Call of Juarez
With another setting and concept, one that doesn’t fall into the category of Westerns, Call of Juarez probably would have come and gone without making much wind. But in a gameworld where just about everyone eagers for a grown up and immersive adventure based on cowboy and Indian the game received quite a lot of attention. And that isn’t completely without reason.
Techland nicely did their homework. Shoot-outs, horse riding, injustice and revenge, train robberies and burning saloons, we get everything a fan of the genre longs for! On top of that, the whole is added with a sugar sweet layer of charm and entertainment that will make you easily overlook a substantial number of shortcomings.
Your first steps in the Wild West are set in the footsteps of Billy, a young bloke looking for the gold of Juarez. Unfortunately his quest isn’t going all too well and he returns to mom and stepdad to find out they’ve been killed. His step-uncle Reverend Ray sees Billy running away just after he arrived home and thinks he’s responsible for the gruesome murders. What follows Is a chase between the sneaky and silent Billy by the raging Reverend who’s quoting pieces of the Bible and shooting his duo pistols. You get to play both characters, a nice find!
Unfortunately, playing with Billy is all but as fun as with Ray. The latter is over-the-top and having your opponents listen to a phrase from the Holy Book to then shoot them to pieces or pour gasoline all over them to make a barbecue is more than fun! Your weapons may be all but varied, but your six-shooter does its job beyond expectation.
You also have some sort of bullet-time that allows to have a visor on both your left and right pistol so you can add holes in vermin with both triggers at the same time. The implementation of this isn’t quite as it should be (you constantly have to put your guns back in the holster to draw them again to start the special) and also the boss-fights in which you get to do a duel are a better finding than that they’re implemented.
Without a doubt also better on paper than on the 360 is Billy’s gameplay. This consists mostly out of pieces of stealth and some first person platforming, something even Half-Life 1 hardly got right. It’s therefore no surprise that the developers completely miss the ball here.
Sneaking doesn’t make any sense since you never know whether or not you’re hidden and also the graphics with flat bushes don’t help either. You get a bow and arrow to silently get rid of enemies and also a whip, but neither plays really nicely. I often fell in a ravine because swinging from tree to tree with the whip is totally unlogically set up. Also climbing and jumping is a disaster and combined with all the previous this leads to more frustration than you can bear from a game. The horse riding and the fun parts with Ray luckily make up for this a bit.
Fed up with the single player? Then there’s some more to have fun with. There are extra missions, you can play the duals separately and there’s of course multiplayer. Don’t expect too much from that though as you get the usual, though class-based, modes like CTF, (team) deathmatch and an escort mode. Decent but not something that will last forever on Xbox Live.
Graphically, CoJ has as many highs and lows as with the gameplay. Something they really look good with impressive lighting effects that make you believe you’re shooting in a dusty, hot desert city, while at other times you get to see very ugly objects or textures. Also the animations tend to fall short due to their lack of realism, but after a while you do start to get used to that. The sound effects during the shoot-outs nicely do their job and also the music is well integrated with what’s happening on the screen. You can discuss about the voicing but since this is a virtual equivalent of a spaghetti western we don’t mind the over-the-top acting.
Call of Juarez is a blanket made out of good and bad pieces. Playing with Ray is more than fun while Billy excels in bringing frustration. In the end the game manages to deliver just enough entertaining moments that it deserves a small recommendation for those looking for a shooter with a Western sauce. However, don’t expect Deadwood on the X360. It seems that for that we’ll have to wait until a top developer starts meddling around in the Wild West.