – falling bodies out of the sky which conveniently bring some much needed ammo for our hero). Of course, this only happens at predetermined situations, so the main gameplay is still 100% “magic-free.”
I also enjoy hearing Silas narrate his adventures during gameplay, alongside his bar-companions. In this way, I never feel disconnected to the story.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is all about killing your enemies, doing it with style, and also as fast as possible. The shooting mechanics work great in tandem with the upgrading system, and the duelling.
Every kill you make rewards you with points and experience, kill which usually involves blowing up kegs of powder-gun, taking headshots, shooting the pack of dynamite after you’ve thrown it, gunning down running enemies, and more.
Experience is used for learning new skills, like faster reloading, more ammo, slowing down time for a second or two etc. These are split between three ways of play: dual-wielding, long range, and close range. Points are for bragging rights on the leaderboards.
In true fashion of the wild west, duelling makes a comeback. It’s basically a mini-game in which you have to draw your gun faster than your opponent, and gun him down. After most levels which all end in a bloodbath, it’s satisfying to come to an end where you confront one last opponent like real men of the wild west.
Concentration mode also returns. While in this state, time will almost come to a halt, allowing you to kill all your enemies the way you want. After using it, you’ll have to kill more enemies in order for it to refill.
Quick-time-events pop up in different sections of the game. They can sometimes be intrusive, but thankfully, failing them doesn’t result in an instant death. Speaking of death – Sense of death is a special kind of QTE, which triggers when you’re about to die. The enemy’s final bullet(s) must be avoided by leaning left or right, and failing to press the right button results in, of course, death. Sense of death will not always be available to save you, so after using it, you’ll have to wait a bit before it refills.
The game offers a small variety of weapons. You’ll get the traditional revolver (or six-shooter), rifle, shotgun, and dynamite, for when things get too hot. Additionally, by upgrading some skills, you will also get access to higher-tier guns, but these are only re-skinned versions of those mentioned before, with higher fire power. The enemy variety is also small, but it hasn’t bothered me from my enjoyment of gunning them down. What they lack in variety though, they make up in toughness, especially on higher difficulty settings.
Secrets hidden throughout levels further depict the back-story of the game, and that of its characters’. This time, the story is actually presented from our world’s history.
The cell-shaded graphics, accompanied by an excellent soundtrack work really great in conveying that beautiful, but sometimes bitter feel of the wild west. From deserted towns, to canyons, saw mills, quarries, and mountains, all these locations look great and convincing. For a downloadable title, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger sure is a looker. Having those black, rugged bars around the screen also creates a more immersive atmosphere in which you feel like you’re constantly duelling for your life.
Now for the arcade.
Arcade mode lets you play the entire single-player missions from the story mode, only without any kind of narrative. Maintaining longer and longer kill-streaks for high scores while finishing the level as fast as possible is your #1 priority, and it’s a lot of fun to be sure.
Finally, we have the duelling.
In the duel mode, players are given five lives and challenged to fifteen duels, one after another, with the main game’s villains. Taking out your gun at the right time, being faster, and having a better focus than your opponent will raise your name on the leaderboards. It’s a nice distraction, and getting to the last level without losing all your 5 lives isn’t so easy either.
While the story is not its strong suit, it helps the game create interesting and different outcomes to scenarios, which, as I mentioned, is a big plus to the game. Couple this with strong shooting mechanics, fun levels to play in, a new-game-plus mode which maintains all your past experience, and you’ll be playing Call of Juarez: Gunslinger for quite some time. Techland has brought the series back on its feet, stronger than ever, and I personally can’t wait to see what the future holds for the series. Here’s to more wild adventures into the beautiful wild west!
+ Different outcomes are a pleasure to watch and play
+ Strong shooting mechanics
+ Different modes lead to a high replay value
+ Beautiful world
– Uninteresting story and characters
Vlad Pintea is a News-and-Reviews Editor here at Analog Addiction, and sometimes he even speaks his own mind. You can contact him via e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, My IGN, on Skype, Steam (all at the same name: vlad94pintea) or Facebook (Vlad Pintea). Have a good day, and remember: stay calm and keep on gaming!