Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Review
A Fun Romp Through The Wild West
The Call of Juarez series to me was always a very underrated one. Sure the first two games weren't amazing but they had a certain charm to them. I felt like they were on the cusp of becoming a major series until The Cartel practically killed the series in one disastrous strike. So when I heard that Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was returning to it's roots, I got a little excited. However, between The Cartel, the cel-shading, and the fact that it was to be a smaller title ($14.99); I was still a bit hesitant. So, how does Gunslinger fair?
The year is 1910 in Abilene, Kansas. You play as legendary bounty hunter Silas Greaves. Silas walks into an old bar to grab a few drinks. He is quickly bombarded by a young man with a dime novel. The novel tells of the famous exploits done by Greaves and you are quickly asked if these stories are true. Hesitant at first, a few free drinks softens Greaves up and he decides to tell what really happened. You then play through all of these, sometimes changing, memories narrated by Greaves himself.
All of these stories told by Greaves tie into an interesting tale of loss and revenge. You see, his brothers were killed by a group of outlaws and Greaves is hell-bent on finding those responsible and making them pay. The story may not break new ground or evoke any kind of emotions from the player but it does do something I found interesting. It'll play out the events that lead up to major shootouts that actually happened in the old west, such as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral or the Battle for Lincoln. Now of course the game goes off the beaten path, but during these missions you will find a collectible called a "nugget of truth" which tells you the truth behind the famous shootouts. I found this to be a really neat feature, especially for history buffs. The game also has a very interesting twist at the game's conclusion that I found to be pretty satisfying.
Now if you have seen any screenshots from this game (look below), you will notice that it kind of evokes a theme often set by one of those old west shooting gallery games you find at theme parks or carnivals. In a way, it does play that way except you have a bit more freedom to move about the battlefield. The game is a linear first-person shooter. You will walk down narrow corridors which eventually open up into big areas filled with enemies for you to shoot in the face. Some of these areas will have optional buildings for you to walk into to scavenge for ammo or collectibles.
The level design may not sound exciting and to be fair, it's not. The shooting though, is where the game really shines. You won't get a ton of different weapons but the ones you do get are satisfying and fit the time period. You will get six shooters, a rifle, a shotgun and dynamite. All of which are a blast to use, especially the dynamite (no pun intended). [Editor Note from Trevor: Yes, it was]
The shooting mechanics are smooth and ever so satisfying but what makes the game really addicting is the scoring system. For every thing you do, you earn points. You can build up combos by chain-killing the enemies which earns you more points for more creative kills. It's not Bulletstorm crazy, but along the same path.
You also get access to a mechanic that slows down time so you can kill your enemies with ease. Think "dead eye" from Red Dead Redemption. It works like that. This is activated by building a meter and pushing a single button. You also get more points for kills earned this way. There is also a luck meter to build up which, when full, can allow you to dodge a single bullet if it would have killed you. It's a pretty neat Matrix-like moment and it never gets old.
The game supports a full skill tree system. You earn skill points by leveling up with earned experience from killing your foes. There are three trees that focus on different play styles. I found myself not sticking to one tree but instead, bouncing from around each tree. There are some seriously great skills here that help you out immensely throughout the campaign.
Gunslinger also touts a duel mode. At the end of most levels you will encounter what is essentially a boss fight. You then engage the person in a duel. This was easily my least favorite part of the game but also my favorite. The mechanics of mastering the duel are hard. You control your accuracy and speed by slightly managing both analog sticks. You must keep one cursor focused on a (often) moving target to increase your accuracy and you control your shooting hand by moving to and away from your holster. This increases your speed. Balancing these two can be a daunting task and can be downright infuriating at times. However, I liked that this required a great deal of skill. Some serious time went into crafting the duel system and even though I died many times, the rush of excitement I got when I won a duel never got old. It made me feel like a young kid again with my cap-gun pretending to be a bad-ass cowboy.
The presentation is surprisingly stellar. The game supports a cross between cel-shaded and a realistic look and, at times, can look really astonishing. I did have a few moments for frame-rate drops when the firefights got too intense but nothing game-breaking. The cutscenes are done in a comic-strip style. It's both colorful and generally eye pleasing. The sound design is good. Silas's voice actor stands out among some passable performances by the other characters as his one liners usually hit and will give you a good laugh or two. The guns and the sounds of bullets zipping by your head are spot on and will make you feel like you're right there in the middle of a real old west shootout.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger not only surprised me by just how good it is, but also surprised me by offering quite a bit of content for $15. The story will take upwards of 5 hours to complete and there are plenty of collectibles and skills to unlock for Greaves to make you go back through on the New Game + setting, There is also an Arcade mode that puts your skills to the test and sees how big of a score you can rack up on any one of the campaign levels. There is also a Duel mode that allows you to test and perfect your dueling. In all, this game can easily take 20+ hours (based on skill) to do and see everything it has to offer. That is great for a game with such a low asking price.
- Duel Mode May Be Too Hard For Some
- Levels are Very Linear
+ Great Art Style
+ Nice Twist at the End of the Story
+ Smooth and Satisfying Gameplay
+ Great Use of Collectibles
+ Good Leveling System
+ A Damn Fun Game
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger reminds us that games are supposed to be fun. The shooting mechanics here are second to none and while the story isn't a homerun, it does a few interesting things to keep you entertained. There is a ton to love about this game and it's all for a meager $15.
**Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was reviewed using the Xbox 360 version bought by the reviewer. **