Mark Marrow
13 Dec, 2006

Call of Juarez Review

PC Review | More Western than John Wayne.
Western movies based on Cowboys and shootouts were huge back when films were first developed as mainstream entertainment, but have since been replaced by young males with chiseled abs who fight aliens. This obvious lack of fanfare surrounding the genre is apparent, as Western shooters are almost non-existent on video game consoles or any other mainstream media. This little gunslinger is happy though, since Call of Juarez invites gamers to experience one of the coolest concepts based on the Wild West, providing a reasonable shooting experience for fans of Westerns.

While you won’t be riding on your high horse, busting heads like Wild West icons such as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, the typical Western generalisations are still intact. Call of Juarez follows the distinct paths of two characters, which provides gamers with two different personalities and a bit of variety in gameplay. The game begins with family disgrace Billy Candle returning to his home to make amends with his mother and hopes to avoid further conflict between the rest of the villagers. After being pushed around and treated like dirt from the town’s sheriff and other villagers within a matter of minutes of entering the town, Billy finds himself in more trouble compared to when he left. The one person who is disgusted by his return is Reverend Ray, a former outlaw converted by religion, who is the brother of Billy’s stepfather. After only a short time of being back in town, Billy is accused of murder, as Reverend Ray discovers Billy’s mother and stepfather laying dead in their barn and sees Billy fleeing from the scene.

This forms the basic outline for the game’s story, in a classic case of hunting an outlaw. You’ll be able to play from the perspectives of Billy and Reverend Ray, as you’ll experience the story from the hunter and the hunted. Each character manages to incorporate a number of distinct differences between each other too, providing different gameplay experiences between the two. Naturally, since Billy is constantly on the run, he’ll be trying to sneak through towns, infiltrate buildings and steal weapons and horses. So, the majority of Billy’s levels are based on stealth, with a lack of emphasis on gun shooting, unfortunately. You'll need to constantly move boxes to climb buildings, use your whip to glide across gaps and hide in the shadows to avoid detection. Thankfully, though, Reverend Ray provides Wild West fans with some old-school shootouts, quick draws and all sorts of Western excitement that it makes us wonder why more of the game wasn’t based around this gameplay structure. There’ll be often times where you’ll jump on trains quickly shooting bandits, running a muck through towns, and even riding your horse with a six-shooter in hand. The Reverend levels are an absolute blast to play through, and truth be told, the majority of Billy’s levels are an absolute bore, especially after witnessing the action-packed levels of Ray.

Plenty of Wild West action to be found...

Plenty of Wild West action to be found...
It generally doesn’t help that the game isn’t exactly forgiving in a lot of situations either. The game can sometimes be fairly inconsistent with game deaths, which will leave you in a fit after a while. You see, the game is very linear, meaning you won’t be able to explore the environment and even tackle situations from a different path. If you jump from a ledge that’ll progress the story you’ll be able to jump with no health reduction at all, while a second jump, at half the distance, will either kill you or make you lose a significant amount of health. These sorts of restrictions eventually begin to test your tolerance as to why you die from jumping off a ledge that is no higher than you and that there is a severe lack of exploration.

It’s the small annoyance that ruin Call of Juarez. While the game includes some fantastic Western generalisations such as bar shootouts, damsels in distress, horseback riding, train hijackings, gold rushes and classic abandoned town quick draws, minor things such as poor controls, linearity and game progression hurt it severely. The layout of buttons and the amount required to press is far too complicated to fully enjoy a seamless first-person shooter. To be able to crouch you’ll need to hold down a button, as is the case to lean to either side. So, to hide behind cover and lean and shoot out enemies you’ll need to hold down at least three different buttons at once, while you’ll likely need to include a forth just to reload or change weapons - not to mention that horse riding is an absolute pain in the butt.

The game is broken up between the two main characters, where you’ll play as Billy and then Ray on a level-by-level basis. The stories between the two intertwine perfectly, but the two different gameplay styles don’t. It breaks up the action constantly, and the overall flow to the game. It would’ve been nice to play a few levels where you were required to go gun-blazing, and a few levels later required to sneak into areas - but it is a constant stop-start situation, which can eventually get annoying. Call of Juarez is a relatively short experience too, with a lack of depth to experience after completing the short campaign (no less than 10hours). The multiplayer is sadly under utilised in what is a fairly messy experience with a lack of a community and match making and player customisation features.

It is a crying shame too. The amount of detail and dedication to relive the classic Western films is done so well with a great arsenal of classic Wild West weaponry, and some lovely subtle touches that makes the game so appealing. The AI is generally aggressive and responsive to their surroundings, providing a superb sense of action. Rather than sitting idle behind cover and popping up every now and then, they’ll often jump to different vantage points to flush you out. While enemies aren’t overly intelligent compared to games such as Rainbow Six: Vegas, they are still fairly responsive and competitive during gunfights. The game also manages to throw in a few hidden extras to find too, with wanted posters plastered throughout each level to be found – after you’ve completed the game you’ll be able to read the hilarious wanted posters that you’ve found, which are based off the developer staff members.

...and the game isn't without its Texas Rangers either.

...and the game isn't without its Texas Rangers either.
Equally, the graphics and audio are fairly well executed too. Character models are done superbly, and the environments are generally well detailed with some great draw-distances; with only a few annoyances such as low polygon models and the occasional poorly detailed and cut-off texture work. The voice acting is great for the small cast of characters within the game, allowing gamers to familiarise themselves with each character and their voice. The soundtrack isn’t as spectacular though.

Call of Juarez breathes a bit more hope in the typically clichéd first-person shooter genre, which is full of bald space marines and alien invasions. The basic first-person shooter concepts are in place, but the essentials aren't. Downfalls such as poor controls and poor gameplay progression severely hurts what could've easily been a much more memorable experience. Let’s hope this paves the way for greater Western shooters in the future, since pretending to be a Texas Ranger is surely on everyone’s wish list - at least it is on mine.
The Score
While Call of Juarez isn’t without its flaws, it is still a remarkably enjoyable game.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Call of Juarez Content

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