We’ve finally got our hands on Call of Juarez: Gunslinger! But is this budget title another failure like its predecessor, or is this the franchise’s return to form?
The first thing to be mentioned is the game’s fun factor! Above all else, this game has solid gameplay mechanics that make it very enjoyable to play, combining fast/arcade action, with a good soundtrack and a story that was way more enjoyable than expected.
You play as Silas Greaves, a legendary bounty hunter on the old west, as he recalls his past deeds to a few fellas in a bar. Silas also serves as a narrator for the story, as you play flashbacks of his encounters with famous names like Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, Jesse James and many others. The plot in and of itself is very simple and straightforward, you move from flashback to flashback, encounter to the next encounter; but what makes it stand out is the way it is presented to you. As the main character talks about his exploits, you play them, which presents you with unique moments where the gameplay rewinds or flattout changes as Silas mentions something he forgot or somebody interjects what he says and he changes his story accordingly. How many games make you move in slow motion from one train carriage to the next until you realize you’re running around in circles because the main character went to take a leak (so you can’t progress as he isn’t telling the story)? You just wait for him to come back as you listen to the voices of those still on the table questioning his credibility and gossiping, returning to the level again once Silas comes back and resumes his tale… Its moments like these that make ths game, whose focus is as simple as shooting every cowboy that gets in your way, become memorable!
Lets dwelve a bit deeper into the shooting mechanics. The gameplay is as arcade as it can get as you’ll be dispatching hundreds of foes and face overwhelming numbers of enemies at every turn. You’ll see numbers popping up as you dispatch everyone you come in contact with, along with words like “HEADSHOT”, contribuiting to the over the top, silly feel of the game (a similar method to the one seen in BulletStorm). You also possess a slow motion ability resembling that of Red Dead Redemption with the enemies becoming highlighted in red and providing you with enough time to line up your shots.
You can also level up your character in the game, gaining access to 3 different skill trees, one for dual wielding revolvers, other for long range rifle shooting and the third one for upclose shotgun power. Each can provide different bonuses and reward you with shiny and more powerful gold versions of the regular weapons. Its a simple system that works, but isn’t as relevant as it could have been. This brings us to the weapon selection, for a game that focuses on the use of guns, it seriously lacks variety! You’ll have a couple of revolvers, shotguns and rifles at your disposable as well as dynamite that serves as your standard “grenades”… Add in the aforementioned unlockable trough skill tree weapons and that’s it… You will be able to use a Gatling gun every now and then but it just feels like there could have been a lot more weaponary…
Another good feature are the simple, yet adrenaline fueled duels where you’ll have to test your reflexes if you want to put down your enemies before they shoot you first! You’ll need to control your aim as well as your draw speed with your mouse and “A” and “D” keys respectively (or both analog sticks for console players). Of course, you can cheat and draw you gun ahead of time to get that sure, but dishonorable kill… It is all a matter of “who shot first”…
Apart from the campaign, which will take you around 7 hours to go through on Hard mode (recommended for experienced FPS players), you have 2 other modes to keep yourself busy and get those High Scores, Duel Mode and Arcade Mode.
Arcade Mode consists in beating certain levels as a class of your choosing (shotgun/rifle/revolver guy) and getting as a higher score as you can, chaining together kills to get your multiplier up to get the big points. After you kill everyone on each level you get a final score and on you go to the next. Duel Mode, as the name suggests, will have you dueling all the folks from the campaign mode as you try to eliminate every opponent in 15 different face-offs!
With a competent soundtrack, great voice acting, a good storyline and a few extras like collectibles who give you information on the people you come in contact with, this simplistic shooter becomes something special. It is clearly not a masterpiece but what it delivers has style, competence and quality! The fact that the game only costs 15$ makes it an even better deal!
While it might not be the big comeback the franchise deserves, it surely is a return to form and a step in the right direction…