Well, howdy there partners. Coming out this far west bound to get you a licking. Whether it be bandits or Comanches, it’s a danger out there. Ride on if y’all think you can handle it but if you have trouble pullin’ that six shooter right there you best suit yourself up and get going… Sorry about that, I had to do it. Two things I love are westerns and video games and when they come together like white t-shirts and water I’m as happy as kid who just got his first happy meal. That’s why I was so excited when I got my hands on Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood developed by Techland. To give you some history, this game is actually a prequel to Call of Juarez which was released in 2006 on the PC and Xbox 360.
Developed by the same company the game was a decent first person shooter (FPS) but had some elements that ruined the fun. The game had a great story along with having players control two characters by the name of Reverend Ray, a gun-toting, bible quoting priest and Billy Candle, a whiny teenager that has to hide and sneak around for most of the game. After the death of his father and mother Billy is on the run the law that suspects him of killing his parents. When Reverend Ray hears this he grabs his bible and six shooters to bless and kill everything in sight as he hunts down Billy. Players were switched between characters getting two sides of the story and enduring different styles of gameplay. Ray is a strong character running into the fray blasting left and right while Billy was weaker but faster and focused more on stealth. Some players didn’t like this switch because the stealth element felt incomplete but I liked the change. The other faults were that everyone walked like robots, the shooting mechanics weren’t perfect and some graphical problems hindered the game. All in all, even with the online multiplayer, the game didn’t have lasting appeal.
Well, the developers at Techland saddled back up to fix these problems with a prequel. Released for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, this game planned on taking everything great from the first along with some new elements to give us players a better experience. And by golly they did! The game is a major step up from the original and enhances our understanding of the great story this series has. Sure, there are some things that could’ve been worked out a little better but we’ll get into more detail very soon so keep your trousers on straight and your gun hand ready as we ride through this western tale.
The story of Bound in Blood goes a little something like this. Brothers Ray and Thomas McCall begin their journey by fighting in the Civil War… on the Confederate side. And yes, that’s the same Ray from the first game but he isn’t the cuddly bringer of heaven’s wrath and fury upon the world, priest/gunfighter we know and love from the first one. No, in this one he is a shoot first; ask later, trouble starting, horny man. But he is still is awesome. Suddenly realizing their home will be overrun by the Yanks, they leave their post to protect their family. This in turn causes their commanding officer, Colonel Barnsby, to vow revenge against such deserters. Ray and Thomas succeed by saving their younger brother William, a priest, but their mother had already passed away. Shedding a quick tear the McCall brothers go on the run getting into fights and killing a lot of people. They plan to return and rebuild their home once they have to money to do so. This in turn leads them to hunt for the treasure of Juarez; a treasure that is said to be cursed and bring torment and suffering to any who search for it. Not caring about that they head down to Mexico to begin their treasure hunt. Now, the one thing Ray and Thomas fight about more than actual gunfighters is women. Ray and Thomas have obviously never heard of bros before hoes because they threaten to kill each other over a woman. So, when they meet Juarez and his lovely girl, Marisa, all hell breaks loose. First, Ray wants the girl then she tricks him and falls for Thomas, it’s a whole mess that you need to play the game to find out how it unravels. Of course this is all going on while Colonel Barnsby is playing man hunt with the brothers because he wants to use the treasure to restore the Confederacy. Throughout the game, William will whine and complain to them about righteous ways and sin. I don’t mind him spreading his religious outlook on them because religion is a heavy aspect in both this one and the original, I just wish his voice wasn’t so damn annoying! It’s like shoving a crow’s beak into my ear and letting it sound off the same damn squawk every five minutes. But he kind of warmed up to me since he manned up a bit toward the end of the game. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil anything for you all but don’t think that the story is complicated or confusing. It’s actually a really well thought story that I can’t really explain without spoiling it so trust me when I say the story is interesting.
In Bound in Blood you have the ability to play two characters but not like the first game which automatically switched you back and forth. In this one you are allowed to choose who you wish to play as at the start of each level. Unlike the first game, the stealth element has basically been completely removed (except for the part where you can shank people silently in a corn field). Ray is still the crazy, run in and stuff your face with lead gunfighter he was in the first game, only he doesn’t have his bible this time. That made me tear a bit but I fought through it. Thomas is the more agile, whip using, long ranger gunner. This is a great idea as the game allows the player to choose whatever play style suits them in order to complete the game. Now through almost every level except one, the brothers are together. They help each other climb ledges, flank enemies and work cooperatively. The sad thing is that there is no co-op. This game seems like it was built for that aspect with the fact that two brothers work together throughout the game. It’s too bad really. This game could’ve received major kudos for some co-op play.
