Ubisoft might have a cult classic on their hands with the western shooter Call of Juarez. Stepping out of the box, Call of Juarez brings as fresh and unique approach to the first person shooter genre. God fearing townsfolk these bullets are marked with your redemption.
The Wild West genre has always been an underused setting in gaming. There are only a handful of games that have capitalized on this violent and gritty time period known as the Wild West. No doubt Hollywood has milked the old West for all its worth, but in the gamers eye it’s an untapped world full of adventure, rich characters, and fun gunplay. Ubisoft rounding up Polish developer Techland adds their name to the list of Western shooters matching up with Activision’s Xbox 360 launch title GUN and Rockstar Games under appreciated Red Dead Revolver. Like those other entries, Call of Juarez gives gamers another solid time warped game experience in the Wild West.
Call of Juarez has a darkened cloud hovering over its basic Wild West gun play with storyline that involves abuse, revenge, and religion. This dynamic tale rampages in a whirlwind around two characters on opposites of the funnel. The young nimble Billy Candle and vicious Preacher are the focus of Call of Juarez with each character showcasing their own unique perspective and gameplay approach. Call of Juarez is a fresh break from the standard, one character deal which keeps your interest in the storyline progression while maintaining a fresh approach to the gameplay mechanics. Immediately I was hooked in for the whole adventure in Call of Juarez in genre that can get dull quickly.
Igniting a standard Western tale you start off in the boots of Billy Candle who returns to small town Hope, Texas to save his mother from his abusive stepfather. In the dusty and corrupt town of Hope there is little to look forward to and Billy quickly finds himself deep in a bucket of trouble. The story turns and twists through the typical stereotypical characters, the questioning sheriff, crazy outdoor woodsmen, crooked tavern owners, and the friendly local whore, until you come to Call of Juarez’s first twist, the Preacher. Filled with natural running cinematics, Call of Juarez manages to break the mould by introducing an interesting paradox of another playable character on the other end of same western tale.
Playing as the Preacher you will have different talents then Billy and storyline that reflects his dark nature, setting a different tone in the game. From the paranoid stealth action as Billy, to the steel will, hell fire and brimstone power of the Preacher, you will get to explore each characters interesting aspects and individual appeal. The paradox of two intertwined characters keeps Call of Juarez interesting as you blow through the chapters in the game. This is established early when you find yourself as the Preacher, hunting down you own character. It took me by surprise and immediately peaked my interest. It's not often we have a juxtaposed situation and random switching between characters. Kick in the unique Western setting and Call of Juarez successfully separates itself from its competitors.
If I had to pick between the two characters, sadistically I admit I enjoyed walking in the foreboding boots of Reverend Ray, the ex-outlaw turned preacher. The man of god is a fun diversion from a character you’d normally expect to play besides being a more aggressive styled character. The preacher, armed with a Bible as a weapon speaks the word of god while he is inflicting punishment on anyone who falls victim to his wrath. Reverend Ray can also withstand more damage then Billy and dish out a little more punishment as well. Ray also has a “concentration mode” which allows you to enter a matrix styled slow motion mode and rifle out the bullets to your foes. This mode is used during the normal gameplay segments, one-on-one showdowns, and during the dual mini-game mode which unlocks as you progress through the story.
In an innovative twist, Billy’s character has a few perks, number one is that he uses a whip as a weapon like Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones. Besides moving boxes and other items to reach your goal, Billy can climb up ledges using his whip to hoist himself up to a higher platform which includes swinging on trees. Call of Juarez does a good job repositioning the story lines path so you have to use the whip, even though it’s not perfected. Billy can also dawn a bow and take down enemies silently in slow motion. If you have stockpiled enough slate and wood rockets they will easily become your best friend in a fire fight. Both characters have their own perks along with equal playing time which helps keep fans of either character happy.
To pick on Call of Juarez you could over criticize the gameplay because it has a lot of parts you might have to replay in a trial and error format. I only have a few spots which I encountered this (damn horse saddle), but overall it’s nothing that is uncommon in gaming. Another nit pick would be the stealth elements in the game, if you’re looking for a total 100% blazing gun styled game, Call of Juarez can only help you out for a solid 75%. The other 25% will be spent sneaking around as Billy. The stealth elements are adequate, but they are a little slow and the stealth mechanics are not as precise as other stealth based games like Splinter Cell.
Call of Juarez also features a fun multiplayer portion that is unfortunately vacated like a desert. The multiplayer mode includes 18 maps, 5 modes, and 4 character classes (Rifleman, Sniper, Miner and Gunslinger). There is enough charm to lock you in for a few hours each run especially if you enjoy the primitive firepower and western theme. One problem with the online portion as you might have guessed is that Call of Juarez is a ghost town. I’ve had my fair share of games online in Call of Juarez, but at the same time, I've logged in to find no one online. Compared to the recently released Shadowrun, or the Halo 3 Beta, Call of Juarez is a going to be a little slower. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth the wait, if you find a good group of chaps online, or have friends with this game you might be surprised on how fun it is to frag your friends with an old six shooter and bundle of dynamite.
The graphics come along and showcase some great rendering, animations, extra effects, and a gritty look that is different from other generic shooters. Add in the great voice acting and you have a solid production that holds its own amongst some highly polished games. Even though Call of Juarez pulls off feeling next gen, I feel like Techland have pushed their Chrome engine to its limits. This could be a general feeling because of the motion and rough work into the lead characters. Aside from that detail, I was impressed with the animations of the enemies, voice over quality, and the production values in the numerous cut scenes.
In some respects Call of Juarez still managed to hold on to the feeling that its an old shooter from the PC world, which it is. If you have played on of these before, its your typical polished up job with some interesting game ideas and small touches to make it stand out as its own project. I wouldn’t slap Call of Juarez against a Crackdown, or Ghost Recon, but its holds its own. If you’re a PC owner you might want to invest in a 360 at some point, especially if you want to run Call of Juarez. The developers claim that Call of Juarez runs at 40 FPS on the Xbox 360, compared to the 20 FPS on the PC which is a considerable jump. All in all the high quality of the voice work, character rendering and animation keep Call of Juarez in the winning circle.
The original and bold, Call of Juarez draws you into it’s brutally clichéd Wild West adventure complete with a fun online mode, interesting story, gritty violence, and authentic gun play. The two playable characters shape Call of Juarez into a unique tale that innovates and remains fresh until the find chapter. If you’re looking for something new and enjoy FPS, It’s easy to recommend Call of Juarez, for purchase or renting. Western fans, you need to get on your horse this moment and gallop to your nearest gaming outlet. Call of Juarez is that good, and even better if you’re on Xbox live, and love the old Western styling’s of sex, violence, gunpowder and led.
Gameplay: 8, Graphics/Sound:8, Innovation: 8.5, Mojo: 9 Final: 8.5 / 10