Call of Juarez is one of the most well-known western shooters out there, but maybe for the wrong reasons. After the monumental failure that was Call of Juarez The Cartel, everyone imagined Ubisoft would give up on its dabbling in the western franchise, especially considering there have been so many great peers for it to contend with. Not one to give up on solid ideas however, Ubisoft and Techland are back with a brand new entry into the franchise, with hopes of breathing new life into the series by breaking it down and stripping it back to its roots. I was lucky enough to get some play time with Gunslinger and I have to admit that although dubious I came out truly impressed.
The present day setting of The Cartel has been scrapped in favour of a revisit to the good old wild west, putting you in the shoes of legendary bounty hunter, Silas Greaves. Regaling his life’s many stories to a bar of locals, Silas tells his story as you play, unfolding your next actions and commenting on your success and failures as you move along (If you’ve played Bastion you’ll have some idea of what to expect). This was a really nice touch, which not only added to the authentic western movie feel that Techland are clearly going for, but it also left the game open to some creative story telling techniques.
Gunslinger is looking great with a new cel-shaded, comic book style. Its bright, vivid and full of life, which may be rough around the edges a tiny bit but in a way that actually lends to the overall character of the game. This new style is a clear nod to Borderlands, something which also bleeds over into the gameplay. Shooting in Gunslinger is, put simply, fun as hell.
Although packed with a host of different weapons, you’ll start off with your trusty six-shooter which packs an almighty wallop. As you blaze your way through a sea of deputies, baying for your blood, points will blaze above your enemies heads, rewarding you for certain skill-kills. My personal favourite being the good old “+600 piercing headshot through the eyeball!” Guns are loud and over the top, in a good way, but sometimes you’ll still need some help which is where your skills come in handy.
As you fight your way through hordes of cowboys, a focus meter in the top left will fill up giving you what is essentially a Max Payne-esque bullet time. Time will stand still and enemies are highlighted in red, giving you precious seconds to blow their heads off (trust me, they blow off!)
Your health is displayed in the now common place technique of dousing the TV screen in bullet holes and red paint, once you reach this low point however your “sense of death” kicks in. No the game doesn’t offer you the chance to restart the level considering you’re about to die, instead certain crucial bullets coming your way, slow down and you’re given the chance to dodge them for an all important breather.
During the first mission, one in which Billy The Kid needed saving, Silas took us through a chance meeting with mean Ol’ Pat Garrett which ended up in a classic showdown. The showdown events are dealt with nicely, requiring you to use the right stick in order to keep the reticule focused on your nemesis, while the left is yours to keep your gun ready. When you’re ready to draw, pop the trigger once and then begin the shootout until your vile nemesis (or in some bad cases you yourself) are shot dead.
In a bid to make you consider your actions, If you’re the honourable type you can wait until you see the whites of your enemies eyes as he touches his gun before you draw, giving you a nifty little badge at the end. But you don’t have to. I mean after all, honour is for chumps right? After the showdown (Yes that’s right, I filled Pat Garret full of holes!) one of the barkeeps mentions that he, and everyone else in town, had heard about the showdown before, causing Silas to explain the TRUE story of what happened. The game quickly rewound itself back to before the shootout and then moved onto a completely different course of history. This, although a simply mechanic, really drew me into the story telling theme, it’s a nicely handled idea which pretty much sums up my impressions of Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. Good solid ideas aimed at being fun. Nothing more.
It’s loud, bloody and lots of fun. The story won’t win any awards and the voice acting is a mixed bag ranging from good to down right awful but Gunslinger hits all the right spots, so far at least, and is definitely a good start to wiping The Cartel from our memories!
More of this please!
Call of Juarez Gunslinger will release May 22 on Xbox LIVE for 1200 MS points.