Bound in Blood is a level based game. Once you complete a level you see a cutscene and shift to the next one. But there are some free roaming sections to the game where you can take up side missions if one so chooses. This is great but I feel we were taunted with what we could have had: a complete, free roaming, FPS western game. Oh, Techland, you tease. The gameplay is basic FPS style gameplay. What’s different about this game is that there are no heavy machine guns (except the turret) or lasers or mines and whatnot. These are classic late 1800 weapons such six shooters, rifles, bow and arrows, and shotguns. All take a certain time to reload and will have normal FPS players taking a slight learning curve. But that was the west and the sooner players can get over that the fun will begin. There are horses to ride which are a fast way to get around but you won’t need them in most levels and they never look too good (design wise) anyway. You can also buy weapons from the various shops in the game that are much better than any you will find atop a corpse you just created. Remember, the better the weapon, the faster the reload and the stronger the damage. Once you get over the weapons, the shooting mechanics work great. You aim, shoot, and the people die. Flawless. There is a small cover system where you Ray or Thomas will latch onto a wall or a chest high wall and you can control how far they stick their heads out but the two or three times I used the cover system I found this to lead me to my death more than it ever helped me. You can also zoom in, dual wield, and go into bullet time. Bullet time will really help out as you clear out all enemies on screen in just a couple moments. Just point your reticule at each of the enemies and watch Ray or Thomas pour out lead faster than a chain gun and the best part is that every bullet will hit. Awesome.
Two things that both characters will have to face off with are boss fights and duels. The boss fights aren’t hard but they can kill quickly if you get caught off guard. They’ll hide behind cover frequently can deal heavy damage in only a couple hits so keep your eyes open when you face them. The duels on the other hand are all about reflexes. You have to try to keep your character’s hand close to the gun while keeping your enemy in your sights. Then, when you hear the bell, draw your gun and shoot. This seems really easy but throughout the game I never understand exactly how to work this. I’m used to Red Dead Revolver’s way of pulling down the joystick to grab the gun, push back up to draw the pistol and then shoot. How I completed this game I have no idea because I found myself randomly jerking the right joystick and luckily completing the duel. It’s also really obnoxious because it seems the enemies move back and forth in the duel just to annoy you. I mean, when was the last time you saw a duel and both gunslingers walking around in circles? Every duel I’ve ever seen they stood in place. I mean, they may have walked around a bit to get themselves pumped up like Jada Pinkett-Smith at a concert but they always planted themselves like banzai trees before the actual draw. But whatever, I beat the system and showed the man that I am a true geek.
Next to the single player is the online multiplayer. There isn’t any splitscreen (another tear) but the online play is fun. There are a good amount of modes and maps which is what online play needs. Like normal, we have the twenty four player deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and a fun mode titled Wanted where one player is considered wanted and the others hunt them down. These are fun and necessary for any type of online play but the one I found my self playing the most was Wild West Legends. In this mode each team has to complete objectives in order to win the match. One team will have to destroy a mission objective while the other team must protect it. These objectives range from famous western stories many may have heard about such as the hunt of Billy the Kid to the Magnificent Seven’s stand against the bandits. Each map features a different legend but my favorite is the bank robbery. The Outlaw team must break into the bank, bust open the safe with dynamite, steal some horses from the barn and ride out of town while the Sheriff team must stop them from completing any of these. This is the only game where I have ever played a good ol’ western bank robbery and it’s a blast (literally! (bad joke, I know). An interesting feature is the fact that the game doesn’t keep track of kills or deaths. Instead the game deals with bounties. The more kills you get the higher your bounty and the higher chance of people trying to kill you. When you kill another player you receive the amount of money their bounty is, giving you the incentive to try to take out the more experienced players. With this money you can buy upgrades for your characters (for that match only) or unlock more playable characters online each with their own advantages. The online play is fun and should last quite awhile as players try to claim more and more bounties. The only problem that I truly have is that you can’t duel anyone online. I would love to show how fast my random jerking of the joystick is against other players (One more tear. My last one, I promise. I’m not a wimp; I’m just in touch with my inner self).
The sound in the game is amazing. The voice acting blows so many games out of the water. Sure, William may get annoying and I want to give him a backhand at times but all the voices fit game. Listening to two brothers bicker has never sounded so good. The music is pure western and works with the fast paced action. You won’t find your self humming the themes after you shut the game off but they fill a void in order to give a complete experience. All the weapons sound powerful whether it is a meager pistol or movable turret. All the clicking and the little trinket noises that come with each gun from reloading to making the bullet leave the chamber add to this western outlook.
The graphics are also great and surpass the previous game. The character designs look outstanding especially Ray and Thomas. Even the run of the mill enemies look pretty good. People don’t walk like robots anymore or move around awkwardly in first person perspective. Like I said earlier, it never looks good when you ride a horse and the design of the horse looks pretty bad too. The back of their head looks like a mesh of expired cottage cheese. But that’s only a small portion of the game. The environments are absolutely beautiful. You’ll travel through towns, battlefields, gold mines, hideouts, open deserts, and forests, all looking unique and detailed. Each area feels fresh and different from the previous which will help make the experience last longer. Fans of the first game may even recognize a couple places.
Overall, this is a great western game. The first may have been a disappointment to some but this prequel fixes many of the problems while keeping all that was great and adding a couple new gameplay elements to blend it all together for an enjoyable game. Some things need to be fixed or designed better but this game delivers on its promise. It has a great story that should pull almost all gamers in and the acting only increases the odds of that happening. Everyone needs to at least rent this game and give it a try. It might not refine the world of gaming as we know it but it will give many gamers something really enjoyable. So, I beckon to y’all. Saddle up them horses, pull out them ol’ six shooters and get yourself ready for showdown.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com